We will introduce you to Godparents who visited Romania. Please read their uncensored stories.

  1.  

    Pauline From Bristol

    My name is Pauline Sparkes and I live in Bristol .I have supported Convoy Aid for about 2 1/2 years. Rod and Gabi asked me nearly a year ago to go to Romania to see what work the charity does. I eventually plucked up the courage and went with Rod & Gabi in April, traveling across Europe. Very eventful. We were fined by the Austrian police 77 pounds less for me to help the Romanians. We arrived in Bivolari on good Friday .The house we were staying at was warm and very cozy. We were made welcome by Gabi's sister Daniela.


I was not prepared for what was in store for me over the next 2 weeks. so many of the families haven't electricity or water in their homes. The communal well can be quite a distance away. we visited an elderly couple who's home is gradually sliding down on a slope. This couple are in their 80's. There is nowhere else for them to go and the conditions they are living in are appalling. most of the homes we visited with parcels from Godparents are along very rough dirt tracks. A very bumpy ride on a horse and cart.


Whilst we were parked in Iasi one day a young boy came up to Rod asking him for money. The lad was living with his grandmother because his mother had left and was working in Spain. He didn't know his father. Gabi found out that his eyesight was very bad, but at school he sat at the back. How would he ever learn anything from the board. Gabi took him to the optician , had his eyes tested and we bought him new glasses. The whole cost was just 30 pounds. This will be another family now on convoy aid's list. If only Convoy aid had more funds we could all help more families with aid. If any of you know anyone who wants to become godparents please get in touch with Rod and Gabi.


We were asked to help a village school regarding building repairs. To get there we had to go along dirt tracks and across fields. We were made very welcome by the children and staff. Gabi and I were given flowers. The classroom we looked at was in an awful condition. The ceiling had completely disappeared exposing the wood.The walls were in desperate need of re-plastering. a major overhaul. estimate cost 1000 pounds. This has now been put on Convoy aid's list . If this school was in England it would be condemned. I left the school wondering how the teachers cope under such awful conditions. The school didn't have water there.


The poverty I saw in Romania will remain with me for many years. The orphanages I visited are now much better. The children appear to be looked after well. they were very happy as we gave them bags of sweets. From what I saw the people in the villages need more help now than the orphanages. Please help Convoy aid whenever possible. The Romanian people are so very grateful for the help they receive. I am glad I went to Romania as I saw the good work that Convoy aid is doing. They could do so much more if the money was there.


I have some very happy & sad memories of my trip. happy memories especially of a young lad I spent time with. He was a lovable chap and i was sad to leave him. I will never forget his cheeky smile. I am hoping to return one day. But due to the horrendous return journey we had ( Rod and Gabi have probably written about it in their newsletter) I will fly to Bucharest next time.
Thank you Rod and Gabi for the experiences . The good, the bad and the ugly.

                                    2.News from Pip

Convoy aid Romania Newsletter march 2002 News from Pip McCarthy News from an aid volunteer In This Issue: Pip's experiences during his 2 months stay in Romania Two month report from planet Bivolari .


I arrived in Bucharest by plane on 12th of November 2001 at midnight. my stay was to be for two moths .Danni and Dan (the man with the Dacia) collected me from the airport and he drove through the night reaching Bivolari eight hours later. I caught my first glimpses of Romania during this car journey .It got light at approximately 6 am. An hour before this , we were dodging many unlit horse and carts already out on the road and of course, the many unfilled pot holes. As light did come ,I was captivated by the numerous tiny rustic cottage-type houses, beautifully painted in mottled pastels , mainly blues and green, sometimes pink. Roofs were sometimes tiled, sometimes thatched, but mostly commonly metal sheeted often with cut metal shapes of birds, flowers and various intricate patterns around the edges tops and over the porches. Wells, sometimes covered and again ornately so ,stood at the side of the road at frequent intervals in the many small villages that we passed through. Each house appeared to have a small piece of land with geese, chickens, a pig and a cow on it, and typically several large circular stacks of sweet corn stems for winter feed.


