ROWAN ROMANIA Committed to adults with special needs
Zarnesti is a small town in the Carpathian Mountains area of Romania. Its natural and scenic beauty is in stark contrast to its unfortunate late 20th century political and social history, the effects of which are still being felt today.
In the 1970s and 80s, believing population growth would help its flagging economy, Nicolae Ceaucescu's brutal communist regime banned abortions and contraception and taxed childless adults throughout Romania. The country's birth-rate consequently shot up, but this, along with the state's continuing poverty, resulted in a huge number of unwanted children (estimated at over 100,000) being left by their parents in state care. Conditions in these "orphanages" were terrible, with severe shortages of food, insufficient staff (both in terms of numbers and training), and inadequate heat and light. In such dreadful conditions, scarcely any attention was paid to the children's emotional and psychological welfare, and this was sometimes further compounded by institutional abuse. When Ceaucescu's regime fell in 1989, the horrors of these orphanages were uncovered: malnourished children tied to their beds, ill toddlers unable to walk, and (understandably) psychologically disturbed children rocking backwards and forwards in their cots in distress. Many of the patients in the hospital we support today are these very people: the (now adult) "rocking children" of the Ceaucescu regime.
The region remains impoverished. Romania is the poorest country per capita in the European Union and spends among the least on social welfare. Zarnesti itself was formerly principally used as a base for making munitions for the former USSR (Zarnesti's 15,000 factory workers receiving food in exchange for their work). When these factories closed, it left the majority of the town unemployed.
Today the town has one psychiatric hospital containing around 150 patients but just one doctor and an inadequate number of nurses. This under-staffing is matched by patient over-crowding: there are typically two or three patients per room, and on occasions it has been known for two patients to have to occupy one single sized bed. With the proper treatment many of the patients could be looked after outside of the hospital confines, but sadly funding, medication and food is very limited.
As a charity we pay the expenses of three local care-workers whom we have trained to work with the patients in respect of social skills and occupational therapy. We also provide money to buy fruit, juice and chocolate on a monthly basis for the patients. Additionally, we have established a dental project that we fund: prior to our involvement, extractions were usually performed without anaesthetics! Small items of medical equipment have also been supplied to the hospital.
We also pay the expenses of Rowan Romania's local representative, an English-speaking Romanian, who acts as the charity's Project Manager in Zarnesti. He and his family keep a regular watch on what is happening on a day-to-day basis in the hospital and ensure that the money sent is spent properly. Receipts for the way in which the money has been utilised are brought back annually for our auditor to scrutinise.
One or more of the trustees regularly visit the hospital, usually once a year, always at the trustees' own personal expense, and normally with their suitcases full of items for the patients such as blankets (which have been made by elderly people in Somerset), playing cards, puzzles, colouring books and tennis balls etc.
We rely completely on donations. Such funds are principally obtained from events such as quiz nights, cake making and sales, bring & buy events, car boot sales, the making of birthday and Christmas cards and, in recent times, such events as running the New York Marathon, a bicycle ride from London to Somerset and a tandem parachute jump, for which many people kindly provided sponsorship. We also have friends and supporters who make regular contributions to our funds.
Rowan Romania is a registered charity established as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation and registered in England and Wales with charity number 1166547.
UK registered address: 7 Hayward Drive, Baltonsborough, Glastonbury, Somerset BA6 8PJ, United Kingdom.
Trustees: Kay Franklin, David Franklin, Alan Brian and Martin Franklin.
(c) Copyright Franklin/Rowan Romania (2015-2020). All rights reserved.