Read the first-hand testaments from the team out in Romania.

Romania 2019

We started our journey to Romania at 4:00 am in the morning. We all met downstairs in the reception of the YMCA in Hanley. We were all excited for the week ahead. We left at half 4, we all jumped into the minibus and off we went to Birmingham airport. As we arrived at the airport it really started to sink in that soon enough, we would be in the air. This trip also signified Melissa’s and Josh’s first time flying and it reminded me of my first time just a short 6 months ago.

We stopped for a drink and pastries. At 8.25 we all started to board the plane, I sat with Liam on the plane and everyone was around us. We landed in Romania at 13:25 local Romania time. Three men greeted us at the airport and took us to our hotel. The hotel is so beautiful with unique items and pieces of art upon on the walls. After looking around the hotel and settling in we all went out for a meal at Casa Vikingilor.

After the meal, we made our way back to the hotel where Melissa and I had a small nap whilst everyone else was chatting or chilling in their rooms. Michelle suddenly woke us up to tell us Frank was downstairs. We had a good chat with Frank, he told all the newcomers what to expect and what kind of jobs we will be doing over the upcoming week here.

Matt went on YouTube and found one of the songs that the children taught us in September to show the others the choreography of the dance. We spoke about the activities we would be doing and saying it would be a good idea to act out some of the activities. Frank then went home and most of us sat downstairs while the odd few went to sleep. Jordan and I agreed that it felt natural coming off the plane in Romania. It felt as like we had never left.

We are all excited to get the week started and see the kids.

Cassey x

Left, Cassey

On day two, we started working near Franks home. We were all up bright and early ready to kick in. Three cars arrived at our hotel at 8.30 in the morning, we split up and off we went to the Roma camp, I felt amazing, I was overwhelmed to be back there. We all jumped into Frank’s van and headed to his home where we would be working. 

We started off by moving some boxes that were full of clothes, food, toiletries, bedding and other items that are essentially needed. These items and more have been donated to the camp. Our job was putting everything into the storage house. We then split into two teams, Emily, Jess, Georgia, Michelle and Melissa got to work on painting the pieces of timber that would be used to frame the house. The girls were amazing at getting the painting done so quick, making themselves very messing in the process. We all said that it looked like they had put too much fake tan on themselves. 

Matt, Jordan, Josh, Liam and I got to work on the second floor of the building. We started by measuring and mapping where the beams would be going. Jordan and Liam started to cut the beams down to size while Matt and I were hammering in the first two beams. Josh, Jordan and Liam would pass the beams up to us and help us to level them out. We managed to put just under half of the beams up before it was time to eat. We had our food in Frank’s garden and discussed the work we had all just done, we were all very proud of ourselves for doing so much the first day.

We jumped back in the van and headed back to the camp, we entered the Rise 2 Shine building and started by having a chat with Frank about the rules in the camp, it is important to know these ground rules, it is their home essentially and we are guests. We then started to set the room out ready for the children and had a quick run through of the short play we had prepared for the children. The play is based on the Good Samaritan parable from the bible. After this, most of us convened outside and talked about how we were feeling, all of us were overwhelmed with emotions. Talking about it really helped. 

The best part of the day (well I think it’s the best part) the kids were directed to come to the project and they ran into the room hugging us all and kissing us on the cheek. One of the little boys shouted Jordan! Jordan! and ran straight to him, it was amazing to see that they still remembered us. We started the project with some songs, my personal favourite is a Ram Sam Sam, the kids loved that and even got up to dance with us. We did our little play that Matt gracefully narrated. After the play, we provided arts and crafts for the children and we made ‘helping hands’ pieces of art. The children asked us to assist them to draw and cut, they all did an amazing job making the hands. Some of the children stayed behind and helped clean up, while the remainder went outside to play.

We left the camp and got back to the hotel at about 5 pm. Jordan, Emily, Josh and I had a brief chat about our first day in camp, emotions were high and some of us even had a little cry. We had a shower and chilled out. I joined Michelle and went for a walk to the shop while Liam, Jess and Jordan went food shopping.

We are all eager to get back to work in the morning and continuing to make a difference here in Romania.

