THEY SUPPORT US
Over our 25 year history, Fundatia Inocenti – RCR have been fortunate to receive the support of thousands of volunteers. These people have enabled us to flourish as an organization and have made a real difference to our work of helping children in need and their families.
Volunteers help us support more children in need and they keep our programs running smoothly and efficiently. Whether they’re working in the playroom with the babies, with the older children and mothers’ groups in the hospital, or with the school-aged children in the after-school programs, we appreciate all that they do. Volunteers who can’t travel to the programs can help with fundraising, event planning, or gathering items needed in the programs.
Over the years, we’ve found that our best volunteers share many of the same characteristics: compassion, commitment, flexibility, positivity, dependability, and punctuality. We’d like to share some examples ways you can help:
Run, Cami, Run!
On a chilly Sunday in February, Cami Simpson (then aged eight) ran nine miles around Virginia Water Lake in England, to support her favorite charity, Romanian Children’s Relief.
Cami described her mission: “I have had a very privileged life with loving parents. I feel really bad for the orphans. I can only imagine how sad and lonely it would be to not have a family. I want them to know that I am thinking of them and wishing that they could find comfort in knowing that I care. Running to raise this money is one way that I can show them.”
Cami was inspired by her fellow classmates at TASIS, the American School in England, as each year, a team from TASIS has travels to volunteer in the programs in Romania. Cami did travel to Romania a few years later, and really enjoyed finally meeting the staff and children she has worked to support.
Since that first run, Cami has continued in her mission to help others in need. In 2014 Cami hiked Mount Kota Kinabalu to the summit (4095m), one of the tallest mountains in South East Asia. That was a two-day challenge that was both difficult and unforgettable for her. In 2015 her challenge she hiked 72 miles through the Great Smokey Mountains traverse of the Appalachian Trail – a 6 days, and 5 nights feat. The highest point of the trail is Clingman’s Dome at 6,643 feet. Cami is an inspiration to us all. Thank you!
‘THREE Challenges, THREE Months, ONE Amazing Cause’
Inocenti supporter Greg Cole has inspired us all with the three challenges that he set himself to raise money for our Programs. He gave himself 3 months to complete 3 challenges:
Challenge One was a 170mile (273km) cycle ride from Chesterfield to Skegness (in the UK) and back. Greg completed this challenge in 11 hours.
Challenge Two was a 100-mile cycling route around Derbyshire as part of the Cycle Derby Sportive. We can report that this is not a flat area of England but Greg completed this challenge in 6 hours and 53 minutes.
Challenge Three involved a drive with two friends from Cornwall, England to Pula, Croatia. This is a 2000 mile trip (3,200 km) and to make it more exciting, the car cost under £500 / €630. Greg told us:
‘I believe that every child should have the opportunity to be educated and to fulfill their potential. RCR and the Inocenti Foundation make this possible for so many of the poorest children in Romania.’
Greg set up a First Giving page and donated the money to Fundatia Inocenti.
So far he has raised $1236.
The Volunteer That Keeps On Giving
Jeremy Friedlander made his first trip to Romania at age 14, when he joined a service trip to Romania while studying at TASIS, the American School in England. Now he is almost ready to graduate college, and he keeps coming back to Romania to help!
For his first visit, Jeremy was the youngest student on the TASIS trip. Despite his young age, he was an obvious leader among the students. He spent many hours working with handicapped, abandoned and at risk children. He also raised more than one thousand dollars from his friends and family to support the staff and children.
Among his earliest supporters was his Great Aunt, who told Jeremy that his great, great grandfather was from Romania! Jeremy felt even closer now to Romania. He is Romanian!
A short time after Jeremy’s first trip to Romania, he and his family moved back the United States. Because Jeremy really wanted to stay involved with our organization and the children in Romania, he decided to make it his personal mission to educate others about our programs and the children in Romania. In fact, he tried to connect our organization to his current new school, and several others in the Wshington, DC area.
Most of all, Jeremy says he enjoys his time spent with the children in Romania, and he continues to enjoy those relationships he shares each year when he returns.
Last year, in response to a special need for technology and scrubs for the hospital program, Jeremy began a major fundraising campaign, raising more than $6,000 in just a few months!
Jeremy revisited Romania again in the spring of 2015 for his fifth trip, this time bringing his mother Tracey and his sister Kayla. The funds the Friedlander family raised now total over $10,000 – recent fundraising will help Inocenti/ RCR support the Educational Support Center in Bucharest Public School 31. Other funds will pay for swim lessons for at-risk children in Bistrita this summer.
‘Bra-vissima’, a British choir combined a visit from England to Bucharest with two concerts to support Inocenti. During their visit, The ‘Bras’ (as they are fondly known), were able to visit some of our Programs and see how the funds that they were raising would help children and families in need.
Back to school Romania campaign
With the help of Inocenti friends Camelia and Florin Rosca and a large group of supporters, the Education Support Centers equipped students with school supplies to help them throughout the year. Here is a photo of the children showing off their bags at the beginning of the school year.
