Black Sea Holiday 2012

A big highlight of the year in RAP’s calendar is the annual holiday to the Black Sea coast.  This year saw the 13th holiday take place. Work had been going on for several months to make sure all the necessary arrangements were in place and that everyone was assured a great time.

The ‘holiday’ is a lot more than a trip to the seaside for some youngsters in the institutional care of the Romanian Authorities.  It is also a conscious effort by RAP to raise awareness amongst the general public about  people with disabilities and how with a little effort and understanding, life can be ‘ordinary’ for our special youngsters. The change in attitude and involvement by the seaside community over the years has been amazing, our ‘holiday makers’ now being made very welcome and giving amazing care and respect.

Here’s the story about Mamaia 2012.

Day 1 Sunday 26 August 2012 and the RAP team were gathered ready to help with the coach trip to Mamaia.  Everyone awaited the arrival of Georgeta, the key Educator, who had helped ensure that everything came together on the day.

The 4 vehicle convoy arrived at 8am on Sunday 26 August 2012 at Sector 2, Bucharest, to take a total of 45 young people, 10 Romanian Carers and 12 RAP Volunteers, to the Hotel Ovidiu, Mamaia near Constanta on the Romanian Black Sea coast.

This year for the first time, we had other young people and their Carers from outside Bucharest and they had been brought into the city, joining the buzzing group.

The excitement outside our main gathering point in Bucharest was tangible, boxes and suitcases all around, everyone being mustered up and directed by Georgeta and Linduta.  3 wheelchairs from 5 donated from across Dumfries and Galloway, thanks to an appeal in both the Dumfries Standard and the Dumfries Courier, plus another 4 from the Lost/Found Property store at Dumfries Police Station were brought across by the RAP team and were immediately put to use.

About 9am, on time and led by Linduta driving the 9 seater minibus, the convoy set off and headed eastwards out of the city, on to the new A2 Motorway which now runs direct from Bucharest to Constanta/Mamaia, taking a good 45 minutes off the road journey. The RAP Team divided up and took turns in the different vehicles on the way, linking in early with all of the youngsters. What a RAP team this year, all decked out in their new RAP T-Shirts (thanks for getting the T-shirts Cath)!

Our RAP Volunteer team this year was - Linda Barr (Linduta) from Dumfries; Cath Yeoh from Wales; Elisa Vasilica from Bucharest; Chris and Derek Ross from Dumfries; John McVie, Dumfries; David Ferguson, Harthill; Adam Halliday, Dumfries/Dundee; Dr David Strachan, Dumfries; Jim Main, Annan (who joined the trip straight from work in Texas, USA, well done Jim!) and of course, Pappie to the group - Jim Mooney, Heathhall, plus Vali our Interpreter/Asociatia RAP Director and John McGoldrick from Dumfries. Linduta, Cath and John McG provided the driver support for the journey.

Elisa is a young Romanian lady who recently joined the RAP supporter’s team.  Elisa is a national trainer for Sign Language and whilst proving to be a fabulous Volunteer who slotted right into the RAP and Carer team, she also took the quiet opportunity to make some basic assessments and pass on a few Signing moves and indicators to the youngsters, Carers and Volunteers.

Georgeta’s professional Romanian Carer team were all set too! 

First stop after a couple of hours and 100 kms was at Dranja, where everyone de-bussed and settled down at the local pit-stop. Juices all round - but disaster! The boxes of snacks, Joey wafer biscuits and individually packaged ‘play-pieces’ couldn’t be found on the bus! After hauling everything out of the hold, still no luck.  Never out-done, Linduta despatched Vali and John McG to buy something appropriate! The wee local shop keeper had a double take when asked for 56 desert cream Croissants! Juice, coffee, barbequed sausage, cheesy puffs and sweet croissants ensured a contented start to the holiday for all and a grinning Dranja shop keeper!

Off again and after the 218 km journey, the coach, mini-bus, estate car and jeep all full to bursting arrived at the Hotel Ovidiu.  Flori the Manager and her team were ready for the group and over the next couple of hours, the vehicles were unloaded, rooms allocated and lunch served.  The first of the chicken and chips meals which the young folks so much enjoy, went down a treat! Yes, we found the boxes of snacks on the bus! They were well used over the next day or so though.