Cassey x

Today we were up early again washed, dressed and downstairs having breakfast by 7-7:30. The minibus arrived at the hotel at half 8 again and we headed off to meet Frank at the main camp. We all hoped into franks van and headed back to his where we were working on the house. As soon as we got off the van, Jordan, Josh, Matt, Liam and I, headed back to continue the work that we started yesterday. The girls were asked to sand and paint some of the doors that would be used in the new house. The girls crushed it and were done in no time at all, they then helped us with the second floor. Matt, Josh and I, laid out a few of the floorboards and started nailing them into place. Michelle, Melissa and Emily were measuring the flooring and then sending them up to us to be cut and placed.

After a short 4 hours, we had managed to lay out half of the flooring and put two beams were up. It has been amazing to see how well everyone is working together and getting on. In just 7 and a half hours from yesterday to today, we have done so much work on the house. Everyone has been smiling from ear to ear since coming to Romania and working. We have gotten wet, muddy, dirty and exhausted but still, we smile. I stopped to look around at everyone working and I was blown away with the passion everyone had put into the work so far and seeing them laugh, smile and enjoying themselves. Being with such a passionate group of people has made it such a great experience seeing the love they have for the work, what they are doing is heart-warming. We got back to the camp and had some lunch together before getting the room ready for the activities.

The children came in to the Rise 2 Shine building ready to start, for the second day in a row a little girl ran over to me, her arms wrapped around me hugging me as tight as she could and kissing me on the cheeks, I love that she feels so secure around me and the love she gives out. The activity today was making sheep with the younger children. We helped the children to cut, stick and pull the cotton wool apart, as they finished their sheep’s we hung them on the wall. The children were given some chocolate and off they went back down to the camp. We all joined Frank for a Chinese for tea and sat in the workshop to eat, while we waited for the teenagers to join us for their own project. After a while, the teenagers came into the session at 18:00, the teenagers are a lot calmer than the younger children. Rita (franks wife) started the session with a man who had a guitar. 

He thanked us all for the work we had done so far. They started by singing some worship songs and praying. Some of the teens got up next to Rita and Frank. They started blessing and saying a prayer. It is hard to put into words how it felt at that moment, emotions were high, the blessings were so deep and overwhelming.

When one of the teenagers came to sit down he started to cry by this point I was finding It really hard to hide my emotions. When the session came to an end I couldn’t even speak, I couldn’t find any words to describe my feelings. When we got in the minibus everyone was silent and floods of tears came from everyone. Everything had hit me all at once, the blessings, the kids and so much more, I couldn’t hide my emotions anymore. To see the kids still smiling and laughing every day it’s a blessing. I’m so thankful to be a part of this amazing experience and look forward to the rest of the week. 

Cassey x

The last two days have been the most eye-opening experience I have been through.

So far it has been full of emotions, tears, hugs and we have been overwhelmed by young children who are full of so much love to give. The first day with the children I was told about what to expect but I didn’t think it would be as devasting and heart-stopping as what I saw. We were surrounded by hills of waste and rubbish, and the smell of sewerage hits you as soon as you step out of the van. Swarms of children ran into the building not even knowing who we were or what we were doing but latching onto us for dear life, hugging, kissing, grabbing, trying to braid my hair and pulling me to stay with them. The children were fighting and pushing each other for my attention and on the silent ride back to our hostel tears streamed down my face taking in the physical and emotionally draining day we had.

The second day with the kids I was prepared for the unexpected and the session felt much more at ease as I felt comfortable and excited to meet the now familiar faces from yesterday. I was filled with joy and love hearing them calling my name, playing games and trying to learn new Romanian words. It was raining and the majority of them had mud all over their clothes, face and unbrushed hair, one young girl had shoes on the wrong feet and my leggings were covered in dirt from her sitting on my lap. Some of the young people that we worked with were as young as 6 months old, unsupervised and exploited to so many dangers in the neighbourhood. You can just tell how much even just a small arts & crafts session meant to them, having something fun to do in a safe environment and to give them hope for a better future. 

