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Dear Friends

 

 At the time of writing we are now travelling home from our latest trip to Romania. In fact we are on the main route through Budapest in Hungary heading for Vienna. I am in some pain which started a few days ago having been stung. We were getting ready for our journey back to England, in the bathroom I striped down to get a wash and I was sat on the toilet contemplating the journey ahead. I had been having some troubles with my bowels most of the journey and I was hoping to have a trouble free trip home. As I said, whilst sat quietly on the throne I could hear a right commotion outside, the lads were shouting everyone was agitated. Apparently under the eaves under the roof, above the bathroom window they had found a huge wasp’s nest.

 

The lads were trying to block it by throwing cement into the hole and only getting the wasps raved up. What I did not know was that the ceiling of the bathroom was made out of planks of wood and it stopped just short of the wall. The wasps were actually coming through. I noticed one or two in the bathroom and I thought if I just stay still they will go. Next thing I know, bag bang two wasp stings into my back. They stung me where I could not actually reach them. Gabi got the barbs out with a pair of tweezers.

 

Because of my diabetes and very low immunity system I always have problems with wasp or bee stings. Quite often I need to go to the hospital. Anyway lucky for me Gabi has packed Claritin and I took a double dose of that and I got away with some shakes. However two days down the road it is still painful leaning against the back of the van seat and Gabi tells me one of them is infected. Anyway I will survive. Just thought I will mention my stings.. I also need to mention that weather in Romania has been diabolical, no rain for a month and 31 degrees nearly every day.

We are limping home as we have got electrical problems, pre-ignition where the engine refuses to stop when the key is switched off and occasionally all power seizes without any warning, not to mention problems with the power steering and later on , with the bearings. So it is quite dangerous but it is driving on your nerve all the time, that is the real problem. We are actually carrying two puppy dogs to France; they will be dropped off on route. Other than our normal travel problems with my bad stomach and legs swelling and all that sort of things, everything is going ok. We should be home in 2-3 days and hopefully this newsletter will be out by the end of the month together with our DVD.

This particular trip to Romania will, I believe, always stand out in my memory as an indicator of why we actually do what we do. Of course I am talking about Nicoleta. As you all know we have been making steady progress with Nicoleta and people have responded to help especially the Pentecostal Church in County Durham who covers a quarter of the cost of her care. Most of you will remember how we found Nicoleta in a foul smelling room in the dark. She was sitting in the middle of a broken bed that had actually collapsed under the weight of rotten excrements and urine. This young child, because that is what we thought she was, only later did we find out that she was actually a quite older teenager. Of course now she is 22 years old, she still looks about maybe 10 or 11.

 

She was covered in blood on her face from self-mutilation, she was suffering from severe malnutrition and could hardly move her legs or lower body and could absolutely, until not long ago, support any of her body weight. For a long time we thought we were hitting our head against the wall trying to turn this young girl’s situation around or even improve it a little. Having no experience with this exact problem it seemed impossible. We took advice from many people and in particular a friend of ours in Bristol, Marianne who is a Godparent and a full time mother and carer to her own physically handicapped son, who needs constant care. Although his situation no way resembles Nicoleta’s, nevertheless Marianne, who also works in an institution for disabled children, managed to find us both advice and equipment of what seems at the moment the most important element, a special nutritional food . Sam from Wiviliscombe in Somerset has been out and worked with Nicoleta. Up to the birth of her baby boy she also worked in a disabled institution in Taunton. So overall we have been given some excellent advice.

 

So now, with the help from the church, and a few other small donations for Nicoleta we have managed to employ a lady to cover half the time with Nicoleta, especially from a feeding, cleaning and regular exercise program point of view. Nothing you will be likely to find in an institution or hospital and really, given the conditions she was in, has no right or reason to work. In the face of everything, with no real pointers that it was purely our intervention, we went to Nicoleta’s to take some incontinent pads , food, bedding, paint, mattresses etc, the lady looking after her said she wanted to show us something and unbelievably , actually miraculously, helped Nicoleta to stand up. A little shaky and not so sure, but she was nevertheless standing.

