Nine Shetland residents will have the experience of a lifetime next August when they travel to Romania to help run orphanages.
The trip has been organised by Lerwick couple Mark and Jenny Wylie and during their time in the Eastern European country they plan to organise sports, music and games as well as work in the normal day to day running of the institutions.
The Shetland to Romania Project 2011 will require fund-raising activities to pay for the team to travel and stay in Romania. In addition the volunteers intend to take toys and play items for the children who have been handed over to the state because their parents cannot afford to buy them food or clothes. Although they may have parents, these children have the status of orphans.
Mark, who works at Clickimin as activity development co-ordin-ator, said the idea for the trip came about after the very positive ex-perience he and a team of gymnasts had in Zambia three years ago when they introduced the sport of gymnastics to the country.
He and his wife Jenny, who works for the council as community safety officer, decided on Romania as they knew there is still a great deal of poverty there. Scenes from Romanian orphanages during the regime of former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu shocked TV viewers 20 years ago, and although things have got “slightly better” since then, Mark said, orphanages apparently still have only the “very basics”. And still, Mark has heard, poverty-stricken mothers in some villages offer their children for sale to anyone who can afford to look after them.
Items such as balloons and bubbles will be taken to the orphan-ages, which are all in the Transyl-vania region near Dracula’s castle, and Mark hopes to take a parachute for the children to play with and leave it there. These simple toys went down well in Africa. “We almost got knocked over when we handed them out,” Mark said, and he is sure it will be the same in Romania, where the 200 to 300 youngsters in each of the orphanages they plan to visit range from birth to 18 years old. Larger items such as clothes and shoes will be sent out in advance in a big box: “Hopefully it will arrive”.
The planned trip has already attracted a lot of interest locally and extra volunteers have had to be regretfully turned away as the group is felt to be at its optimum size.
The nine who are going mostly have a background in working with children, which will be useful in the orphanages where, according to Mark, the children are keen to learn songs in English.
As well as Mark and Jenny, others in the group are Jenny Teale, who takes pre-school and gym classes at Clickimin, Sandra Strachan who has taken trampoline classes at Clickimin, Barry Derbyshire and Valerie Farnworth, who work at the ASN department at Anderson High School and Tracy Webb, neighbourhood support worker.
The two youngest members, who will both be 19 when the trip takes place and who are doing it for the experience, are Amy Gair and Christine Jamieson.
Mark said: “The whole group met for the first time last week and we’re quite excited about the whole thing. It’s an experience we’ve never had, as well as looking after orphans we’ll be learning something too.”
This will be especially true as the group are staying with host families and a language barrier is anticipated. “There will be a lot of smiling and pointing and learning ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’,” said Mark.
Meanwhile the group have to raise £1,200 each for the trip and will shortly embark on fund-raising through coffee mornings, bag packing and selling raffle tickets.