Project to Romania

Each year, students and staff from St Paul’s High School visit hospitals and orphanages in Romania.

The current group of students left to visit Romania on 1 February 2014.  This year’s group are travelling along with Head of Year 13, Ms Christine Fearon, and Director of ICT, Mr Dáithí Murray, and students and staff from St Patrick’s College, Dungannon.

We’ll be updating our blog below every day with news of our experiences in Romania.   Check back regularly for updates.

Follow our micro updates via our special Twitter account @stpaulsintproj– we’re tweeting using hashtag #TeamRomania

We’re also updating our photo stream every day and you can check this out by clicking here.

Romania

Welcome to our blog. We hope to use this blog as a record of the time we have in Romania, and to allow our friends and families to share in the special experiences we have as we visit orphanages, hospitals and clinics over the next week. We hope you enjoy our record, and we’d encourage you to post a message below to let us know what you think

Day 6: Thursday 6th February: Brașov, Romania – 1830 CET

Today was one of the toughest days for #TeamRomania.  After experiencing poor conditions and poverty in various places throughout our short visit here, we thought we were prepared for everything.  But it was still difficult to see the difficult conditions the residents of Timis live in.  Timis is a facilty for people with severe mental and physical difficulties and the conditions that they live in are not what you would consider modern or appealing.  Some of the residents remembered the teachers from previous visits and were delighted to see them.  Some of the residents didn’t engage with us, and it was distressing to see some of them rocking gently back and forward and staring off into the distance rather than playing or talking to us.

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We were able to take some of the more fit and agile residents out of the facility for an hour and accompany them to a local’s McDonald’s for a Happy Meal.  This was a great success and it was clear the residents enjoyed getting out of Timis and spending time in young people’s company.

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In the afternoon we went to Bradet Orphanage – a facility for boys and girls between six and sixteen years old – and again they were very pleased to see us.  We left behind much needed cleaning supplies, fresh fruit, toothbrushes and warm clothing which will be distributed among the orphans.

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This afternoon has been spent recharging our batteries back at the hotel.  A little more sledding in the snow and some ice skating later will finish off another jam packed day.  It’s sad to think that tomorrow is our last full day in Romania.  This week has gone so quickly and it’s nearly over!

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Day 5: Wednesday 5th February: Brașov, Romania – 2215 CET

Another busy day in Romania started with a visit to the TB clinic near Brașov.  The nursing staff explained to us that they are treating TB as a primary illness in some of the children there and reassured us that it wasn’t contagious.  The facility was relatively modern and warm and we enjoyed interacting with the little babies who were delighted to see us.  We also left off some warm clothing for the babies, and some fruit, cleaning supplies and toys.

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We then made our way to the Scut Adult Pyschiatric day care centre.  This was a lovely visit and we had great fun spending time with the small number of adults who use this facility on a daily basis.  After the shock of the conditions we saw at Vulcan on Monday it was reassuring to see that the Romanian mental health system wasn’t all like that.  This was a modern, airy building with stimulating activities for the residents who seemed to love being there.  David, Ciara, Dearbhla and Leanne had a very lucid discussion with Victor who has excellent English and seemed keen to have a chat with young people.  The director explained how the facility is modelled on the Beacon homes system pioneered by NIAMH (Northern Ireland Action on Mental Health) and she was very happy to welcome us to Scut.

We spent a couple of hours over lunch exploring the old medieval city of Brașov and had our first chance to do a little shopping and spend some lei.  The town is gorgeous, complete with small, meandering cobbled streets and a beautiful church in the town square.

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After lunch, it was off to Saćele, and an appointment with the elderly residents of a nursing home who we visit annually.  They really enjoyed our time with us, and loved the music of the St Paul’s Traditional Group on Tour (Eoin, Breandán, Ciara and Leanne) and the songs sung by Sarah Louise and Sarah Rafferty.  It was a lovely hour spent in their company and they enjoyed telling us little stories of their youth and swapping memories with our students.

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Our final visit of the day was to Chip and Dale orphanages on the outskirts of Brașov where we left some clothing, a new TV, toys, food and a football for the need orphans.  As always they challenged us to a quick game of football in the snow which was good craic.

After a quick change of clothing back at the hotel we walk up into the mountains behind our hotel for dinner.  We had found a beautiful, traditional Romanian restaurant and enjoyed our appetisers outside round a roasting hot fire.  The chicken dinner afterwards was lovely and the entire atmosphere was something very special.

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Mr Murray ran a Céilí back in the hotel and hilarity ensued as the professional dancers in the teams attempted to drag the non-dancers around the floor to the Waves of Tory and the Walls of Limerick.  Dancing Queen Margaret McQuaide taught the group how to jive and the night was finished off with some stupid group games while sitting round the floor.  It was a long day, and a late night but we’re having great fun.