 

 

ver the weeks that we were there she came out into the sun in the garden most days and in the latter part of our visit, as you will see on the DVD, she was coming out, not only to the garden but outside right to my van with practically no assistance at all and the only reason anybody was holding her was because it was still necessary for her hands to be tied behind her back which made her lean forward and made her a little unsteady. But looking where she came from and seeing where she is now, it is not much short of a miracle. We only hope now that everything will keep getting better and we hope to find out more about the self harm aspect of her illness. We have tried the special splints supplied by Marianne, yet she does as much damage with the corner of the splints on her legs as she does to her face with her hands. Also, we found that each time we untied her hands she became extremely violent to herself and unsettled. So for the time being we think that tying her hands is actually to her benefit.

 

We left her a new wind up rechargeable radio and lantern, she absolutely loves popular music and she murmurs in tune. On the most recent DVD you will see she has learnt a few more words, however she can say thank you and she can ask for food, she can express if she likes it or not and she can also tell you when it is too late for toilet. It would be nice if she can tell when she needs the toilet and not that she has been but this is progress in our eyes. It must be said that all of this has been done without any help from the Romanian authorities or medical profession.

 

Nicoleta was quite stimulated by the presence of so many people for long periods of time, working around her. We decided on this trip that we could not build on to the property without permissions, taxes and all the rest of it so we decided to take half the porch and make that into a good wet room where she could be cleaned . It cannot be described as a shower because water comes from warm buckets and you will see all this on the DVD. We built the room, painted it, we put a shower tray on a concrete base. We plumbed it so the water runs away from the property. Then to finish things off we repaired the roof for the coming winter. We also improved the bed by putting a wooden panel all the way around the bed. This will keep the rats out and add a bit of insulation.

 

The passage way was also improved by adding a concrete floor with a step which will help them during the wet season by reducing the amount of mud they will bring in the house. A rather impressive new hardwood front door was fitted. All the frontage broken glass and plastic was all taken out to be safe. We fixed the wooden frame that was ready to collapse so that in the future the glass can be replaced if necessary as a backup to the corrugated plastic sheet, which was by the way donated by SIS recycling plastics in Stockton on Tees. A big thank you to Glen who has always been very helpful. 

 

In the front of Nicoleta’s bed there was a horrible old glued window all broken which made the room always very dark. We have replaced that with a very modern double glazed, open and shut window and new frame. This was donated with others by John at the double glazing factory on the Wilderness Road, Middlesbrough. Thanks very much to John who has always been very helpful. The paint for Nicoleta’s house and many other houses has been donated by Manor Coating Paints in Thornaby, whose lads and manager, together with the company have always been very supportive of our charity and our painting projects for many years now.

 

I can honestly say that Nicoleta the experience has been absolutely unbelievable and looks like it will have a happy ending. Yet there is still a great need for support to cover the rest of her care and we need to return next year to improve the house a little further. In the beginning when we made the Nicoleta appeal it was worked out what it would cost to do this project with Nicoleta . A church in county Durham quickly came forward and said that they would cover this cost. Somewhere along the lines there was a misunderstanding and the church has understood that this was the monthly cost for Nicoleta. In reality £35 was the weekly cost for her care.

 

Convoy aid has been putting £35 from donations from other Nicoleta helpers. But the reality is, if it is possible, we need to find sponsorship for the other two weeks per month. How long it will go on for, who knows? But people can step down from sponsorship at any time they feel it is right. This is the benefit of having multiple small regular donations in the hope that not everyone will stand down at the same time. This is pretty much on the same principle Convoy aid is Run. So even if someone cannot afford a big donation for Nicoleta to cover one week or a fortnight, if you can break that down to cover one day even that would be great.

 

Moving on a little to our friend Ann Helps from Billingham and her family and friends, Ann is a local magistrate in Teesside and also a member of the church. Ann, her church and her family have been constantly helping Convoy aid, not only through their Godchildren, but also by supplying willing hands to load our trucks. In fact the last truck would have never been loaded so quickly without her family and friends. Many thanks.