In the evening it was optional for the team to stay for the later session that was led by Frank’s wife Rita for the teenagers. We have all been so inspired on this journey, no one hesitated to go back to rest and instead wanted to indulge and help support in whatever we could! Again, this experience left us all lost for words as Romanian songs were sung and inspirational speeches and passages from the Bible were spoken by Rita.

As Rita spoke about suffering, she spoke so passionately, and you could see how engaged the young people were. I quietly cried with my eyes closed listening to the translation from Frank and listening to Rita’s singing, anyone was asked to stand up and come to the front, to not be ashamed if they are currently in suffering and four brave young people stood up. All three were blessed and as this moment was solely spoken in Romanian to each individual, you could understand and feel how deep and important this moment was and how strong these struggling teenagers are, growing up with so many restrictions in their way.

In the daytime, we are helping build and create a space for young teenage girls to understand the importance of personal hygiene, sexual exploitation, young pregnancy and to raise their confidence, self-esteem and self-worth within them. Carrying out the labour work physically takes a toll on the body, but this has helped to build relationships within the team, we support each other and in the space of only two days have managed to paint numerous pieces of wood, paint two doors and finish creating the supporting beams of the flooring and floorboards on the first floor of the building.

I am excited to see what more we can accomplish over the following remaining days, we all understand the sensitivity of this project, we have become even closer with each other in our small downtimes sharing laughs and jokes and knowing that every small difference, in return creates that bigger impact. 

What you see on photographs, videos or writing is nothing compared to experiencing it in the raw reality, but I hope that from this blog you can take something from this.

Emily x

Today I woke up excited to get the finishes touches done on the flooring of the house. I was the first person downstairs, so I took this time sat on the sofa looking through the pictures and videos I had taken on my phone. Looking back at the work we have achieved in such a small amount of time makes me feel proud. We headed back to the camp to meet Frank, we got there early and waited for him there were so many dogs running around that we stayed in the car until he arrived.

The sun was out, it was so hot, it was so warm that some of us started throwing water on ourselves to keep cool. The girls continued the paint the new wood that had been delivered while the rest of us finished the floor. Time appeared to fly by, and next thing you knew, we were done. We completed the flooring, what a proud moment to see our finished work. We all got up and took a group picture together. We have been told that on Monday that we will be smashing down the old roof of one of the old building, everyone is excited about that job. We started passing down the tools and packing them away in the tool shed, after everywhere was tidy we headed back to the camp. It was our last time seeing this group of kids today before we work with a new group, I didn’t want it to end.

The kids came rushing in and once again, they headed to us for the last time. The same little girl ran over to me again and it was hard to think that I wouldn’t be seeing her after today or the other kids. We sang our songs and had a dance. We performed one last play for them, this time based on the Parable of the Sower from the Bible. Jess and Matt played the flowers, Josh and I played the birds, Michelle and Melissa played the thorns, while Emily told the story and Georgia played the slide show. The children all clapped for us when the play came to an end. Georgia then showed the children the flowers they would all be making, they started making the flowers with us all. Everyone got stuck in to help I walked around the table making holes in their pots for the flowers to stand in. the children did such an amazing job of the flowers and would ask us to take pictures of them with the flowers. After the activity was over we all headed outside. Jordan came out with a football, they all started playing while some of the children wanted to have more pictures taken.

The cars arrived to take us back to the hotel, one of the children started to cry on my shoulder, by this point I was crying too I didn’t want to say goodbye but I told her I would try my utmost best to visit again soon, she kissed me on the cheek and we headed off. The children ran to the bottom of the road to wave us goodbye, I was overwhelmed and my heart felt like it had stopped. These kids are amazing, I’m so glad I have had the pleasure of meeting them and giving them the love and attention, they crave.

As we got back to the hotel I was drained, we all had a shower and headed out. Georgia, matt, Melissa, Josh and I went for some food at a pizza house while the others went to the bar for a chat. Everyone is back at the hotel playing some games and resting. Tomorrow is our day off and we plan to do a little bit of exploring around the historical city of Cluj-Napoca.

Cassey x

More blogs from Romania are to arrive soon. Keep an eye out on our socials