So who are the NNRT, and what do we do ?
The NNRT is a registered Charity established in 1990 by a small group at the Congregational Church in North Nibley, Gloucestershire. The horrifying scenes on news programs at the time providing the impetus for the small group to try and help in whatever way possible. After one service, in which prayers had been said for Romania, someone asked, "But what are we doing about it ?". A group was setup, word quickly spread, and the Charity evolved.
The team today is supported by individuals from far and wide. The Charity is staffed by volunteers from around the country who are dedicated to making the lives of the underprivileged Romanian people a little more bearable. Fund raising events take place throughout the year with all monies going directly to the Charity. The money raised pays for items needed in Romania which have not been donated.
In general, one or two teams visit Romania during the summer, while a smaller survey team visits during the Spring to assess projects to be undertaken. A small team often visits around Christmas to deliver presents to the patients, and on an odd occasion an additional trip has been made in September. Summer team members stay for two to four weeks, applying a wide variety of skills to the tasks undertaken on that occasion.
The team members can be divided into two areas of expertise. Maintenance work to improve the environments in the village school and hospital, and care working which requires different skills to assist with patients in the hospital and the children. This does not mean anyone is labelled though. The digging of drains for the village school can be performed by the same person who will teach the children and help the patients, and vice versa, everyone has the ability to get involved with recreational activities with children and patients alike.
From the beginning, the work of the Charity has remained the same in some ways, developed greatly in others, but the aims of the Charity are more or less unchanged. Importantly in this, the work has always centred around one village and its people. In doing this, it becomes clearly visible year after year the impact the Charity has on individuals lives.
We work in the village of Mina-1-Mai some 20 kilometres from Brasov. It is one of the forgotten locations. Mina-1-Mai translates to "Mine of the first of May". It grew from a coal mining community on a hillside in Transylvania. When the mine closed, the villagers had to live off the land to survive. Mina-1-Mai has about 2000 inhabitants, a school and a large psychiatric hospital where long term chronic patients are sent from around the country. Each year, the Charity returns to this same location to carry out projects, community work and to give continued support to these unfortunate people.
Romania is still a country emerging from years of oppression and fear. The legacy left by Ceaucescu of suspicion, neglect and an economy in tatters was not helped by the fact that the first 'democratically' elected government consisted of a party formed by many of the old communist politicians trading under a different name. There was no widespread support for this government, and the situation has been improving since their defeat towards the end of 1996. With the election of the new President, Basescu, the Country worked towards, and recently achieved acceptance into the European Union.
Despite the recent harsh way of life, there remains strong national pride, hope and a new sense of freedom. Romania is a poor country, but is rich in enthusiasm and determination. The churches suffered a great deal under the old regime, many people were persecuted and imprisoned. Despite this, the churches are strong and have grown quickly since 1990, their faith an example to all.
The following is an extract from an account by a team leader on the first exploratory visit to Romania.
"When we first visited Romania, none of us knew exactly what to expect, we had seen all the pictures of orphans on television, but we really knew little more. My first impressions of the country were of the fabulous scenery, and in contrast the small very basic houses of the countryside, and the large grey towers of the cities (the product of Caeucescu's attempt at centralisation). We went out with a sense of excitement, ready to give 'charitable help' to the Romanians. When we met the people and talked to them (as best we could) we found that although they were very poor people, they were also very generous. Whenever we were invited into a house, we were offered (often all they had) tea, coffee and sugar. As we went through the two weeks we learned that not only could we give to them, but they gave us so much in return and taught us a lot about how Christians should be. They made us realise that we were not charity workers, but God's servants, and their friendliness and gratitude to servants made us really very humble. We made a lot of friends in Romania and it was wonderful to return and meet them all again as well as make more, new friends"
Over the years, the Charity has achieved much.
We work in the hospital with the patients, carry out construction and repairs, finance drugs, a dentist, and provide materials to allow the hospital to function. Recent projects include a complete renovation the Kitchen, the building of both a dental and doctors surgery, and a large clothes drying facility. Another on-going project is the rewiring of the whole hospital which requires at least another couple of years to complete, but recently we have also built outdoor patient shelters, an incinerator, and repaired the main front wall which was on the verge of collapse. In 2003 we replaced and repaired the underground steam heating system within the hospital complex.
In the school, we have had an ongoing program of repair and renovation, which is nearing completion. In recent years we have piped in fresh water, provided toilets and drainage, replaced rotting flooring and rewired the whole school. We have provided new furniture and networked computer education facilities.
In the village, we have a community program which involves general care, play schemes and integration of the villagers with the hospital.
All this work is made possible by the kind donations of money and materials from our many supporters. Every penny donated is spent on the purpose for which it is given. All team members pay for their own travelling, expenses and food. We even pay for our own postage. All these facts are fully documented and can be proven to anyone with an interest in where the money goes.
Schools and Hospitals in Romania do not receive the funding necessary to keep even the heating running during the Winter. Maintenance is a constant fight against crumbling buildings. Drugs for the hospital are all but non-existent and staffing levels are low due to inflation and low wages for staff.
We cannot continue our activities without your help. Apart from finance, we require materials, which will vary depending on the current projects in progress. If you can assist in any way, you will not only have our gratitude, but a mention in our 'Hall Of Fame' for all to see.
You really have to experience the conditions to understand the hardship these wonderful people go through.