Day one was spent sleeping mostly, then Brian, my English comrade showed me around the village for the next day and a half stopping in the small basic shops and the unheated grubby bars where the liquor and spirit measures only come in large, and cost the equivalent of about 20 pence. Bottled beer costs between twenty and fifty pence a pack so these were two vices that I have not been encouraged to give up as I originally planned.


Brian left Romania four days after my arrival (returning three weeks later), so I was left on my own in a cold house-cum-warehouse piled high with boxes of clothes , food and gifts.


I did have the luxury of both toilet and running water in the house unlike most of the rest of the villagers, but of course only cold water. These ,I later discovered were expandable luxuries as the temperature soon dropped way below zero and the whole water system was often frozen up for days at the time. Bathroom flooding also became a regular occurrence as did power cuts.
It all looked rather grin in the first few days of being here (before the big snow came) but I soon got used to it and actually came to enjoy a more basic way of living. After all ,it's only two months. The many local people I have had the pleasure of getting to know here ,the work I have helped with and the many weird and sometimes mad experiences I have had , were for me an exceptional holiday.


Once Brian left Danni, the charity administrator at this end of the operation became indispensable as my guide, friend, interpreter and teacher of Romanian and sincere gratitude goes to her and also her husband Nelu, and sister Cami who also extended both friendship, interpretation and their time helping me learn Romanian. Virtually nobody else in the village speaks a word of English. Why should they?


Football needs no common language. On the first Sunday of my stay here I had a game of football with some of the local lads, first half played on a water-logged pitch having cleared off the geese and sheep; second half on the dry, but undulting common. We lost , but I managed not to break any limbs and did make new friends.


The work I have done here has been split into two different areas. I began working with the men in the back of the yard constructing two new offices for extra storage and new admin. space plus walls and gates encompassing the yard.. Construction techniques appear to be somewhat different out here. Inventiveness often compensates for lack of tools or materials .As the temperature dropped hot wine was shared out and heartily appreciated. Working on the top of the roof at minus 10 or 15 didn't look easy. I had at this point transferred to working with the women.

 
Working with the women comprised the work of what Convoy Aid is all about. Boxes , boxes and more boxes, we sorted "packets " for individual families some of which were collected , and some we delivered by horse and cart , and horse and sleigh on occasions to the outlying villages surrounding Bivolari. The desperate poverty and cramped, cold often basic conditions were clear to see, as was the appreciation received for delivering the very needed clothes and toys and food.


The journeys to and from the villages we delivered to were particularly memorable. Some of these communities are remote, and the tracks to them are littered with deep ruts and holes filled with much snow and ice.
Two weeks into my stay here the snow came by blizzard. About a foot of it, but this drifted up in areas blocking the roads and tracks. Having done a fifteen km track up into the hills and around the lakes less than one week before, I, with mad dog resolve and dressed to the hilt in my winter mountain gear set forth to retrace the path I had taken before. On my first walk I had seen shepherds with their dogs and sheep .Not a sole was out on this second occasion.


After a few days after the snow fell the temperature plummeted some fifteen degrees to minus twenty one. That was what it read at eleven p.m. before I went to bed.


My evenings were often spent reading, sometimes by candlelight , and learning Romanian from a self teaching book I had bought back home. I visited the bars some nights both in Bivolari and in the next adjacent village, sampling the liquors and beers., playing pool and table tennis on very knackered tables and conversing as best as I could with the local men, all of which were more often than not keen to talk to me.


I spent two excellent evenings in the company of Petrica and his family sampling the five different wines that he had harvested from his vines.
The pace of work quickened as Christmas approached and all the designated Christmas parcels had to be distributed .Brian and I were assigned Santa duty.


Rod and Gabbi arrived two days before Christmas meaning an additional panic of clearing out space in their bedroom and cleaning the place up generally. The house almost looked homely.


