After the Orphanage

It is now more than 20 years since the world looked on with fascinated horror as the doors of Romania’s orphanages were opened to reveal the terrible conditions within – neglected children, harassed staff and inhumane conditions. Many people felt moved to help and much was done to improve conditions for the children and the staff.

Those children are now adults – pushed out into a world that they were ill-prepared to cope with. Some, like Mihai Gradinariu who appears in both the photos below, have achieved a successful transition, settling down and starting their own families. It is not easy for orphans without family connections to find jobs but many have done so.

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But what of those who have not fared so well?
These people often lack social skills and a sense of purpose, and for some of them their experiences in the orphanage have left them with psychological scars which make it difficult to integrate into every-day life. Some of them receive small medical pensions from the state but most have no regular income.

Working with other local people, Asociatia Neemia (AN) provides ongoing help to several such persons. Sponsorship from families in the UK allows us to cover the costs of renting rooms for them. We can pass on designated gift boxes containing food and clothing for them and we provide medical items, bedding and other necessities, and small cash payments as required to cover essential living expenses.

As part of our care for these ‘orphanage boys’, the AN team also makes time available to listen to them, take an interest and help to resolve their problems. Here is an introduction to some of the boys that AN is helping. (We also help girls but that is a different story!)

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L: Nigel (34) has become a valuable member of the AN team – he enjoys helping with the aid distribution work and provides muscle when required.
C: Marcel (28) likes to help around the office, tidying up and running errands. He can be impatient and tends to use his size and strident voice to gain attention.
R: Constantin is a willing hand at the warehouse. Now aged 25, he did not receive his official state identity documents until early last year.

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L: Ionut is now 30. He was living in a house infested with parasites and became one of the first boys sponsored for accommodation, some eight years ago.
C: Ilie is 30. He was involved in a car accident which has left him requiring almost constant use of a catheter. He has been in sponsored accommodation for three years. AN also provides for his medical needs whenever we are able.
R: Marian, 26, completed school but has no job. He was sleeping in a pigsty with the pigs until AN found accommodation (and fresh clothes) for him .

At present, accommodation comprises a number of rooms in different houses which are rented on a short-term basis. This is not very satisfactory as it is often poor quality accommodation lacking long-term security and the occupants often feel exploited by the landlords.

An initiative from St Peter’s Aid to Eastern Europe, based in Essex, has led to the possibility of Asociatia Neemia obtaining premises to house these people on a longer-term basis. There would be savings on room costs if they could be accommodated in one place rather than being dispersed throughout the town in short-term lets. Facilities such as clothes washing and the safe storage of personal possessions would become available. They could also develop their social skills in a controlled environment and contribute to their keep by growing some of their food in the land adjoining the new house.

A suitable plot of land has been purchased, and building approval processes have been completed. Work on site began with the sinking of a well and we have now reached the stage of preparing to place the roof. A substantial proportion of the building costs has already been provided but we need additional help in order to progress to a stage where the boys can start to benefit from the accommodation.

Much of the building work is being undertaken by AN’s team of experienced workmen, under the supervision of a master builder. This team has built several sponsored houses for families previously. Working in this way provides an opportunity for local employment and training, and, as building progresses, the boys themselves will become involved, as labourers at first and then moving on to decorating the rooms and assembling some of the furniture from a local ‘flat-pack’ design.

Each resident will have his separate room, with bed, table, chair and cupboard and with secure storage. Each bedroom has a simple bathroom with toilet, hand-basin and shower. This arrangement addresses one of their main complaints – that their present accommodation offers no privacy or security. Communal facilities will include a basic kitchen, a laundry area, and a common room with tables and chairs. Heating would be through the use of a wood-fired boiler system, exploiting AN’s source of subsidised firewood, coupled to a solar system offered by a local supplier. Each bedroom needs to be protected by an adequate fire door and have a second means of escape via an external balcony.

The new house does not just address the accommodation requirements to the exclusion of other needs. The house sits in a plot of land that can be worked by the boys, to grow fruit and vegetables for their own use. This will also teach them some marketable skills and help to keep them occupied (another important consideration). In due course we would like to add a small workshop, with tools for such activities such as bicycle repairs or simple carpentry, to allow a wider variety of skills to be learnt.

Although the residents will be largely self-sufficient, one of the AN team will take responsibility for ensuring the proper care and maintenance of the property, and will ensure that the boys abide by such rules as are necessary.

So how can you help? Well you’ve probably guessed that this is leading up to an appeal for help to raise additional funding. But it is not just that. The boys benefit from the knowledge that someone is taking an interest in them, and having someone who asks about them or who prays for them is very encouraging. If you feel able to help or want to know some more about these boys and others in similar circumstances then please get in touch via our addresses below.

- An update on recent progress on the house is available by following this link:

Construction update, May 2017

Further info:

- A letter from Richard Burgess, founder of RoAF.

- This page is also available as a downloadable pdf file which can be printed as a double-sided A4 leaflet.

- Photos showing progress on construction of the new home are posted on our gallery site.

- A dedicated form for UK donors containing a bankers order and gift-aid declaration is available for download. Alternatively, details for international bank transfers can be found here.

- Contact details and addresses