Day 4: Tuesday 4th February:  Brașov, Romania – 2330 CET

Hi everyone.  Today started with a lovely visit to two schools in Lunca Calnicului – one a nursery, and one a school that caters for children.  The Kindergarten was lovely and all the more special as the pupils came in to greet us during their spring midterm holiday.  We walked into a room of twenty four little pre-schoolers who were waiting patiently for our arrival. They were delighted with the gifts the students from both schools brought and loved the interaction with them. Our St Paul’s Traditional Group performed and the children and staff seemed fascinated with the Irish instruments on display. Our Music Department would have been proud of their morning seisiún. Students from St Paul’s and St Patrick’s College also sang. In return, the pre-schoolers did some nursery rhymes and got us all up to do the ‘Chicken Dance.’ There is no doubt that music is universal – as demonstrated with this experience.

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Next stop in the morning was Lunca Calnicului School, just up the road. This school is for children aged six to around sixteen. Again, as with the Kindergarden, these children and staff came in on their holiday to greet us and express their appreciation for our gifts and company. We were a hearty Romanian welcome and the students gathered to greet us in one of their large classrooms. They had prepared a show of ballet, singing and dancing to entertain us. This was fabulous and we were really humbled by their eagerness to impress us. In return, we also entertained with traditional music, singing and Irish Dancing – which they were delighted with. While the staff went to the staffroom to speak to the Principal and teachers there, the students went outside to play football. Their PE teacher was there to supervise and our students were really impressed by the Romanian students’ soccer skills. Mr Murray and Ms Fearon were relieved to see that Aimée, Louise, Dearbhla and Kerry were unscathed – they weren’t returning to face the wrath of Miss Downey and Miss McNamee if there were any injuries……

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We all lunched in Brașov for an hour and a half, before heading out to Prejmer. This is a village outside Brașov which has a large fort in its centre. We spent time in the Prejmer Day Centre, which supports families who are very poor. This is now a lovely facility – in comparison to what it was like when we first visited. We brought shoes for all the children there, clothing donations etc. The students spent simple time there playing games and dancing with the young children. We then organised a rota system whereby groups went out to visit gypsy families. The students had the privilege of being invited into people’s homes and delivering food parcels to them. They were all shocked at the living conditions, in comparison to what we are used to at home.

Late afternoon, a short stop was made at Casa Irlanda in Harman Village. There are only about ten orphans housed here, all of whom have either physical or learning disabilities. They were delighted with the bit of fun and jerseys that were presented to them.

We landed back quite late to the hotel and went straight to dinner, followed by a great night ice skating in the ice rink which was built last year to host some of the events in the Youth Winter Olympics last year. This activity was a great way for all the students to further bond and develop a new skill – although we are concerned about the lack of co-ordination that Blaise McKnight and Ciara Savage displayed…… The rest of the night was spent in the hotel lobby, playing cards, games and generally reflecting on our day.

Day 3: Monday 3rd February:  Brașov, Romania – 2200 CET

Hey all – it’s been another interesting and emotional day for us all in Romania.  After a lovely breakfast in the next door hotel, we journeyed by coach to the boys and girls orphanage in Codlea – another of the orphanages to which we provide financial support.  This orphanage was different from the two we encountered on Sunday.  Firstly some of the boys and girls were older and were in residential care for behavioural difficulties.  More significantly, we visited the bottom floor of the orphanage which is home to around thirty babies and infants who are all suffering from terminal illnesses.  We found this a very difficult visit.  The babies and young people in this unit obviously crave attention and affection and their little faces lit up with delight when we came into their rooms and spent time in their company – but it’s clear that the conditions they live in are primitive and their care, while compassionate and loving, is rudimentary.

The older boys and girls enjoyed showing off their football skills as they challenged us to a game in the snow, and the girls enjoyed sharing make up tips with each other.  Before long it was time to move on and journey back to Brașov for our lunch.

In the afternoon, we took the coach to Vulcan Psychiatric Hospital, and spent an hour with the residents there.  Again, this was a difficult and emotional visit.  Vulcan is an old, cold building with male and female residents, mostly elderly who have spent most of their life in the place.  They enjoyed our company, and we brought them food parcels which they appreciated.  Blaise McKnight got the shock of his life when one of the female residents took a shine to the chewing gum in his mouth, and insisted he spit it out in her hand to allow her a chew.  It was very sad to listen to the story of Julia who told us her life history – spending twelve years in an orphanage, three years homeless and who has now been in Vulcan for the last nine years.  Her son is presently in the process of being adopted and while her story upset some of us, we were impressed by how affectionately she spoke of her son and how positive her outlook on life was.  Vulcan is a strange place – it’s like going back in time and seeing how mental health issues were dealt with in a previous era.  It’s important that we continue to provide support and compassion to the people who are residents here – and who are so grateful, in their own way, for the same support.