Decorations went up then Gabbi and Rod generally took off daily to deliver parcels to the more distant villages that were too far by a long chalk to reach by cart and horse.


Back in the village, Brian and I were treated to the equivalent of carol singers - large groups of school children of all ages accompanied by their teachers , some of the kinds dressed up into elaborate costumes made from brightly coloured ribbons, wearing head-dresses made from deer heads,. Others played drums, whistles, other strange instruments and cracked whips. All pretty impressive stuff.


A break was taken from the village on Christmas Eve through to Christmas day. Brian and myself, Rod and Gabi, Dani and the family and the rest of Gabi"s family and a couple of friends spent the night in a cheap hotel in Iasi. Having booked in and paid, we discovered that the kitchens were locked up so we had to find food for sixteen people and utensils to eat with. We more than managed. An excellent cold feast was scoffed by all. This was complimented by much beer and hotel disco.


Three trips were made by me to the local disco which was heaving with young people. They did n't know what to make of me dancing, and I certainly couldn't get to grips with their style but I tried my best.


The real drama for me especially started just a week ago on the second of January. I took leave of all sense and attempted to stroke the nose of a horse. Not a wise move. The horse bit the end of my thumb off and ruined a good glove. Thus started a three day drama beginning with a visit to the village hospital. I was given a tetanus injection then whisked off with Rod and Gabi to the Emergency Hospital in Iasi ( 40 km. away). An x-ray revealed no damage to my bone other than a slight scratch, but I was informed that I would need a skin graft operation the following day. Following a good soaking with alcohol and iodine I was bandaged up, returned to Bivolari, then back to Iasi the following morning for 8 am. At 4 pm I was laid out crucifix style in just ripped pyjama bottoms several sizes too big for me ( having hobbled to the theatre in slippers several sizes to small for me ). Drips went in my left arm, a tourniquet (?) went around my upper right arm and my thumb was worked on whilst listening to pop music coming from a radio in the corner of the theatre .Despite the grim archaic nature of the theatre , the job reassuring me ... and by 'eck I needed reassuring. This ,I had been informed, was the good hospital.


Meanwhile Rod and Gabi had rushed back to Bivolari to get my passport as we had been informed that no operation would be carried out until they had had sight of it. This evidently was not the case as Rod and Gabi were still digging their way through snowdrifts with the assistance of Brian and Nelu as I was lying on the operating table.


Rod and Gabi and co made it back to Iasi but we could not make it back to Bivolari that evening , so we spent the night in the same hotel that we'd been for Christmas.
The following day things got really serious. Having had my thumb re-dressed and bought necessary medication, we drove two thirds of the distance back to Bivolari then got stuck .We could go no further because for one hundred and fifty metres in front of us there were snow drifts continuously between one and two metres deep and we had to shovel; and it was just two hours until dusk.


What we should have done is return to Iasi. We didn't ,but instead followed Nelu's suggestion of driving off the road ( after all that's what four by four are made for) , down a short but steep incline on to a vast wind swept, very exposed flood plane attempting to follow a faint rarely used cart track with the intention of detouring around the stretch of blocked road. After two hundred yards we were grounded in deep snow. With digging and pushing we edged further and further , maybe ten yards at the time but into deeper and deeper snow. To make things worse , dusk was upon us ,the temperature was dropping from minus fifteen , the wind was blowing and there now lay a drainage channel dangerously close to us on either side. This looked a bit dire. My thumb was aching. Rod felt it was time to put some shoes on.
We needed to be dragged out so Nelu and the hitcher we had picked up continued on foot to the nearest village two or three km away to try and get some help. Meanwhile Brian continued to dig in front of the car and from underneath it, whilst Gabi talked with her sister on the mobile ( incoming only) who was trying to persuade someone somewhere to venture out with a tractor.


