March 2022 Update
We are delighted that we have been able to open our HQ space in Bucharest to welcome Ukrainian refugees. The first group we welcomed was made up of 2 mums and their 3 children. Thanks to Ovidiu and his wife Flori for preparing the space and giving them a warm welcome. They have now continued their journey to other European destinations, and we pray for them and wish them well, and pray for safety for their loved ones back in Ukraine. We have been shocked and distressed by events unfolding in Ukraine, and are keen to see FICR provide a safe space to families seeking refuge. Our team have responded with compassion and warmth, and have gone the extra mile helping people sort administrative tasks and meeting the various needs that have arisen.
After our first group had left, we realised our most urgent need to help respond to this crisis was five extra sets of bedding and pillows so we could ensure our guests have hygienic conditions when they stay e.g. a set ready to go and a set in the wash at any time. Our office has not been used for accommodating families before and is not really set up for this. Thanks to those who responded to our Facebook appeal. We were able to send over a small budget to start the process of buying essentials and converting the space ready to welcome more families.
We have also been able to allocate a small amount of funding to provide basic essentials for refugees staying with, and are grateful that members of local churches have also brought meals and supplies.
For the last couple of weeks we have had two Ukrainian ladies staying with us; a young lady and her grandmother. Emilia (FICR's social worker) sent us a heartwarming story about their background and the situation they had fled from, and how she had been able to mediate on their behalf, despite language barriers, to help them obtain visas for their onward destination, where they have relatives overseas.
A warm welcome from Emilia to our guests at the FICR HQ!
Arrived safely - a long climb up several flights of stairs after a very long journey
I'll give you some snippets from my translation of Emilia's account.
'She was very modest with her shopping, and I insisted they bought fruit and vegetables, tea and coffee. They hugged me and kissed me many times, and said they felt like they were at home.'
'On Thursday V wrote to me, she was desperate as they were not managing to pay the taxes for the visa. She had been to four banks, but couldn't manage at all. On Friday I went with her personally to the bank, and we succeeded, but it truly was very complicated. From what I observed, they need a lot of mediation in relating with authorities. When we went into the banks in our area, they all recognised her and told me they couldn't understand at all what they needed because of the language. Eventually, the director from a particular bank near us was very helpful and she even asked me to let them know when the ladies arrive safely at their destination.'
'I had been thinking to prepare them dinner at the weekend and to go to the park near us, however as I had spent the whole Friday with them, including a visit to the embassy, I got home late. However, we saw how God works through people, and a young lady from Ovidiu's church offered to make them food as many days as they would like. The two of them wanted to eat vegetable soup, simple pasta, roast chicken with potatoes and fried eggs. The weather was cold at the weekend; the wind was blowing very hard, and so they stayed inside at the apartment. By Tuesday or Wednesday their visas should arrive. After they obtain their visas, they need to book covid tests, and the embassy told us about a clinic offering a special programme for free testing. They are very grateful to us and said to thank everyone a thousand times, and kissed me many times, and said the kisses were for all the people involved.'
Emilia described the happiness on V and T's faces when they managed to deposit all their documents for their visas
The RICF trustees and FICR board members have been discussing with the team in Bucharest and are exploring options to allow us to continue offering our HQ space to assist in this crisis for as long as needed, whilst ensuring we maintain our core projects. We are anticipating another group of refugees arriving any day, likely overlapping with the current two ladies.
Our current incomes are all committed to our existing projects and so we will need additional funding sources to allow us to continue to provide for and host Ukrainian refugees over the next year or two or however long is needed. The HQ is a three-room apartment set up as two offices and a meeting room for our group meetings. The current plan is that Ovidiu's smaller office will be maintained as FICR's office space, where sensitive documents can be locked away, and private meetings can take place with our project beneficiaries. The two larger rooms (one of which is Simona and Emilia's office, and the other is our group meeting room) will continue to be made available for refugees. This would mean we would need to rent meeting space externally for our group meetings, which are a core part of our work.
The team see their strength is in focused case working, as they are experienced in doing this kind of work in our abandonment prevention and fostering work, unblocking system blocks, and advocating for people. Therefore they would see that FICR could add most value by providing a short term emergency accommodation centre for refugees to help them on their way to their longer term hosting arrangements.
