Sunday, March 28, 2010

And Then There Were Three.....

We had a busy week last week with the kids. Many were in isolation because of colds so the volunteers would take turns going in to play with them and try to relieve their boredom. Several parents came to visit last week. It is always so wonderful to see them with their children and very emotional when they have to leave them. The six remaining team members took a van to Bucharest for the weekend. Three of us left for home, which means this week will be crazy with 21 babies and only three of us left!

A little background on the kids that come to the Failure to Thrive/Pediatric Recovery Clinic. When Romania joined the European Union in January 2007, the EU named the county that the clinic is in, Vaslui, as the poorest county in all of the EU countries. It is a rural area, where some people still get around with horse and cart. Actually, it is quite lovely to feel like you have stepped back in time. In Barlad, the closest city, there are excellant schools that lead most kids to a university education. However, in the small villages that surround Barlad, it is not uncommon for kids to drop out of school at a young age. Many times to work the land or to get a job to help the family. Often when a child is born with a disability in these small villages, the family doesn't have the education or financial means to take care of their child. At the clinic, we have kids with Down Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Autism, club feet, cleft lip and palate, brittle bone disease, heart disease, malnutrition and neglect. Surgeries are performed on the kids that require it. Many kids are brought in voluntarily by their parents because they can't care for them. Families do visit as often as possible- around once a month to once a year. The poverty level in the area is high so it is difficult for parents to take time off of work and to pay for transportation to and from the clinic. Other children are brought to the clinic by Child Protective Services because they have been abandoned at the hospital or taken from their home due to bad living conditions. Currently, the age range for the kids at the clinic is four months to six years old.

People often ask me if it is sad volunteering in Romania. Yes, it is sad that these kids aren't growing up in a healthy, home environment but the clinic and Global Volunteers does the best they can to make it a positive situation. The clinic is bright, with cheerful drawings of cartoon characters on the walls. The metal cribs that many of us have seen from TV shows in the 90's are now bright cribs of blue, yellow and red. There is lots of laughter and fun. When a child runs into your arms, excited to see you or you soothe a crying baby, you know you have made the right decision to come here.

One of my favorite quotes is,"If you think you are too small to make a difference, then you have never been in bed with a mosquito." Our help may be small and for a short period of time but it makes a difference in these children's lives.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Picures of The Babies (weeks 1 and 2)

Denisa, Celine, and Andreea

Roxana and Andreea Outside!

Ionut and Daria Roxana

Petre and Cristi

Daria Roxana and Denisa

Petre talking to Maria Cleopatra

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Typical Day

I thought I would blog tonight for those of you who are thinking about signing up for the Romanian trip and want to know what a typical day is like.

8:00am-8:45am- Breakfast and reading of the team journal and the quote of the day.

9:00am-12:30pm- We leave for the clinic, about a three minute walk. Our first feeding is around 9:30. The non-mobiles usually have bottles and the mobiles we feed a chicken, potato and carrot puree from a bowl. Messy! The rest of the morning is play time. We play games, dance, practice sitting, crawling and walking, work on basic Romanian words and generally do things to stimulate the kids. Regarding Romanian words, we all get a laugh when we say "pa" to the older kids and they reply with the English translation of "bye"! The kids have also picked up on "uh-oh" and say it throughout the day! We have a snack around 11:00am, usually yogurt and fruit puree. Diapers are changed after that and then around noon, lunch is given to the kids, most often a repeat of breakfast.

12:30pm-2:45pm- Time for our lunch back at the hotel. We then have free time to rest, take a walk, do laundry, etc.

3:00pm-6:30pm- Back to the clinic to wake the kids up from their naps and to feed them again. Maleka, the amazing nursery school teacher, is with the older kids during the afternoon. We help her with the older kids, go to the non-mobiles room to play with them or sometimes help the aides fold mounds and mounds of cloth diapers. If the weather is nice, we also spend as much time outside as we can. Diapers are changed again around 4:00pm and then we feed the kids dinner around 6:00pm. Diapers and feeding are usually every four hours.

6:30pm- We have dinner at the hotel. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we go to Barlad to have dinner at a restaurant in the city and a stop at the grocery store. Then, collapse into bed! That time for me is now.......good night!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hello's and goodbye's

Friday was the last day for the members of our team that were spending one week here at Tutova. The day was filled with the usual feedings, diaper changings and play time. Last minute pictures were taken by the people leaving, wanting to preserve the week's memories. In the afternoon, we had a little party at the clinic as a thank you to the aides and nurses and a goodbye to our new friends. Several of the kids, who woke up early from their afternoon naps, joined us in the festivities. Many delicious cookies were eaten and a few tears were shed as people prepared to say goodbye. Several people talked about what a life changing experience this has been for them. Dr. Delia, who is the head doctor and runs the clinic, stopped by to say thank you and to answer questions. Dr. Delia came to the Tutova clinic and hospital in 1989 for a six month stay and has never left. Her devotion to the clinic and hospital is amazing! We had our last full team meal together on Friday night, pizza and Romanian cheesecake. Many of us stayed late to talk about the week, laugh and to toast Romania with a shot of Tuica, the Romanian liquor.