 

 I will now tell you a very strange story and I think you should make your own mind up as to how to interpret this behaviour. Last year Ann started to sponsor a different child because the father of the previous child she sponsored found a job thus the family had a regular income. It is our policy to move on the sponsorship when the family no longer needs our active support. The door is never closed but there are so many poor families on our waiting lists that we think it is only morally fare to do this.

 

Anyway upon receiving the sponsorship information Ann pointed out that the mother of the child was diagnosed with cataract in both eyes and could benefit from eye surgery. She asked us to make further enquiries to see if this operation was possible and how much it would actually cost. We had an initial consultation in Iasi with an ophthalmic specialist which cost £12 and a day in Iasi. It was confirmed that the lady would need both eyes operated at different times with a two weeks break between the surgeries. The cost was estimated at £750 for both eyes and aftercare.

 

We contacted Ann because this was a serious amount of money for our charity. After discussions with her family and I believe possibly friends from the church, Ann confirmed that they would raise the money for the operation. Everything was put in place and a date was set for the first operation. In Romania, before any surgery, we were informed that the local mayor’s office had to provide her with a paper to confirm that she has no income thus receiving free hospitalisation as regards the stay in the hospital.

 

Unlike England you have to stay three days, obviously because of the home conditions it would not be wise to have the surgery and go home straight away. When she never turned up at the mayor office we sent someone around to her house to find out what was going on. It was explained to the woman that there were grave consequences for her sight and if she was not to undertake this operation she will go blind within two years. She solemnly promised to be at the mayor’s office the following day where one of our volunteers would meet her and guide her through the process.

 

The next morning she did not turn up. During this time Ann with the help of Becky her daughter and many friends who had coffee mornings, fundraising activities etc, managed to raise the full amount. This was sent to us by bank transfer and everything was ready and paid for. Yet this lady had not turned up again and we tried to make contact with her once more. We also’s decided to contact, one of our Godparents from Bristol, Hilary Parfit’s Godchild family. Her Godchild lives only a few houses away from the lady who needed the operation.

 

 When our volunteer had words we were absolutely shocked to hear that the husband of the woman had indicated to this other lady’s husband that if his wife becomes blind she will get some form of care allowance and the blind woman will get a pension for life. This was a guaranteed income from the state. Not satisfied with this we sent our volunteer to make enquiries at the medical services in the nearby bigger village where the husband asked what the situation would be if the wife went blind. Obviously he was told that they would receive pensions and he would get the carer’s allowance.

 

You can make what you want from the story. After 20 years in Romania I think I understand the situation. Ann was absolutely shocked, the same as us. Ann however told us that having later spoken to a friend coming from a poor African state, such a situation is understandable. One has to bear in mind that these people are in a seriously poor position with children to bring up, no income, many houses with no electricity and almost all houses without water, having a regular income is desirable. I do not know whether to believe that the woman, if it is true, is renouncing her eye sight for the stability and future of the family. I do not know if this is not the bravest act I have ever witnessed.

 

But the other side of the coin is that she could have been bullied by her husband who may have wanted an easy life. We will probably never know.

Our problem was that Ann has already raised the money and we arranged to send it back. However Ann, her family and friends decided to donate most of the money back to Convoy aid if we could come up with a worthwhile project.

 

Of course we decided that because the money was raised for an eye surgery project, it should go to a project that benefited people’s eye sight. As you all know, small rural villages where we are do not have opticians of any type. This is simply because one has to pay for both consultation and glasses.

Old people in particular, find it very difficult to read or look at official documents, especially in houses using candle light. Many of the children at the school have lots of problems when writing and reading; nobody knew about it and nobody cared. We thought of this many times but never had the extra cash to set up a special project. This was the opportunity. We contacted some firms in Manchester and eventually found a company that supplies shops like pound shop and market traders, etc.

 

We have done a deal and managed to buy a huge supply at 66p a pair. We already had a couple of bins with long sighted glasses of different prescription strengths that have been donated to us, but the one’s supplied by Ann and friends covered the whole range of strengths of reading glasses and included junior ones. So the whole time we have been in Romania every project in each village was set up as you will see on the DVD, nearly a full week outside Nicoleta’s , a blanket on the floor, glasses laid out , the new ones kept by the van, the word went out and most people there got glasses they needed. We did not have sufficient to finish all the villages although we did about 500 pairs so far.