Three hours late Dani rang to say that a tractor was on it's way. An hour later we saw a faint torch light approaching. Help had arrived - not a tractor, but in the form of six young men ,with shovels, two horses and a sleigh. The next half hour was rescue drama and a half. Seven pushed the car , Rod tried to drive the vehicle on the track the horses nearly killed themselves pulling the sleigh which was attached to the car, and Vasile precariously balanced on the old door which was the body of the sleigh, furiously driving the horses.
The tractor could not have managed what the horses succeeded in doing. It was waiting for us half a km away on a slightly more navigable track.
The remaining 8 km to Bivolari was comparatively easy being towed behind a chained-up tractor, but we couldn't have done it without.
It had been a lucky escape. The next morning we heard that several had died in stranded cars.


It is now 16th of January. Rod is very poorly with a bronchial infection. I am nursing my thumb and considering in light of the weather what options to take as I am supposed to be flying home from Bucharest in four days time.
If it weren't for the state of my thumb, I would not want to be returning home. I have become attached to Bivolari and to this area of Moldavia in the far north east of Romania. I have been charmed by my many many encounters with the people from this region from tots to frail elderly woman. The beautiful tiny little houses , the churches and the array of farm animals wandering the village streets and tracks that have all endeared me (though I've gone off the horses).


I have been extremely impressed with the effective and thoughtful distribution of clothes, food, gifts, toys, walking sticks, mattresses, bedding, utensils, desks, chairs and sometimes raw building materials that I have seen first hand delivered to families, isolated elderly people , hospitals, orphanages and schools. It most certainly is needed.


I take my hat off with the utmost admiration to Rod and Gabi for what definitely appears to me to be tireless devotion to the task at hand and a determination to overcome all the obstacles whether bureaucratic, logistical, or those created by the extremes of climate and geography... and this would all appear to be on a shoestring budget with no surplus as a safety net and overheads judiciously kept to the bare minimum.


Viva Convoy Aid and all those who donate to , sponsor and work for it. Thank you sincerely from me to Rod and Gabi, and to Dani and to all those I have worked and laughed with here. It's been an exceptional and an unforgettable experience.

 

                  3.Dr Bob Ellis visited Romania 

A moving moment.

When a gift of paper and pen bought a child to tears.

This September my wife Val and I visited Convoy Aid's refuge in Bivolari Romania. We went there knowing that these people lived in poverty. But what we didn't know was what poverty really meant. We should have guessed.
Our first night's sleep in a roadside inn was like a camping trip, flies everywhere, damp beds, strange toilet, and very little water. The staff work sixteen hours a day, six days a week and at three o'clock in the morning, in spite of the language barrier, they pored out their woes to me. Not enough money to clothe their kids for school; husbands who had given up and turned to drink or just left to work abroad and never came back; the hard labour needed to find just the basic necessities of life like food and water; the list went on and on.

But our first real understanding came when one of God's children found a tear forming in his eyes when the English strangers offered him the gift of paper. He was Mihi, one of our Godchildren that Rod and Gabby so kindly introduced us to through Convoy Aid, the Romanian charity they so devotedly run.


Carmen and Kristi, the couple who run Convoy Aid in Bivolari, made us very welcome. They provided us with accommodation and Carmen introduced us to our Godchildren. We took many photos. When we look now we see happy people but don't be fooled, beneath those smiles lays a deeply embedded sorrow.


Men talk about the difficulties their government faces in trying to bring some semblance of normality to their country; they know their plight is going to be very hard to change. The gift of a tool to make their work easier is taken in an embarrassed awkwardness.


Mother's eyes light up when they see a bag of basic foodstuffs. Rice, sugar, tinned or rolled meats are very hard to get when you have no money, even for clothes or beds. Children, eyes to the floor or wide open in a deep shyness, seeing the gulf between what we have and their own state, are helpless in the face of it all.


