Time really does fly! – Footprinter Report by Anna Clarke

Anna Clarke

I always think “time flies” is a very overused expression but if I had to pick a phrase to sum up the past two months then this would definitely be a contender! I can’t believe it’s already mid-September! Having only ever been out here during summer in previous years I am also slowly having to accept that Romania it not always so warm and sunny! September has definitely brought with it some “cooler” weather… I guess it’s time to dig out the jeans!

“So what have I been doing out here over summer?” I hear you ask! Well… if I were to tell you everything then this report would need to be veeeery long! I’ll explain a little about mission trip season and some of the projects and hopefully that will give you a better idea of how Smiles works with mission trippers.

So yes, over summer we have had lots of guests come to stay at Smiles’ mission centre in order to assist with the various projects that run here throughout the entire year. One of these that I have been very much involved in is a nursery and school complex built in a gypsy community called Tileagd. In 2001, one of the founders of Smiles, Kevin Hoy, met a 10-year-old boy begging on the streets. He took the boy for some food and the boy then took him back to see the community in which he lived. Kevin was struck by the severe poverty within the village and when he asked the young boy’s father: “what would your dream be?” and the man replied: “to educate our children”, Kevin’s vision of Smiles began! And here we are today… with a nursery and school built and run by Smiles! During summer, the children are not in “formal” education but they come into school for a special summer programme. It has been great to work here with the children and see the massive difference that Smiles make for so many of them.

Smiles work in a lot of other communities, whether this be as part of their family care programme, homeless project or emergency housing scheme and mission trippers (including myself) have also been very involved in these over summer: delivering food to families in need, entertaining children and generally assisting the social workers in their work. It always strikes me how happy and thankful these people are with the smallest of things and it really makes you appreciate the value of things we often take for granted: running water, toilet facilities, food, clean clothing, let alone the “luxuries” of toys for children…etc…

Another big project which has seen many mission trippers contribute to over summer is the construction of an elderly care home which will form half of what Smiles will call their “Joint Facility of Love”. The other half of this facility will be a centre for disabled children. The latter is as of yet, still unbuilt, but the elderly care home is now having the finishing touches done ready for the grand opening on 27th October! This has meant a lot of priming, painting, cleaning and tidying over the past couple of months! Things are now slowly coming together and with this facility Smiles will soon be able to provide much-needed care to elderly people who at the moment are often left to struggle in their poor living conditions. For me, one of the emotionally hardest situations so far was seeing an 89-year-old lady with a broken hip left to manage in poor living conditions. She died shortly after one of our visits. People like her would benefit so much from the elderly home as they would be able to receive the care and support they need, even if only to make their final days less painful.

89-year-old lady

But anyway, these are a few of the projects I’ve been involved with over the past couple of months. I decided now was a good time to write this report as I’m now coming up to a time of transition. Sounds scary! And it is… a bit! On 16th September the Romanian schools begin and so Smiles school at Tileagd will be back in full swing and we will also have 5 of the older gypsy children from Tileagd living with us here so that they can attend the high school in the city. This time is particularly exciting for me because I am involved in the launch of a new after-school programme at Tileagd! I’ve spent the past week preparing teaching material for this and I can’t wait to be back with the kids again! Many of the gypsy children struggle to keep up in school and if they are repeatedly made to re-sit years then they lose hope, give up and drop out of school before they’ve even reached 5th grade (i.e. when they’re about 10 years old).  With this after-school programme we aim to provide homework help for the children to avoid these situations, to encourage the children as much as possible in school and to help them realise the importance of education. As I said before, I’m very excited to be a part of this new programme but also very nervous about being plunged into a whole new role!

As of next week we will also have another girl from another gypsy community staying here too. She’s 14 years old and did only 1 grade of school when she was 8 years old. Smiles are bringing her here to get her back into what they call here their “second chance schools”. So she will be here too as of next week and I will be working with her in order to teach her English. I’m very much looking forward to this as I have met the girl and she is adorable, but at the same time it’s going to be a massive challenge, as Romanian is her second language (Hungarian being her first) and although my Romanian is coming on slowly, it’s going to have to reach a new level to be able to actually teach someone in Romanian! Added to this the fact that she doesn’t yet know how to read or write is going to make it a challenging experience but one that I am certainly up for! I love being able to help people in this way and I just really hope that I am able to help this young girl not only in her education, but also help her see that she has a future, that there are people that love her and that she can achieve.

Anna Clarke.1

So this is it! These will be some of my new responsibilities from next week onwards! Most definitely feeling apprehensive but more than anything I’m excited about the difference I can make for these kids! So bring it on! Next time I write you’ll be able to read all about how my teaching and the start of this new programme has gone! Eek!!! Wish me luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *