This is Our report on Nicoleta.Please find a different page with our British appeal. Both have been enclosed in the posted newsletter. Please read it, sign it and send it to the address on it. It is very important!

Dear Godparents and friends

It is September now and we are back from one of our longer trips to Romania .We only arrived home 2 days ago and are now starting our report with the ongoing story of Nicoleta. For those who are maybe new to Convoy aid Nicoleta is a 22 years old girl with the body of 8-10 years old due to malnutrition and total lack of exercise and care, you name it if she should have had it she never ever got it. There is a DVD that shows the latest episode in her life with Convoy aid’s intervention on this recent trip. This is not the first time that we have had to completely revamp her home, fumigated, paint it ,repair it , rebuild beds, furniture and burn all the material and contaminated goods in the house.

 As you will see from the DVD when we left Nicoleta she was clean and quite happy. I should mention that Nicoleta has profound mental disabilities, a very limited speech, she is self harming. Every time we arrive at their house the mother is drunk therefore it is our opinion that she is an alcoholic. She has a son who is in the same situation with her. The whole family, mother, son and Nicoleta live in one room about 3metre by 3metre that accommodates 2 beds and a wood burning stove .It is all made of mud with an asbestos roof, no water and no electricity.

When we first arrived this time at Nicoleta’s the average temperature in the morning was about 35 degrees, even too hot to breathe. It was absolutely obvious, firstly by the smell, that things were not how they should be. The smell was so bad that the people with us were actually retching and practically sick. And that was before we started work in the house. Gail Edwards, one of the Godparents visiting on a different project to do with the school, accompanied us to Nicoleta’s and commented that she could not imagine how we manage to work in such conditions. The simple answer is that we do not have a choice. We started by bringing Nicoleta out into the sunshine sitting her on a special cushion supplied by our friend Marianne in Bristol. I believe this was a gift from her colleagues and we are so thankful for it as it proved very useful. We tried the new arm splints that were made especially for Nicoleta again from Marianne and her colleagues. They worked perfectly to stop Nicoleta self harming her face and upper body. Unfortunately she immediately started to attack her own legs drawing blood. If we put a short legged table across her lap with the hands above this seems to resolve the problem. All of this is fine whilst Convoy aid had a physical presence in the house. When we leave we are not sure of what goes on.

What we found in the house was Nicoleta sat in her own excrements, the smell was horrendous. It was nothing recent; it has been there for months as the hospital plastic mattresses we supplied last year were soaked with faeces and urine. We took everything out of the room and burnt it. The old lady was busily running around trying to recover soiled blankets. Fortunately we were tough and supervised the entire burning process making sure everything was burnt. The very strong wooden bed we built for Nicoleta last year, which was 18 inches off the floor and made of heavy timber, had to be partially dismantled as about half of it was eaten by the rot produced by the faeces. When we actually got under the bed we found out that the rats attracted by the smells had burrowed through the outside walls and actually nested under the bed. That is not to mention the flees, bed lice, body lice, flies, mosquitoes that were happily populating the room.

We had intentions of changing the windows and doors and other structural repairs. However although we took all the materials necessary to do this job it was impossible. The structure was mud and the house had sunk with the rain and would not have lent itself to renovation at this scale. There was a great danger of the house collapsing. Due to open fires the room was completely caked in soot all around which made the painting very hard. Pieces of mud were also falling off the walls meaning that we had to repair them first. We also had to fill in many of the rat wholes we discovered around the room. When we left the bed was clean, repaired functional, new mattresses, pillows, bedding. Nicoleta had the radio working, wind up lamps, plenty of food and lots of Tena incontinent pads that should last months. One would hope that Nicoleta’s mother can now keep on top of this. But the reality has always been that she cannot.

Last year Nicoleta suffered a urinal infection and we insisted and took her to Socola Hospital which is both a clinical and mental institution. It surfaced that she not only had a urinal infection she had nits, body lice and skin infection due to lack of care. She was supposed to stay for a few days in the hospital. Because of Romanian hospital bureaucracy and lack of resources Socola Hospital asked us to come and return the girl home. We refused. We need to mention that the hospital is about 40 km away from the village. We had hoped at the time that she would be sent to an institution and looked after rather than being returned home. We also need to say that Socola Hospital has fully trained, doctors, nurses,psychiatrists and psychologists who should have observed the state she was in and should have investigated this situation further. However they have not and insisted nearly on a daily basis for us to come and take her home.

We managed to ignore them for about 2 months in which time she improved greatly. She put weight on, she was happier, clean, she was eating properly when given food and less self harming. It is very obvious that a long period of institutionalisation would be very beneficial to her. The main obstacle to this is the fact that the mother would lose the small income the state provides her with in loo of care payment for Nicoleta. This generally is spent on alcohol. We believe that the standard food for this girl is mamaliga, which is corn on the cob ground into corn flower, boiled in water until it stiffens up and then tipped out. It looks like a pudding. It has the consistency of porridge in the form of a cake if you like. We believe that this is the main food in the house. Just a little mention: it has nearly no nutritional value; poor families use it as a substitute for bread or indeed food.