But and it's a big but, how they work to make a life for themselves. Men and women toil all day long in the fields using tools from a bygone era to till the fields. Nothing goes to waste, scythes are used to cut the grass for drying and using in the winter, mud bricks or wattle and daub to build their shelters, wood is gathered to provide warmth in the coming winter, the list goes on. Fruit from the roadside and gardens is gathered and stored wherever it can be and homegrown vegetables are tended with loving care. We saw one lady who, each morning let out her cow and then spent the next half hour or so chasing it away from the vegetable crop until it knew that vegetables were not to be eaten, yet.


The children don't have it easy either, a toy is a joy to receive and a sweet, well that is luxury itself but you might have to show them how to take off the paper to eat it. They go to school for half the day but can't work properly without paper and pen which is very expensive. The rest of the day and all day Saturday they toil in the fields with their parents, often shoeless and in rags. Covered in the dust of the fields their parents bathe them with pails of water drawn from the local well.


It's a hard life but they face it with courage and determination. Convoy Aid help in this task, they bring in the basic necessities of life in spite of difficulties, too many to mention here. Romania is a beautiful country and yes it was an experience not to miss but what an eye opener, we didn't know we had it so good.

4.Sam's story after visiting Romania

Gabby and Rod are undoubtedly the driving force behind Convoy Aid Romania, without them there would be no charity.

Nothing could of prepared me for the sights, sounds and smells of Romania. It is so very different to anything i've ever experienced in England.

Whilst there i met all kinds of people from many villages, all of whom need some kind of help. How can such a small charity help so many people? I don't quite know how Rod and Gabby do it, but they do it very well!

The task of sorting boxes should of taken Gabby and I just a couple of hours, instead it turned into a days work. Many parcels weren't labelled correctly, resulting in Gabby and Carmen having to look up their full name or village etc. It is impossible for anyone to remember the reference number of each person sponsored. Please ensure that when you label your parcel it has the person's full name, reference number and village name on it. If you are able to put a photo of the person you sponsor on the box then this is an added bonus and makes life so much easier.

Everyone that recieved parcels were so pleased and they really do enjoy recieving them, time is taken to take photographs and dvd footage when possible.

Alongside Rod and Gabby, I experienced many things, from cooking food for an elderly blind lady to delivering parcels on a horse and cart.

After a hard days work, we head back to the house where the evening work begins, from making jellies ready to deliver the next day to Gabby downloading the days photo's, ready for godparents and anyone else that has requested photos!

I met my Godchild, Elena, and was pleased to see how well her parents took care of her inspite of the terrible poverty that surrounds them. Everywhere you look is poverty, the kind of poverty that we can only imagine.

I spent some time with Nicolleta, she is 18 years old yet looks more like 8, she weighs much less. We sat in the garden whilst the house was being painted. This was a rare occassion for Nicolleta, who usually spends her days in her dirty, wet bed. After an hour outdoors she came alive, it was great to see, Nicolleta laughs when the ball is dropped by one of her cousins or myself in a game of catch, and she hums along to music, even my bad singing! I feel that trapped inside that young body is a young person just waiting to be found.


There is so much to say about Nicolleta, her mother and her living conditions, but the bottom line is that she needs help, the centre that Rod and Gabby are trying to set up would be of a huge benefit to Nicolleta and the many other children like her.

I urge you all to make the journey to visit the person that you sponsor, after seeing them you have a much better idea of what they face each day and how you can help.

I met some amazing people and thoroughly enjoyed my trip, I have come home to plan my next trip!

Sam Farmer

 

5.Sam Farmer return to Romania-her story

Romania 2008

This year I returned to Romania firstly to pay for a Well to be built in the remote village of Hermeziu - Trifesti, and secondly to see how Romania has progressed in the year that has passed.

I am pleased to say that after much hassle the Well was completed in the rain! I had a lovely letter of thanks from the family that I sponsor and I am pleased to know that they and others now have easier access to water. Some of the distances that are covered by people just to get to water are unbelievable, surely everyone has the right to fresh clean water.