 

There was some money left over some of which paid for the journey to Manchester and back to collect them and some was used for diesel to villages where we would not normally go to. People in the hospital and old people’s home all received glasses. So all in all on our next trip we should be able to finish off the few we did not get to. But great thanks to Ann and her family and friends for raising the money. I believe that this was probably meant to happen.

 

Having travelled for days across Europe, we arrived in the village of Bivolari at about 9pm when it was just starting to get dark. To our amazement the house was already occupied by rats. It has taken us three weeks to get our unpaying tenants out .The house is made of mud and they dug tunnels underneath under the house and along the water pipes. They chewed into the electric wires as well and lucky for us there was no power on. The winter frost has burst the water pipe and was without water for two days. But we managed and got it all fixed and in ship shape fashion.

 

 We were busy trying to unload our baggage when we were approached by a woman with a push chair and five small children, one of whom has a Godparent. She was from a village called Roscani which is a long walk with five children, about 25km. We invited her into the house and it was obvious she was black and blue. She told us that the man she lived with who she had the children to had thrown her out of the house with just what she stood in. The same went for the children. It turns out that the house they were living in Roscani belonged to his father as they were not legally married, he could do this.

 

The police in Romania are very much like the English police used to be many years ago when faced with domestic violence issues. The main problem was that it was night time, 5 children and nowhere to go. They slept where we were staying that night and the next day we arranged with the local priest for her to be accommodated for the following two nights. They stayed in an annexe of the church; we gave them some blankets, quilts and food as well as some nappies for the child and some toiletries. To make it worse it was the woman’s period time.

 

As if it was meant, my brother in law was selling a small piece of land behind the old mayor’s office. It had there pig sty’s on it and it was in a very bad condition and totally overgrown with vegetation. It needed three days to make it habitable as you will see on the DVD. We had to put a double glazed door with lock, plaster the walls, create a roof and insulate it. We had to buy insulation and plasterboard to make it reasonably warm. Again we painted the place with emulsion donated by Manor Coating Paint in Thornaby. The well was only a short distance from the gate, about 5 metres so that was not a great issue.

 

We further furnished the place – someone may recognise them- beds and cots for the baby. We put carpets on the floors, gave them toys and more food and in the end we had a stove built which will serve them as a cooker and heater. We do not know what is going to happen to this family. Apparently her ex has moved his girlfriend into the house so the chances or her going back are very little. Two of the children have now been registered with the local school and one with the kindergarten. We gave them clothing and two pairs of shoes each as well as school materials and pots and pans, plates, cups, sauces etc.

 

The problem is that during the financial crises which has enveloped the whole world, to find a single man in the village that has his own home and willing to take on a woman and five children is quite slim. The mayor said that he will give her a piece of land if she can prove she has the materials to build a house. This would be hers. This woman has no money, no income; she is busy looking for bits of work in the village that she can get. Having five children even this proves difficult to do. At the end of the day it might be that we need to help them for quite a while and where there was only one child sponsored we might need to get all the children sponsored because the input into that family will need to be much greater. The name of this family is Cercel and if you think you know someone that wishes to sponsor any of their children please let us know. Here are their dates of birth and names. Again, everything is on the DVD.   

 

Cercel Sebastian Florin- boy

Cercel Gabriela Georgeta- girl

Botezatu Cristian Vasilica- boy

Botezatu Rares Constantin- Boy

Cercel Nicusor- boy

 

Now going back to a much loved friend Safta from Bivolari village we had her eyesight checked and there is no possibility of it being resolved. She is unfortunately blind for life. As you will see on the DVD we built her a brand spanking new toilet as the one she was expected to use previously was primitive to say the least. Interestingly you will see we have done a few of these toilets. Our friend Glen at SIS Plastic Recycling in Stockton, frequently gives us boxes which are huge plywood packing cases .They start, life in our depot in Stockton by being packed with all the breakable perishable items we are sending to Romania. Once they arrive in Romania the content are distributed. We then take one end of a box and join it with the same from another packing case, we stand them up, build a proper thunder box toilet, we add a toilet seat with a lid .

