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What Can Be Done? This Is The Joyful Question Of Hope!

During my stay, I have been fortunate enough to have the chance to admire many of Bucharest’s historic monuments and lovely parks. My fondest and most profound memories of my stay however are of a Bucharest which a tourist would never expect to discover. My work has centred on the Budimex (Marie Curie) children’s hospital but living in Sector 4 (once the poorest sector) I have found myself surrounded by need. I have learned from the Lawside Romania Project that works of mercy cannot be restricted to one place or scheduled into a normal 9- 5 working day. Rather, you have to be prepared for your plans to be changed even as you step out the front door and meet the old lady begging on the street. I think one of the greatest things about the approach of the Lawside Romania Project is that the stories of people’s lives are really valued. This means that charity is not sporadic and the person in need, their family, and their story do not remain anonymous and unknown. The ‘Meals on wheels’ project is one such example of the way in which old people receive continuous support in the form of a hot meal each day.

Sisters of Mercy / Lawside Romania Project provide relief for poor, destitute families.

Sisters of Mercy / Lawside Romania Project provide relief for poor, destitute families.

Entering the hospital lift, Sister Mary Aloysius and I would try to recall our list of abandoned or orphaned children in the hospital and their respective floors. I couldn’t help but wonder to myself how many minutes it would be before one of us was back in the lift and dashing to Tibby’s shop for nappies, wipes or some other basic necessity. Even in the course of my few weeks I have encountered with Sister Mary Aloysius many children in the hospital who literally have nothing and nobody. Dear Valentine is now in an orphanage because his family is homeless but when we were first shown to him he had only the clothes he was left in. Valentine is a beautiful boy despite his marks of abuse and I’ll never forget his grin when we brought him a pair of new pyjamas and a packet of bubbles.

 

What can I say about darling Georgiana? This must be one of the hardest situations because we were forced to challenge the hospital’s standards of care in the interest of this abandoned child. Georgiana is dying of cancer but her condition was such that neglect was adding insult to injury. The 3 year old was tied to her bed unable to move, her skin was pealing and turning a blackish purple colour, the sheets were very dirty and she was wearing the filthiest nappy imaginable so that her skin all under her nappy and round the top of her legs was red raw. No wonder she cried! ‘It’s crucifixion!’ Sister Aloysius would exclaim and thank goodness Sister Aloysius was adamant because conditions for Georgiana have now had to improve. I can sleep tonight knowing that she was sleeping peacefully when I left. Her hands are now untied in light mitts to save scratching, her skin is much recovered and she is clean and lying in a clean bed. We cannot provide a cure for the cancer inside her but we can try to give her comfort and care until the end.

 

I do not have enough space to write the stories of all the little ones but remembering now the sheer need and vulnerability of the children and elderly people here, tears come easily to my eyes. Every day there were countless moments when I felt as if I had been hit in the chest by the poverty in both material and emotional terms. Today for instance I thought of the drastically different fortunes of 12 year old Alexandro and my own 12 year old brother. Alexandro has been bed bound since birth because of his legs, has received no education, and is being supported by his teenage sister. There he lay clutching a small broken radio he had once been given. What can be done? This is the joyful question of hope. ‘Nazareth’, a Sisters of Mercy apartment and the home of 5 previously abandoned boys, is the living, dancing and singing reality of this hope. My visit to ‘Nazareth’ has settled the case in my mind that, before any material considerations, what is needed so desperately here is a lot of love.

 

Thinking right back to Heathrow airport I was asked the question as apart of a survey: “is your visit for holiday or business?” I couldn’t answer the question then and I can’t now. If it has been a ‘holiday’, it is certainly one I shall never forget. The ‘business’ of the Sisters of Mercy, on the other hand, is alien to those common business principles of profit and self gain.

Rather, it is a business of the highest and most absurd sort; it is the business of Christ.

Breda McGinnis – A Trip to Romania

In May of this year, 2005, my husband, Patrick, and I had the pleasure of a trip to Romania. There we met up with two boys – Virgil and Nicusor. These brothers had been taken from orphanage conditions by the Lawside Romania Project and given an apartment for themselves in Bucharest. Patrick met them there when he visited Romania nine years previously and had befriended them to the extent that they had come to visit us in Ireland and became special friends of ours. Now, both are doing well – Virgil as a waiter on a liner and Nicusor works with Kerry Foods in Ireland.
They met us in Bucharest and took us to visit their friend, Sister Mary Aloysius, in Budimex (Marie Curie) Hospital where a big and warm welcome awaited us.
We were introduced to doctors Ionut and Marian Secheli who took us on a tour of the hospital’s surgical theatres which had been upgraded and refurbished by the Lawside Project and the Helping Hand Project in My Weekly Magazine. The saff was working to the best of their ability and some modernization had been carried out. The new baby unit was very impressive – just awaiting equipment. “A special machine should hopefully arrive from Belfast” said Dr. Catalin Cristoveanu.

