December 2020 Update
We are very excited to announce that in October, RICF enrolled its 99th, 100th and 101st mum and baby pairs into our abandonment prevention project, which was launched in December 2009. Much of this project is about celebrating and investing in the individual, helping each mum to bond with her child, receive the support she needs, learn the skills she needs and develop the friendships she needs to be the best mum she can be to her child. However, it is also so exciting to look at the combined impact of our work over time, to see the numbers of lives affected and outcomes changed for families, particularly where there has been a significant risk the child might have needed to be put in care.
I realised we must be approaching the 100 mum and baby pairs milestone, and asked Simona, our project facilitator for 'Vreau si eu o mama' (I want a mother too) project whether we were there yet. I think it reflects the team's humility and ability to just get on with the work, valuing each individual, that the answer came back that yes, we had just enrolled the 100th, and indeed 101st mother and baby pair into the project, but without any fuss or special celebration.
So here is what 100 mum and baby pairs looks like, symbolically.
In some ways it would be have been lovely to have been able to share with you a real life photo collage of all 100 mums and babies we have supported through this project, but in order to preserve the privacy and dignity of these individuals, we won't. For some of the mums it will have been during a crisis low point that they were referred to RICF for support, which allowed them to keep their child. Now, 5 or 10 years down the line, they may be in a totally different place, their children already established in schools, and they may prefer to be looking forwards rather than back to the point where they really needed support.
At the HQ, we do have individual photos and stories for each of these mum and baby pairs, and we all have special memories of time spent with those mums and babies. We remember particular friendships that were enabled between different group members, and mothers who shared their stories with the wider group. Some explained, often with tears, about how they did not know how on earth they would manage to keep their child but with RICF's support had been able to move from despair and hopelessness to having a sense of purpose and hope for their future and for their child's future.
We are delighted that the team has been able to get numbers in this project back up to 13 mum and baby pairs, after initial difficulties recruiting needy families during the lockdown, due to the restrictions in place. The covid pandemic has hit our mums and babies in the abandonment prevention project particularly hard. For some, household income has been dependent on informal day labour which has completely dried up during the pandemic. Many are in very small bedsit type apartments and the lockdown restrictions have at times been particularly severe in Romania, with people only allowed out for specific reasons and accompanied by a self declaration. From my experience visiting families we support through this project, many live in very bare apartments, where there is a minimum of furniture and no toys or books for the child, just a bare bed and the mum's mobile phone for entertainment and to keep in contact with the outside world. Babies learn to scroll through cartoons on their mum's phone but don't have access to educational toys and books.
I was wondering what might be helpful as a Christmas gesture for the mums and babies we are supporting, and bought a couple of educational toys in the sales, which I will take out on my next visit. I wondered how our team might feel about receiving donations to buy these kids of toys and perhaps some books (in Romanian) for the babies and toddlers we are supporting at the moment. However, the response that came back was quite humbling. Yes, such gifts would be lovely, however, the real need at the moment is for money to buy basic medicines for the children for when they are needed, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and basic creams for rashes and dry skin, and to buy food. Families are trying to get by on so little that toys and books are a luxury they simply couldn't contemplate at the moment.
Therefore, we decided to launch a hardship fund for the mums and babies in our abandonment prevention project to help them through this really difficult time. We are delighted that some donations have already been made into this hardship fund, and the team are already busy making provisions for distribution to our families this Christmas. We would very much welcome additional donations towards this hardship fund, so we can continue to provide for vulnerable mums and babies into 2021, and have increased flexibility to offer longer than the usual 12 months of support, if this is needed by families. If you are able to make a donation at this time, please follow the link here. And a massive thank you to those who have given towards this fund already!
'A Family for Me' Foster care project
Life continues to be rather different for the young people in foster care supported by our 'A Family for me' project. We had thought that schools might be reopened in September, but so far they remain closed, and the earliest date being mentioned for their possible reopening is January 20th. The foster carers continue to support the children in their care with distance learning set by their schools, and remain in touch with each other and with our team by phone and Whatsapp, with only occasional face to face meetings where needed. The priority has been to keep everyone safe and well during the pandemic.
The pattern of the covid pandemic in Romania has been rather different compared to the UK. As you'll see from this graph, the case numbers remained quite low until the autumn, but have since risen sharply. The population of Romania is only just over 19 million, and much of the population is on low incomes, accommodated in high rise apartment blocks, which helps put some of these numbers in context.
Thanks to all our supporters
Thank you so much to all of our supporters who give sacrificially to allow RICF to continue to provide a lifeline for vulnerable children and families in Romania. It is such a privilege to be able to bring relief to where it is so desperately needed, and thank you for your part in allowing this to happen.
May you have a peaceful and joyful Christmas!