Again manor paints are to be thanked as we paint the inside and outside of theses toilets. We then put a door with handle on- we get these either donated or recovered from skips around the country. Of course there is a big hole in the bottom. This drops into a big pit. WE put some canvas, plastic or whatever on the roof top stops the rain going in and the toilet is ready for delivery. We then take them to old or infirm people or just those who are very poor and cannot afford the materials to build one. We dig a one metre and a half whole into the mud in the garden and sit the whole toilet on it. WE also put two straightening beams across the bottom to make them secure. Job well done and ready to use.

 

In Safta’s case, being blind from her house to the toilet we made a fence with a plastic handrail so she can find her way quickly to the toilet. Also at Safta’s we have refurbished the kitchen with a new roof. The reason for this is that she has not had a kitchen for some time as she accidentally burnt it when she was trying to cook for herself. Her son is about 40 years old and an absolute waste of time, sleeps and drinks. This makes things very difficult for us. She has had two lots of new pans; the last ones we gave her were the oldest and roughest I could find and hopefully the son will not find a buyer for them.

 

Safta still enjoys the chocolate we give her. Whilst we are in the village we take meals to her, however it would be nice if we could find some way of stopping the son drinking her pension. At the moment it is not the biggest problem in the world as they have vegetables and it is the summer time. It was interesting at Safta’s to notice that the whole back garden has been turned over and the seeds she has been given have been planted. So does have some useful vegetables coming up now. Come winter thing will become difficult.

 

Fairfield school, having been demolished, have given us a huge quantity of materials which are now in Romania and ready to distribute when the children come back to school. What we are badly in need of, is another consignment of paper from the paper factory. So Ellie, if you still have any contacts and you can work your magic to see if there is any scarp paper or over orders they need to get rid of we will be very happy to collect it. We hope the little ones are fine.

 

We have also donated a large quantity of medicine, walking frames, walking sticks, Tena pads and wheel chairs to our local hospital and nursing home. The doctor was very grateful and told us that everything is useful. When we asked if he needs anything in particular he told us that the surgical instruments he has been donated over the years have come to their natural end and so they do not work well any more. So he asked us if we can get him any replacements as well as an oxygen concentrating machine. This is because it is very difficult to refill and buy oxygen bottles from the town and such a machine is very small and takes the air and concentrates the oxygen in a small devise that can be used straight away. So if anyone knows of anything like this going spare, we will be very happy to give them to our village doctor in Bivolari.

 

The main reason for this is that the hospital in Bivolari, although it has an emergency room for accidents and emergencies, there are a lot of old people who live in the nursing home side of it. These people have been working with flour, corn, dust which has affected their lungs. As a result, breathing problems are a huge concern. Bottled oxygen is not always available and most certainly has to be paid for from the budget. I know the doctor is asking for a bit much but working on a principle that if you do not ask you will not get, I can just pass on his request although we will be actively looking. The ultrasound machine that Convoy aid donated is there and being used on a regular basis.

 

I just described to you some of the most important events of our trip to Romania. Yet it is impossible that a second time this year to document everyone’s Godchild. But I can confirm that all the parcels and donations as well as the shop donations have been given out as you expect.

We are now approaching our Christmas period coming up November and it would be niceto have everything in by the 5thof November. Please find the Christmas leaflet enclosed. It has all the details required should you wish to send a Christmas box or a Christmas donation. If at any time you have any questions please do ask by e-mailing or writing to us. We will be only too happy to help.

 

Gabriela is at present updating the records and in this newsletter you will find a form that will ask in the main whether you wish to receive the newsletters via post or e-mails. We will of course send all the DVD’s via post but the paper newsletter can be e-mailed, thus saving money and time. Please reply as soon as you can so that we can be ready for the next newsletter. We already had some e-mail replies, so we have started to amend the records. Those who have already replied please ignore the leaflet altogether.

 

Thank you all for your generous and constant support and we hope you will find our DVD’s very interesting. One of the DVD’s feature our general work and the second is about Nicoleta and how she progressed from a little person sunk in a dirty hole in her bed to.....walking!

 

On behalf of Convoy aid Romania,

Rod and Gabriela Jones