It is our firm belief, in the view of the previous experiences with Nicoleta that Institutionalised life will be more than 100%better for her. The simple human contact and presence everyday will be a great positive change. Seeing other people and eating food on a regular basis is something she needs to have. As things stand in Romania at the present moment the chances of this young lady finding a suitable place in an institution is practically nonexistent. She would be considered to need too much time and care. Because the institutions are within the town they are occasionally monitored by human rights organisations and European Union. Consequently the work needed for a girl like Nicoleta would be considerable, expensive and compulsory. This is one good reason why the hospital governors insist on her staying at home and out of sights as it is very rare that human rights or European Union people monitor private homes and conditions.

We brought this matter to the notice of everybody in the village, the mayor’s office, the church, the social worker if you can call her that, the local doctors. Nobody wants to take this problem on board. The name of the game now , as far as Convoy aid is concerned and hopefully with your help, is to bring this into the public domain attracting political pressure through public opinion to force the hospital to make a place available for Nicoleta. We have tried every other way to no avail. What we are suggesting is that we draw up a standard open letter in both languages, Romanian and English addressed to the editor and chief of one of the bigger newspapers in Iasi and the directors of Social services in Iasi responsible for the well being of mental patients. We believe that if numerous letters start falling on the editor’s desk, from English people they will respond by making Nicoleta public knowledge. Convoy aid will send a copy of the DVD and many photographs to be used in their editorial and hopefully together we can bring about the help that this young lady deserves.

What we are asking you to do has a very small cost in regards to the postage. It is very important that these letters arrive individually over a number of days and not in a bundle forwarded by Convoy aid. Timing is quite important as the editor needs to be receiving these over 4-5 days to one week period. I think you have got the flavour of what our intentions are. Convoy aid will then swing into action by bringing it to the notice of other human rights organisations, whomever we feel needs to know. It will also be posted on our website and we would invite you to download or ask us for extra copies to encourage friends, neighbours, workmates to sign them, put them in the envelope, address them and post them. Correct postage to Romania is important and we will state the correct postage and address.

Nicoleta’s story is very sad but the saddest thing is that she is not the only one. We have many cases of neglect and abuse especially alcohol related abuse being both sexual and regarding women and children. The problem is Convoy aid does not have a great deal of expertise, funds or volunteers to deal with them. The biggest problem is the degree of non interest from the organisations that have all of these things at their fingertips and do not use them. We have lost count of the organisations we have asked to share this problem with and have been refused. I absolutely hate governments who expect charities to do their jobs free of charge and as much as I would like to tell them where to go I do not think we can possibly walk away without actually helping these people and these governments know that. You are either humanitarian with feelings and sympathies or you are not. Unfortunately many of the bigger charities with the facilities and the mandate to work on these problems are more corporate interested than humanitarianly motivated. It seems to me that some charities have lost the plot. It is all about fundraising and the accumulation of bigger and bigger surpluses of cash. Some of them recently lost milions in the bank crisis. I am sorry this is a whole different subject, I should not go down this road but it does cross my mind. On our van it says no fat cats in fact no paid staff. How many charities after 20 years can truthfully make this claim? I think you all know Convoy aid can.

This is as far as we can go at present regarding Nicoleta and her problems. We just hope that together we can resolve something for her to give a permanent solution to her immediate problems. We will still help the mother and the brother on our social list as far as we can.

Thank you so much for your help and assistance with Nicoleta. A big thank you to Marianne, her friends and colleagues for their help. Thank you very much to Coughlan family in Liverpool for their support to date with Nicoleta. We also thank Gail Edwards for actually being there and witnessing the reality of the situation and Sam Farmer for her help and professionalism throughout. I am absolutely sure I have forgotten some people who helped and please forgive me. Without all the help we received we could have done nothing for Nicoleta and her quality of life over the time we have been involved with her which would have been absolutely unthinkable. Do you not agree in comparison, we are all so so lucky in our lives!

So please help, it does not cost more than a stamp and 10 minutes in time. Please do not leave it to somebody else, please respond to this appeal! Read and sign the attached letter put it in the envelope and send it to the address provided on top of it.

We will try to enclose the e-mail addresses for the social services and newspaper and any useful ones you may wish to forward this appeal to. It is also posted on our website at the time when you read this newsletter under Nicoleta Urgent appeal.

If anybody out there feels they can give advice or help on similar problems or can help raise the extra funds we need to address them please contact us. This last piece is aimed at people who have a professional or personal interest in helping mentally or physically abused people. Of course any Godparent can help but I cannot expect all of the Godparents or friends to immediately respond to this as quite a lot are helping either individual families or particular projects. We are trying to keep this as fair and open as possible and not burden people with problems.

If it is no trouble to you could you please let us know if you had the time to help us with this appeal. You can either write to us, e-mail or telephone, any way will be just fine. If you cannot please do not worry about it.

She deserves better and we can all make it happen. Please respond to this appeal!