Saturday morning, six of our team members left. They will all be missed but especially Terry, our one guy, who provided us with laughter and was a true gentleman to all of the ladies on the team. Several people went over to the clinic on Saturday and Sunday. The weekend staff is just one nurse and one or two aides- for 22 kids! It is always busy and they appreciate the extra help. Kristen took a day trip to see Dracula's castle and Brasov. Michelle, Caroline and I went with Mihaela to visit Ionela at her home. Ionela was at the clinic for two years and is one of my favorites. She was born with a cleft lip and palate. Her parents were not able to take care of her so she came to the clinic. Most of the children at Tutova do have parents but because of the children's disability or poor living conditions, they can't stay in their home. Some of the parents stay involved in their children's life while others become wards of the state. Ionela had several surgeries to correct her cleft lip and palate and last December, went back home to her family. It was wonderful to see her smiling face and funny laugh. Both she and her family seem happy to be back together again.

We six remaining team members are rested and ready for a busy second week!!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Pictures From Week One

My name is Caroline, and this is my seventh team in Romania with Global Volunteers. This is my second time doing an extended stay in Tutova, and I will be staying for nine weeks. I am very excited to share my experiences with you all!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Great Outdoors

Today it was warm enough to take most of the kids outside! Many had not been out for several months so the bright sunshine and cool temps were a bit of a surprise for them. Romanian culture is not too big on having kids out in the cold. In fact, regardless of the tempurature, Romanians don't want children in a room that has the door open and a window open. One is fine but not both. Many believe that the draft from having both open may cause colds. It is alway fun finding out the nuances of different cultures around the world! Anyway, we bundled the kids up in the winter clothes and took them out for walks. Some kids in strollers, some teetered along and some were carried. We had fun trying to stay out of the mud (not always successfully), exploring the grounds of the clinic, picking up twigs and pinecones and feeding treats to the hum hums (dogs). Here's hoping for another sunny, not windy day tomorrow so we can get outside and explore further!


Monday, March 15, 2010

Happy Birthday Mihaela, Gabby and Marius!

Today is the twins, Mihaela and Gabby's, second birthday. It was also Marius's second birthday last week so we celebrated all three birthday's today. We brought a DELICIOUS birthday cake (thanks to our team leader Mihaela), had new birthday outfits for the kids (thank you, Lauren!) and a happy birthday banner to make the occasion. We sang Happy Birthday in English and the aides sang to them in Romanian. It was fun to hear the different birthday songs in the different languages. Little Mihaela even gave us her best dance moves in honor of her big day!

The kids seemed in much better spirits today. I think getting back to their usual routine (having many volunteers around) was great for them. Walking in to the clinic and having the kids smile and reach out for you and climb all over you and sometimes be a little naughty -"no hair pulling, Sami!"- is such an amazing feeling. It makes my day and brings joy all around.

Our team seems to be blending really well. Many of us stay after meals and continue our conversation. I find it interesting that 48 hours ago most of us were strangers and now, because of this shared experience, we are laughing at each others dumb jokes and carrying on like old friends. Three of the women on the team I have served with before and it has been great catching up with them. On a side note, the Romania program has one of the highest returning volunteer rates of any of the programs.

I have also made two new four-legged friends- well one is three legged. There are two darling dogs who hang out around the hotel. One looks like a pure bred yellow lab who only has use of three legs but gets around just fine. The other is a spunky true mutt. The team has been very generous with left-overs so they are going to bed very happy- like me.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Day One

Greetings from Romania! My name is Jane and this is my ninth trip with Global Volunteers, all in Romania. This team we are 12 strong. Ages range from 18 to 63 and from all walks of life- laywers, writers, nurses and a student. We also have a fantastic guy on our team, who is keeping us all in stitches! Our teams are mostly made up of women but we really need more men to join us. Working with babies is very manly and fun! It is important for the kids at the clinic to be exposed to both women and men- it is crucial for their development.

Our first day is mostly orientation. We all got to know one another a bit more, set individual and group goals, learned about Global Volunteers policies, had a Romanian language lesson (the other diners at the restaurant where we had our lesson got a kick out of us trying to roll our "r's") and received our room assignments- either the non-mobiles or the mobiles. We also were able to spend time over at the Failure to Thrive/Pediatric Recovery Clinic. I was last here in November 2009 so I was anxious to get over to the clinic and see my kids! This is the first time that I have been here when there hasn't been a team for the three weeks before us and I was surprised at what a difference I saw in the kids. Many of them seemed withdrawn. Caroline, who is a current volunteer and was also on a team last month, said that she noticed regression in some of the kids. If ever I needed reminding what a difference we make, this was it. I may not, specifically, make a difference to these beautiful children but having the continuity of volunteers here does have a huge impact on their lives. Of course, I would like to think that I personally do make a little difference. They sure have all made a difference in my life.