Budimex (Marie Curie) Hospital in Bucharest

Budimex (Marie Curie) Hospital in Bucharest

The surgeons highlited the lack of hygiene equipment and premises, especially specialised units like one for bone-marrow transplant. We could see very plainly, that the majority of the hospital, including some operating theatres and autoclaving unit needed overhauling, sterilizing and being brought into the 21st Century.
The introduction of playrooms and the development of Physiotherapy Unit are highly commendable and should be nurtured and expanded where possible.

The home for abandoned children – ‘Nazareth’, founded by the Sisters of Mercy, was a joy to visit. The house “parents”, Mr. amd Mrs. Bucura, are superb carers and the five little boys who have found a home there are the liveliest and happiest of children and all doing well at school. May your good work continue to flourish in this family setting.

Another happy and amazing aspect was the care for lonely, elderly people. For these, Traian Despa has set up ‘Meals on Wheels’ and, to crown all, he has got the Parish youth to visit these elderly people on a weekly basis.
Lawside Project has another contract with a restaurant to supply a daily meal to children of the street.

Budimex (Marie Curie) Hospital in Bucharest

Budimex (Marie Curie) Hospital in Bucharest

Finally, as a trained nurse from Ireland and on the eve of Romania entering the European Union, I felt that staff in Budimex (Marie Curie) Hospital could perhaps benefit from exchange visits with other EU Countries.

Wishing you God’s blessing in your much-needed work.

 

Thinking of you always,
Breda McGinnis

We have your prayers

“THE PROOF OF LOVE IS IN DEED”

CATHERINE McAULEY

 

Time is simply flying and each day is so filled here that there isn’t much of an opportunity to sit and write individual letters.

 

In the Budimex Children’s Hospital there are seven floors with sick children in each one. We visit where the needs are greatest and Floor 5 is top priority. Here are children from tiny babies to 18 years olds, all with cancer in one form or another. To bring joy there is our constant aim and it is amazing how these children appreciate dolls, cars, books, perfumes or jewellery.

Ill Children at Budimex Hospital in Bucharest

Children at Budimex Hospital in Bucharest

 

 

 

Conditions regarding the hospital building were drab – to say the least – when we came here in 1991. Doctors’ salaries were low and their spirits too! Thanks to our Convent of Mercy Headquarters in London and to our Mother General and team and many big supporters we were able to bring big changes in beautifying all the departments in the Emergency entrance, several surgeries, Intensive Care Unit and the toilets on two floors. In the Recuperare (Rehabilitation Unit) we made beautiful the three rooms and toilets where children, awaiting for various therapies have a home for several months or longer.

 

Apart from the Budimex Children’s Hospital, we are involved in helping a parish with care for very needy, elderly people. For these we have set up a “Meals on wheels” daily programme and, for children of the street we provide free meals daily in a local restaurant. It is amazing to see how much the lives and faces of the elderly have changed having that guaranteed meal daily! Prior to this programme, some had missed many meals and seldom had they had meat to eat!

 

‘Nazareth’, our Sisters of Mercy apartment for little abandoned children, is still a very happy place and some of our older orphans have done well at work e.g. Virgil and Nicusor, two brothers for whom we provided an apartment eleven years ago, are doing well, Virgil is on his seventh cruise around the world as a waiter on a cruise-ship while Nicusor has a job in Ireland with Kerry-Foods. They have let their apartment here to a lawyer.

 

Two other orphans Jan and Florin have gone to university and I had great joy a few days ago when a young boy, working in a large shopping mall as a cleaner, came to me saying “Sister – do you remember me – you gave me money outside the Cathedral?! I have left the orphanage and have a job here. I get £60 a month and I live in a rented room”.

Rays of sunshine like this are an inspiration!

 

Daily, however, we are met with family problems. The latest is a family of nine children ranging from 7 to 22 years. There are two sets of twins! Mother died last December and father disappeared. The 22 year old twin girls promised mam they would care for the family. They are making a brave effort, keeping them at school and all seem bright and intelligent.

The ceiling of the girls’ bedroom is falling down and the stoves for the heating are not working. This will be a big problem in winter as the floors are earth and walls are damp.

 

Meantime we know we are never alone for the angels surround us and we have your prayers!

 

Sister Mary Aloysius