We finished our visits with a quick stop to St Trieme – a shelter for old ladies.  These ladies were delighted to meet us and really enjoyed our company for the short time we were there.  These ladies are cared for by the local church and were very grateful for the food parcels, knitted items and financial support we delivered thanks to the generous donations provided by Noreen Hughes in Camlough.

Back to the hotel, and after dinner Mr Murray kept the craic going with table quiz, pitting team against team as they tried to answer questions that got more and more difficult.  Much arguing and debate ensured over whether or not skin was the largest organ in the body, or whether the sun really was the closest star to planet Earth … but in the end ‘the Holy Joes’ emerged as the winners.

Another day has come to a close… a good night’s sleep is much need in advance of another busy day tomorrow.

Day 2: Sunday 2nd February:  Brașov, Romania – 2115 CET

Hello everyone – it’s been a really busy day for us and this is the first chance we’ve had to update the blog.  You’ll be glad to learn we arrived safe and sound into Bucharest Airport last night after a long flight from Dublin.  We were delayed on the runway at Dublin for ninety minutes, and then we had an unscheduled stopover in Stuttgart, Germany while the plan was refuelled.  This meant that we were three hours late arriving, and it was nearly 2000 CET when we finally got our baggage and boarded the bus for the long journey to Brașov.  It was nearly midnight when our coach pulled into the pretty town of Brașov and we found our accommodation.

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Our hotel is lovely, and we’re staying in the sister hotel of the swanky Hotel Sport.  Our rooms are warm and comfortable and we got a hot meal on our arrival which kept us going until morning.

Sunday morning arrived very early and we all met for breakfast at 0900 and discussed our itinerary for the day.  We discovered that we were to visit two orphanages – one for boys and one for girls.

The journey through the Romanian countryside lasted about an hour, and we arrived at Dachea Orphanage to a very excited welcome.  Dachea is a remote place, and the orphanage is home to nearly thirty boys who for one reason or another have no homes and no parents to look after them.

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They loved to see us and we had great fun meeting them, taking selfies with them and distributing little toys and giving out sweets that we had brought from Ireland.  We got a tour of their home and saw their tidy bedrooms and primitive bathrooms and play areas.

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After a packed lunch, we moved on to Rupea Orphanage, which was located in a larger town about ten miles away.  This is a home for girls, and once again we got a huge welcome from the residents.  They loved meeting us, and again they showed off proudly their accommodation and their play areas.  An impromptu disco began and the St Paul’s boys were a big hit as they hit the dance floor throwing random shapes everywhere.  Some of the girls were very keen to bag a husband and were disappointed when it was time for us to leave.

We got back to the hotel and had a change to enjoy the ski slopes next to the hotel where we were able to hire sleds and have a bit of craic in the snow with our new friends from St Patrick’s College, Dungannon.

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After dinner in the hotel, we met to bag up all of the toys, clothes, toiletries and gifts that we’ve brought from Ireland to distribute in Romania.

That’s all the news for tonight – it’s been a very busy day and we’re already looking forward to getting out on the road again tomorrow.

Don’t forget to post a comment below if you’d like to leave a message.

Follow our micro updates via our special Twitter account @stpaulsintproj– we’re tweeting using hashtag #TeamRomania

 

We’re also updating our photo stream every day and you can check this out by clicking here.

 

Day 1: Saturday 1st February, STUTTGART, Germany – 1525 CET

Hmmmm… nobody told us we were going to Germany! It seems that we needed to make a quick stopover here to allow our plane to be refuelled. It’s not that we’re getting to see much of Stuttgart as we’ve been confined to the plane which is very warm, as they’ve shut the air conditioning off. We’re halfway through the journey, and we’ve been told it’s only another two hours to Romania so hopefully we’ll be there in time for tea tonight!

More news later!

 

Day 1: Saturday 1st February, DUBLIN, Ireland – 1000 GMT

So we’re on our way, en route to Romania and full of excitement as we finally begin our adventure after what seems an eternity planning and preparing.

Our bus departed from the Carrickdale Hotel at 0630 this morning. It was freezing as we said goodbye to our parents and hello to our new friends – the students and staff of St Patrick’s College, Dungannon who are joining us on our international project to Romania. Principal, Mr Burns, surprised us all by turning up to wish us well and he reminded us to savour every moment of our week in Romania.