It was also good to see my sponsored child and be able to personally give her the box that I had sent over. She is definately one of the lucky ones, in that she recieves regular aid from myself, as do many other godchildren. Unfortunately their are sponsored children that rarely or in some small cases never recieve a letter or packet from their godparent, this is sad as they will often travel for miles and sometimes hours to Bivolari, where the charity is based, in the hope of a packet to make life that little bit easier and nicer. Of course it is very rare for people to go away empty handed, but on occassions this does happen, you can't give something that you don't have.

On the topic of packets and parcels, I was very pleased to see that most of them were properly named this year and those with a photo attached were even easier to match to the child. The thing that I noticed this year was that where most children and old people recieved the advised shoebox or small box, well packed with goodies, there were a few that recieved extreme amounts of aid that could of been distributed to many more much needy families. One family had 10 large boxes! Yes 10. Although this was very generous and I am sure that the family will enjoy the goodies, it really didn't seem fair on other families that were waiting to collect aid. So please think about the size of your future parcels. You will be amazed at how much you can fit into a smaller box and the challenge can be quite fun!

Romania is a beautiful country but so full of poverty, there is an amazing old lady in Bivolari, who is totally blind and yet lives on her own without aid from the government. In developed countries there is help available, in Romania there isn't. Safta is a lovely lady, who is grateful of any aid that she recieves, she loves chocolate and quickly puts this into her pocket! She is always pleased when people visit and could talk the hind leg off a donkey I am sure! I was pleased to be able to cook for her and with help from Dana, deliver it to her, walking down the backroads, which are all mud.

Dana is a lovely lady from the village, who comes to the charity home to do odd jobs cook and clean. She is a polite and caring person, who is very proud of her two sons and works long days to try to improve their lives in some small way.

It is amazing how much work can get done in one day and most of the credit for that must go to Gabbi, she is up early and to bed late, she is the only one with enough knowledge of the Romanian and English language to be able to supervise the Romanian workers, give out aid and converse with the families.
Gabbi was also intent on getting an update from each and every family that we saw, with information on their families, home setting and other useful bits and pieces. Rod had a brainwave too, he thought it would be a good idea to draw around each childs foot to give godparents an idea of shoe size, for those wishing to buy shoes. This was a good idea, but of course took more time and energy! You will recieve all these bits and pieces when Gabbi is back in the UK and has a minute or two to sort them out, so please be patient.

During my stay we visited an orphanage, many of the children were soon to be turning 18, all were eager to find work placements so as not to be committed to a mental institution, it is so difficult for these children and they have little hope of a good future. One boy kept asking us to go and take photos of the bathrooms and send them to the telly to get them help. These young people know that they shouldn't be living like they do but they are helpless to do anything about it. Of course we were not allowed to take photos, nor were we able to get passed the showroom entrance. These young people are meant to be looked after but instead they are kept like animals, life is so unfair and unjust for these youngsters.

On each journey to Iasi we passed dozens of children and elderly people picking stinging nettles and trying to sell them by the roadside for pennies. We stopped and gave out what food we had with us and even bought some nettles that we later donated to a family to make soup out of. The elderly people are really very shocked when you stop to give them something for free, they have never known kindness like this.

No trip would be complete without an adventure or two! The greatest adventure of all was getting to the airport on time for my return flight. As the white van had brocken down earlier in the week, we were travelling in the old blue van that has dodgy brakes, tyres that just don't want to stay up and endless other problems. How we made it i'll never know, very skillful driving from Rod at an unearthly hour in the morning!

If anyone knows of someone that would like to become a godparent, please give them the charity contact details, more families in Romania are being found each week, but their are just not enough sponsors for them.

I urge you all to go to Romania to see for yourself the work that is being done, it is the best way to get to know your sponsored family and to see behind the scenes of the charity. I am sure that I will return again one day.

Sam Farmer.