Do contact us if you are interested in supporting our work with Ukrainian refugees in Romania.
Covid hardship appeal
A big thank you to those who gave to our covid hardship appeal launched in November 2020. We are delighted to have now raised £3,750 into this hardship fund. Thanks so much to those who gave so generously to support it. We anticipate that all the funds in the hardship fund will have been used by Easter 2022. Approximately two thirds will have been used for packages of essential foods and medicines for our project participants, distributed at Christmas 2020, Easter 2021, Christmas 2021, and again to be distributed at Easter 2022. Approximately one third of the hardship fund has gone towards prolonged participation in our abandonment prevention project for mum and baby pairs who were particularly badly affected financially by the covid pandemic. We are so grateful to our team in Bucharest for all the support and advice they provide for these vulnerable families. We believe this project, with participation extended where needed, will have really provided a lifeline helping keep families together at this incredibly difficult time.
We are still accepting donations into the covid-19 hardship fund, as the financial impact of the pandemic has been massive in Romania, and as in many places around the world, predominantly affecting the poorest families. Please do get in touch if you would like to give a designated donation towards this fund, to allow us to continue providing prolonged support where needed in our abandonment prevention project, and to allow us to continue to provide packages of essential foods and medicines to those who need them.
Keeping in touch with the team in Bucharest
It was lovely to see Ovidiu, Simona and Emilia last Thursday, by Skype, when we held an emergency meeting to discuss our response to the Ukraine crisis. We are still hopeful that a face to face visit might be possible in 2022. These visits are so important for building and maintaining relationships between the UK-based and Romania-based members of the team, and also with the project participants.
Project updates: 'O familie pentru mine' ('A Family for Me') Foster care project
At the time of writing, 11 girls aged between 23 months and 19 years and five boys aged between 13 and 19 years are enrolled in this project, and we are looking to recruit one more child and their foster carer into the project, to bring us to our maximum capacity with current funding levels, of 17 children and young people. FICR is very grateful to RICF and also to the US charity Remember Nhu for their support for this project. The youngest child in this project will be soon be celebrating her second birthday, with her foster carer Lidia and Lidia's family. We know she will be made to feel very special!
The team have been careful to follow guidelines and regulations regarding meeting up through the covid-19 pandemic, and have maintained a mixture of face to face meetings, in groups when permitted, and support through Whatsapp and telephone.
'Vreau si eu o mama' ('Me too, I want a mother!')
Abandonment prevention project
FICR continues to have places for 13 mums and babies in this project at any one time, and is very grateful to both RICF and the US charity Remember Nhu for their support for this project. There are currently 11 mums and 12 babies / toddlers (9 boys and 3 girls) enrolled in this project, ranging in age from 3 months to 24 months, and the team are proactively seeking new eligible mum and baby pairs.
Independent living and Professional development
FICR’s social worker, Emilia, continues to offer individual mentoring to young people in FICR’s projects approaching adulthood to help prepare them for independent living, and to give them advice about further education and career options. Two of the young people supported in our 'A family for me' project have recently turned 19. There is no abrupt stop to support as a child turns 18, as many of these children have faced disruption in their schooling due to life circumstances leading to them being in care. Young people are able to discuss opportunities for furthering their education and / or starting out in employment. Where young people are continuing full time high school education, existing arrangements for foster care and allowances remain the same even after they turn 18. However, if they are moving into paid employment, our team agree with them a plan for withdrawing financial support as they become independent, and help them work through living arrangements and budgeting etc.
Thanks to all our supporters
Thank you so much for your ongoing support for RICF and your commitment to our work. The contributions of our donors make a huge difference to lives in Romania, and we are so grateful.
We are very proud of Ovidiu, Simona and Emilia for their response to the Ukrainian refugee crisis, and for their flexibility, resilience and hard work providing the best possible welcome for families fleeing the war. Again, we are seeing them put RICF's core values into practice: Children belong in loving families, Protection from harm, Child-centred care, Integrity and Justice, Unity and Diversity, and Striving for excellence.
Thank you once again to all those who support our work in Romania - without you none of this would be possible. Thank you for believing in what we are doing and giving so that we are able to make it happen!