News from the Children’s Home
Familia AMURTEL, Panatau Romania
Our children’s home in Panatau has 16 children from the ages 5-19, and was initiated in 1992, soon after AMURTEL arrived in Romania and identified one of the most urgent needs to be that of children abandoned in state homes. The home is situated in Panatau, a small village in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains where the children grow up in a natural and healthy environment. The children are divided into two family units. The older group of our children all came from state children’s homes where they experienced severe neglect, were tied to their beds, and often beaten. The younger group of children came to us in 2000, and had all been abandoned in state hospitals after birth, and also experienced severe neglect. Many of our children have learning and psychological disabilities and need extra attention. We have 10 staff and a “mother”, a trained psychiatric nurse that has grown up with the first child and will grow old in the house. The children call her Mami. We have also instituted a system of contracts with the children to help teach them more independence and responsibility.We also have two cows, a guard dog, a donkey and frequently other cats and animals adopted from the neighborhood.
Every year, before Christmas, the children of Familia AMURTEL spend several weeks rehearsing and preparing for a special event. The whole village is invited for two showings of a theatre performance, followed by a big feast. The first night is for adults, and the following day there is a “matinee” performance only for children. Our staff is busy for days preparing complicated vegetarian
versions of traditional Romanian favourite dishes, and preparing the house to host a dinner for about 70 people. This year the show was a musical dance version of “Snow White.” Although many of our children struggle with their studies because of learning disabilities other challenges, performing is something they do well and it gives an opportunity for their talents to shine. We had performed “Snow White” many years ago when the children were quite small, and it was a struggle to have enough characters – but now with the two groups of children it worked out perfectly! The small ones were the dwarves, and the older children played the other roles, and Gopi was telling about how much you could see their growth and improvement in acting and dancing since that first performance. Iosif was in charge of the sound system and sound track.
After School Center in Panatau, Romania
A New Partnership with Panatau to Help Disadvantaged Children
Panatau, the village where we have our children’s home, is in a hilly rural region where most of the population survives on subsistence farming, as there is very little other economic activity in the zone. Most families live below the poverty line. For some, the only economic income they receive is the 20 euro monthly allowance from the state for raising children. Food costs in Romania are not much lower than in the rest of Europe. Rural families live off of their land, but the diet is often very poor. Watery soup, bread and potatoes are the main foods. Many children growing up in such families do not even receive a proper hot meal in a day. Education levels are also quite low, and as many parents have not completed high school themselves, children get little support in their studies, thus perpetuating a cycle of poverty. Alcoholism is very high, as farmers make a traditional homemade brandy from plums, making alcohol always freely available. This also impacts children, as domestic violence is very high.Modelled on a successful project in a neighbouring village, AMURTEL would like to open an after-school Centre where especially disadvantaged children could receive a hot meal, homework support, and extracurricular activities such as computer courses, sports activities and creative, cultural activities. This would relieve some of the strain on family budgets, ensure good nutrition for the children, as well as promoting better achievement in school. We felt it was important that such an initiative only be done if there was local support and commitment to collaborating on the project. In fact, the mayor of Panatau was enthusiastic about the initiative, and we are very pleased that he has signed a partnership contract with AMURTEL. The mayor has designated a community owned building to be utilised for the project rent free, and after the first year of functioning, the community will assume responsibility for the running costs, except for food costs which will be provided by AMURTEL. AMURTEL will also be responsible for the programming, staffing, and running of the centre. We have made a project proposal for funding from a Dutch foundation which also sponsored the opening of a similar project in a nearby village, and we are now waiting hopefully for the response.