Gail has visited Romania in July 2010 and this is her account of what she experienced.

From Gail

 After visiting Romania with Convoy Aid in 2006 I have had a burning desire to return. However like many full time working Mums, I have always had ‘something else’ that was either taking place or needed doing. It was only after being made redundant in May that I was able to plan some dedicated time, to making another trip to the place that has been clearly pictured in frequent dreams and down time thoughts. Although others had said they would come along too, when the time came they too either had ‘something else’ to do or just did not return my calls. So I decided to travel there alone.

 

I was very fortunate to have had a chance conversation with the Headmaster of our local primary school, Stephen McClymont, who suggested and encouraged the children to make up a shoe box. We received 200 in total. These were then sent up to Stockton , with the help of one of my old suppliers, Alan Nuttall Ltd, ready for the onward journey, hopefully to coincide with my arrival.

 

So a call to Rod and Gabriela confirmed the dates that I was able to join them.

I was very aware of the ill health that both of them had been troubled with over the previous few months and was not surprised when Rod called just 10 days before, to inform me of a very important consultation Gabriela was due to have, he was informing me, as the outcome of that appointment may have meant that we would not be able to make the proposed dates. As well as this appointment Rod also had cellulitus badly so was told not to drive!

In true ‘Jones’ style Rod called a few days later to say the trip was still on and that Gabriela would call the consultant from Romania.

 

With many tears from my daughter Maddison-Vale (7), who has been involved with the school collection, and through boxes and letters with one of Convoy Aids children for the last 6 years, because she really wanted to come with me.

 

I set off at 1.30 a.m for the airport. I would be lying if I said I was not nervous about the trip having had to collect a 6 year old girl who had been killed from the mortuary last time, I knew that Rod and Gabriela would not hide/protect anything from me.

I changed at Vienna and eventually arrived in a very warm Iasi just 8 hours later. As I climbed into the van I knew I had done the right thing and the nerves just disappeared.

After a quick drop off, of my bag at their house we were off to start visiting. My boxes had arrived and they had been loaded into the van, ready to be distributed.

 

Many of you will have seen some pictures of the children receiving aid from the charity in previous newsletters and the beautiful smiles on their faces. These faces will stay with me forever as we started to give out the boxes, matching gender and age with the boxes donated. I started to take pictures of the children and the box they received so I could give a picture to some of the children who had donated them. I wanted the pupils from Henry Chichele Primary school to feel the warmth and happiness they had generated by filling one of these boxes.

 

One of my other aims was to try to link up a school with Henry Chichele so Rod drove us to a school in Hermeziu, and was able to get the school opened for me to look round and film inside, although water tight and fairly pleasant inside, Rod encouraged me to go and look at the school toilets. I have no idea how I did not pass out from both the stench and the horror of the thought that children had to use such vile, filthy, stoneage facilities.

 

We visited Nicoletta to ensure her mother had still got some of the sanitary pads that Convoy Aid supply. Gabriela went in first and I followed, I think I managed about 30 seconds in the house before retching at the side of the van. Pigs are living in better conditions than that poor girl. Immediately Gabriela arranged to go back and once again throw out the whole bedding area and bathe Nicoletta.  We left her house after giving her a box of food and some old toys that could be shaken or moved by her mother to try to stimulate her. Whether they use them or not will be another question, as the saying goes ‘you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink’. I am ashamed to say I could not face cleaning the room they called home.

 

The highlight of my trip was going to visit my godchild again. Yes I did have a few tears. As promised I called Maddison-Vale and she was able to say hello to the little girl who has been such a big part of her life. We never throw out any toys everything has to be boxed to go to Ioana. It was wonderful to see our picture in her house and some of the dolls that we had sent still there. I had decided before I went, that I would try to make life a little better for them somehow, it turned out that they still had a mud floor, so I paid for wooden floor to put down, something that Rod later arranged fully for me. I hope this will make winter especially, a little more comfortable for them.

 

One of the families we visited were the god children of my old boss John Harper and his family. Although they were extremely poor, to see the plastic soldiers and footballs etc that John had sent in previous years, gave me a good feeling that his efforts had been appreciated and the children enjoyed their toys (and wellingtons, that although it was mid 30’s were still being worn!)

 

Amazingly we managed to match all the boxes except 5 before I left for the airport and thanks to an awful lot of help from Gabi I got a picture and a name of all the children who received them. However on the way to the airport Rod remembered a family who had 3 children with ages that matched 3 of the boxes so a small diversion took place to deliver these. Some may say it is fate, others just good luck but as we drove there we passed 2 children who matched the remaining 2 boxes! Every box delivered, something I never dreamt we would manage (I do not think Rod and Gabriela thought we would either at the beginning).

 

As we drove back to the airport Rod slowed down, “look there Gail” he said and I turned to see a young girl with a skipping rope and a doll from the box we gave her 2 days earlier. I could not have asked for a more satisfying end to my trip.

 

I do however have one major regret ……I did not stay long enough.

 

 

Gabriela never did phone for her results whilst I was there, and Rod continued to drive even with his leg the size of a tree trunk.

 

Selfless, caring wonderful people. God bless you both x