Putting talent to good use
In May 2014, two talented UK based filmmakers, Josh Cawthorne and Ben Horne, travelled to Bistrita to document the history of the Olimpiada Inocentilor, the build up and the event itself. The film “Olympics of the Innocent” premiered in London in Spring 2015 at Carousel (who kindly donated the venue). Funds were raised at the event by selling Michael Carroll photographic prints and ‘Picturing the Possible’ books by Michael Carroll.
This film is now available to view online: https://vimeo.com/122347195
Our friends at The British School of Bucharest have been supporting Inocenti in the most creative of ways. Their annual Crazy Hair Day on behalf of Fundatia Inocenti is such an entertaining way to fundraise.
AISB’s got talent
AISB (The American International School of Bucharest) raised money for the Inocenti Foundation through their talent show. The funds raised directly supported our Programs and benefit children and families in need. AISB students have volunteered regularly at our Child Life Program in Bucharest. Many staff and students were involved in the show and AISB families went along to support the event. The level of creativity and talent was very impressive – what a fabulous initiative!
Dr. April Levin: Volunteerism at its Best
The volunteer spirit struck early in the life of April Levin, now a pediatric neurologist at the Boston Children’s Hospital. She was a senior at Noble & Greenough School in Dedham, Massachusetts, when she made her first trip to help Romanian Children’s Relief in 1999.
“I wanted to go on that trip for two reasons,” she recalls. “First, I was very interested in working with children. Also, the trip was organized by my first mentor, Sandra MacQuinn, our high school’s dean of faculty.” (Not coincidentally, MacQuinn is an advisory member of the RCR.) “I knew that any cause that was important to her, must be really important.”
Dr. Levin is extremely energetic. She’s already made eight additional trips to Romania to evaluate and support the abandoned children in Fundatia Inocenti’s various programs. Along the way, she recruited native speakers to help her with her Romanian. “I’d buy friends coffee,” she says, “and they’d correct my pronunciation as we talked.” Even today April continues to consult on individual cases via Skype. “I’ve worked in orphanages in other countries, and while the children have the same neurological issues, there is a big difference in the way they are cared for by the staff of Inocenti. Our caregivers understand the stakes are high.” Dr. Levin makes a distinction between what she saw in her early travels as a volunteer and what she has seen in more recent years. It was apparent that even though many children were receiving clothing and food and had a roof over their heads, they needed so much more.
Dr. Levin’s work with RCR also led her to participate in the groundbreaking work of the Bucharest Early Intervention Program, led by another one of her mentors, Dr. Charles Nelson, also of Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. For more than 10 years, Nelson has followed the lives of hundreds of Romanian children, many of them exposed to the adversity of existence in an orphanage. Nelson’s findings confirmed observations RCR staffers had made over the years:
“Early institutionalization leads to profound delays and deficits in cognitive (i.e. IQ) and socio-emotional behaviors…and a greatly elevated incidence of psychiatric disorders and impairment.”
On a positive note, Nelson’s study showed that abandoned children placed in foster care before the age of two often have been spared such damaging results. In RCR’s experience, reliable foster care has indeed been an effective strategy for encouraging healthy development in the lives of the vulnerable young.
Ana: Teenagers United
Ana’s fascination with the work of Fundatia Inocenti started when she was in high school. Researching the charity on the Internet, she decided to get involved with its programs as a volunteer. She liked the interaction with the children so much, whether it was educational support or child life intervention, that she started helping almost every day after her own classes ended at our Education Support Center. At one point she recruited seven more young people from her high school to join with her at the centers where we endeavor to help children keep up with their schoolwork and improve their socialization skills. Ana is proof that volunteering connects you to others and has an impact on the community, making a real difference to people’s lives.
Ana has many wonderful personal qualities, but it is her empathy with our children that makes her so effective as a volunteer. Her commitment continued after graduation from high school, and now, even as she pursues a major in psychology as a college student, she still takes part in one or more of our programs several days a week. Ana has even carved out a niche for herself – mentoring teenagers in their own final high school years and helping them prepare for exams by tutoring them in Romanian and in English.
With an engaging personality and irrepressible spirit, Ana has the gift of eclipsing differences among people and bringing them together. But her volunteer work doesn’t just benefit others. One of the best-kept secrets of volunteerism is how good it makes the volunteer herself feel. But did you know that the London School of Economics has proved that helping others spreads happiness?
A Night Out in Bucharest
You may be surprised how some teens (and young professional volunteers) spend Friday Night in Bucharest.
Cristina joined the Inocenti Education Program last fall and she is now in 12th Grade, getting ready for the final exams (Baccalaureate) that will take place in June. Her tutor is Andreea, a volunteer who is dedicated to tutoring and mentoring teenagers every week after her working day.
Andreea was referred to us by United Way Romania, who matches young professional volunteers with NGO’s like Inocenti in order to assure extra support to teenagers. Both Cristina and Andreea have set important goals to enable themselves to not only pass their final exams, but to become confident and independent citizens and role models for their community.