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time, which was just as well as the bus driver dropped us off at Terminal 2, rather than Terminal 1! But we were able to get across the airport quickly enough and checked in our luggage and cleared security with enough time to spare to allow us to have a breakfast and a quick look around the shops.

16 comments

Wishing you all a safe trip. Will look forward to following your blog. Enjoy what will be a great experience for you all!! Take care

by Kathy Branagan on 30/01/2014 at 9:57 pm #

Great to hear from you all. I ‘ll check in every day. Take care. A life changing experience.

by mary mc mahon on 02/02/2014 at 10:05 pm #

so jelous of everyone away wish i was there, life changing experience!!

by Paige Brady on 03/02/2014 at 9:59 am #

Great to have the blog to follow your work throughout the week…. It’s such an amazing experience, and a wonderful place. I look forward to seeing some familiar faces during the week. Hope the to teachers are behaving themselves!!! All the best and enjoy x

by Shauna hurson on 03/02/2014 at 10:46 pm #

Hi from St Pauls. It looks very cold but you all seem to be managing, lots of layers. Everyone looks like they are having a great time. A mixed bag of emotions i dare say. Be safe and enjoy it all.

by Bridget McConville on 04/02/2014 at 8:33 am #

Romania changed my life, was the best week I have ever experienced in my life. Some shocking sights seen but changed my perspective of life. Overall great experience and enjoy every minute of it x

by Tim Hamill on 04/02/2014 at 2:42 pm #

A-level Maths class very quiet this week – I guess the rowdy ones are all away!

by Eugene Hollywood on 05/02/2014 at 8:42 am #

Hello all. Sorry for the delay in getting in touch as I had trouble with the blog. It is just great to read the blog and the obvious impact you are having with all whom you meet. I am so proud of you all. Miss you coming in but looking forward to more news. God bless all.

by Kathleen Moore on 05/02/2014 at 10:10 am #

Great to have your blog to follow your week in Romania. Special hello to my Sociology and Health and Social Care students. Also tell Cara her daddy was in Camocha the other day and he didnt pay for his coffee!!!! she will know what i mean 😉 Enjoy the rest of your experience cant wait to hear all the stories.

by Caroline Hughes on 05/02/2014 at 11:28 am #

Dia daoibh
Great to read the blog and remember all the places, I even recognise some of the children. Codlea is so sad and Vulcan too, I am sure everyone in both these places were delighted to have some company and attention for a while.
The ladies up in St Treime are so grateful for all we do for them. We are very privileged to live in a place that doesn’t treat our elderly that way.
Special hello to Dáithí, Cathy and Christine. I’m sure Cathy is still waking everyone up each morning- I don’t know how she manages to be that chirpy at that time!
I will be following your journey all week.

Slán go fóill
Ciara

by Ciara McCoy on 05/02/2014 at 11:44 am #

Hi Everyone, what a great experience for you all. This a tremendous life experience for you and an eye opener into how other people experience life. I see it is not all serious as you are enjoying the snow. Miss you Aimee Mackin. Be good and take care.

by Freda Mackin on 05/02/2014 at 12:09 pm #

Hi everyone, especially our wonderful prefect Caolifhionn! We are reading your blog every morning. We love seeing the photos and all the good work you are doing. Enjoy the rest of the trip and we can’t wait to hear all about it in year 8 assembly.

by 08-24 on 05/02/2014 at 2:21 pm #

Glad to hear you are all having an amazing time! Take care.

by Clare Maguire on 05/02/2014 at 6:55 pm #

Hi guys!!
Many greetings from Kenya. We hope you’re having a wonderful time.
You seem to have had an emotional day today in Timis. We also saw a lot of suffering today in different ways but it’s so rewarding knowing that those people who have such hard lives feel loved and valued by our visit – even if only for a few minutes.

You’re all looking well in the photos and I hope you’re keeping well.

Ádh mór,
#TeamKenya

by Stephen Quinn on 06/02/2014 at 7:52 pm #

Hello Team Romania 14!
Can’t believe your week is almost up. It looks like it’s been another successful year. The photos are great and it’s fantastic being able to follow your experiences on the blog (Who’s that woman standing beside Alex at Timis? I think I know her from somewhere). Enjoy your last day and have a safe journey home. See you soon C! xx

by Gareth Part on 07/02/2014 at 10:42 am #

I really enjoyed keeping up to date with your blog and all the unforgettable experiences you had. I hope that now you are back in St Pauls you will keep all those you met in your prayers and thoughts. Your visit is a high point not just in your lives but in those you meet and you bring much more than physical gifts, in that your presence lets those children and adults know that others remember them and value them. Congratulations to all of you and Ms Fearon and Mr Murray.
Oliver Mooney

by Oliver Mooney on 12/02/2014 at 9:21 pm #

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