Accommodation at the hotel was ideal, each RAP Volunteer having their own private room with all of the young people and their Carers accommodated on the hotel ground floor.

After a fine evening meal of chicken and chips, it was time for singing and dancing, supported by one of the young men from the RAP sponsored First Steps to Independence apartment and his music centre. Two full hours of energetic dancing saw the young folks being carried off to their beds. The Volunteers and Carers were almost as tired but Georgeta had all the next day’s swimming costumes ready to lay out. Once done, early bed for all!

Day 2 - Monday. After a full breakfast at which none of the previous usual Romanian holiday delicacy was to be had - cold fried eggs, it was off for a full day visit to Aqua Magic, the huge Mamaia local water entertainment park.  Linduta and John McG had previously met with the management and after discussion, free entry for the group was provided on the day. Big thanks to the Aqua Magic folks.

A whale of a time was had as they say! The new experience of water and ‘swimming’ delighted so many of the young people.  Packed lunches ensured everyone was well looked after and well soaked!

Evening meal followed by singing and dancing saw the end to a busy and boisterous day.

Day 3 - Tuesday turned out to be a bit overcast and cool, so a quick adjustment to the schedules and a mix of in-house arts and crafts; walks along the beach front for ice cream and juice; trips into town for hairdresser visits filled another active day.

More dancing and singing after evening dinner! Who was more tired - the youngsters or the RAP Team!!

Day 4 - Wednesday was beach day, everyone experiencing the sand in their toes and loads of sun block cream was dispensed throughout the day - great care was given to this having mind to virtually all of the young people not having being exposed to the sun at any time throughout the year.  More singing and dancing after evening dinner of Pork and Chips.

Day 5 - Thursday was the time for a trip on to the lake at Mamaia.  The local tourist boat provided the tour for the day where John McVie provided funds donated by Dumfries Camera Club Xmas raffle to buy ice creams for everyone.The sailing  continued on the expansive lake and touching on to the island some distance from the lakeside. Again, more sun block cream and snacks, juice and coffee ensured a grand venture on the high seas! The cost of the boat trip was greatly reduced thanks to great support from The Ovidiu Sailing Company.

Many other small trips were arranged, shots on the overhead gondolas which run through the length of Mamaia and rides on the tourist ‘train’ which shuttles up and down the beach side. Linda’s pre-holiday contact with the Gondola company ensured free trips for everyone.

After a great day out, back to the hotel for evening meal and ... more singing and dancing! John  McVie and his friends very kindly sponsored the ‘train’ trips, thanks John.

Day 6 - Friday - another beach day.

Friday afternoon was rehearsals time for the RAP Volunteers. 70’s music was the theme and renditions of Abba, the Beatles and even Barry Manilow rumbled through the hotel.  Our friends, Fern from Manchester and her husband Nik from Moscow, volunteered to help out with the entertainment. They arrived and brought with them Nik’s acoustic guitar, mixer board and speakers.  Nik’s band normally plays AC/DC so this was a new addition to Nik’s musical repertoire!

A wee party ensued, some speeches and thanks from Georgeta on behalf of the young people and their Carers and Adam on behalf of RAP spoke of how everyone had been so delighted at being involved.

End of speeches and on to the food, juice, wine and beer! 

Gifts and medals for the young people were distributed and medals proudly worn, then it was time for the RAP Volunteers to strut their stuff and provide the Fab 70’s sounds! Most were unrecognisable and to be fair, the gents did everyone proud by turning out in their glittering glory, Rasta and Three Degrees Mary Wilson wigs; sparkly dresses all set the tone. Nice wellies Jim!

A fabulous outdoor firework display provided by David Ferguson, gave a completely new experience for all the youngsters, the bright lights, bangers, sparklers and rockets cracking across the sky delighted the amazed group.

Back to the dancing and Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’ became the song of the night, replayed and gustily sung on at least half a dozen occasions before bringing the 3 hour party to a rousing close. The big smiley faces and sparkling eyes of the youngsters were something to behold, huge fun for all, and as we often say - this is the only one week of the year these youngsters can feel ‘normal’, have respect from the general public, be part of society, forget for a weekand see that other folks from far and wide actually do think and care about them.

We cannot thank you all so much for giving all of these youngsters the thing we all crave for - HOPE. 

Day 7 - Saturday after breakfast, saw the logistics of loading up the vehicles and getting ready for the long journey back to Bucharest.  Still a wee bit of excitement, but tinged with the thoughts of many of leaving behind ‘La Mare’ and the return to ‘home’. Loading the bus at the side of the 8 lane city motorway was an interesting but fortunately uneventful experience!

10am and the convoy set off, leaving behind a tearful team at the Hotel Ovidiu.  All well rehearsed and managed, Georgeta and her carer team ensured that everything was left neat, clean and tidy.  Swinging in to Bucharest after the three and a half hour journey, saw a stop at McDonalds Restaurant and the advanced order of 67 ‘Happy Meals’ and ‘Big Macs’ with juice all round , marked the end of the holiday for all.   On to the Camins (Care Homes) and tearful, distant departures, some of the young folks waving goodbye through the grounds railings, some so emotional, not able to come near their RAP friends.  The rural youngsters were safely returned also.

The RAP team made their individual way home on the Sunday, Monday and Wednesday, everyone taking huge memories with them.

Linda & John McG returned later that week to Mamaia and got round the various businesses and folks who had supported the holiday.

Excellent feedback was received, all that had supported us - hotel, overhead gondolas, tourist train, water park, lake tour, hairdresser - highlighted their amazement and delight at the young people and how they were only too pleased to give help to the holiday.

Flori at the Hotel Ovidiu was giving out huge tearful hugs and stated that never in her time at the hotel - since 1986, had she had such a well behaved and well mannered group, so well organised and so very respectful and appreciative of the hotel.  Her team had remarked that the hotel rooms and public areas had been left spotless, undamaged.  Flori was enthusiastic in her desire to see the group back again in 2013!

No disasters during the week, one of the youngsters had a severe bout of diarrhoea and Dr David was able to intervene and guide the Romanian Carer staff through, ensuring the youngster wasn’t out of action for any length of time.  Poor Chris Ross suffered a wasp sting, but the local waiter took speedy action, quickly rubbing salt into Chris’s leg assuring her at the same time that this was a well tried method of relieving the pain and effects of the sting.  It seemed to work! Dance coordinator - Linduta did sustain a wee injury. Whist jumping from chair to chair to help prompt the dance troop, Linduta hit her foot and collapsed onto the floor in a heap.  One of the youngsters looked on rather bemused, asking “Linduta, why are you on the floor?”.  Lots of plum brandy helped pain relief, but didn’t help the 6 hour driving the next day, where pressing on the clutch was a tad uncomfortable for Linduta to say the least, but as we say, ‘the show must go on!’

A fabulous holiday was had, by all concerned. The biggest number of young folks RAP has ever taken on holiday. 

Costs this year - for 67 people and included the Hotel (full board, packed lunches, tea/coffee and water), the boat trip, support for some flights, hire of the mini bus and an estate car plus the 53 seater bus to take/return our group and the related fuel and road toil costs, all came to around £11,000.

Other costings - hair dressers, ice creams, cakes, juice, fruit, party items, gifts for birthdays, Romania staff amenities, costume jewellery, drinks for the youngsters, laundry, pharmacy goods, etc were provided by donations from friends, relatives, clients, quiz competitions, work colleagues, Dumfries Camera Club, and where necessary, out of our own pockets.

Thanks to everyone who has played a part in all of this, sponsors, donations, general support and a special thanks to our RAP Volunteer team - you were absolute STARS!

Big special thanks also to David Ferguson and Jim Main for their significant funding contributions, helping make sure the holiday happened, well done you guys!

THANK YOU, all of you who support us and for giving us this opportunity to benefit our youngsters who we care about.

Mamaia 2013 - here we go!  Can you help us raise the funds we’ll need for another great time for these young people who have so little but give so much back to those of us who have the good fortune to be able to help.

We hope you enjoyed reading this as much as we enjoyed being with the young folks on their holiday!

Our Romanian Local Authority colleagues and partners are always keen to ensure that the young people that we support aren’t identified and personal photographs are always a great concern of the authorities. We fully appreciate this and include in this short report and in our ‘holiday’ gallery, only a few of the many photos taken.