Two go to Romania






On the 31st of May 2016 I Florida Matthew and Allyson Sloan set off to begin a new experience in Romania. This was all part of our Gold Duke of Edinburgh award scheme; we chose to go to Romania for our residential part. On the 29th of January we met up with Linda Barr for the first time in our school Annan Academy. There was a lot of planning and preparation for Romania over the months such as fundraising, vaccinations and sorting paperwork, however it was all worthwhile. We got in touch with the Linda and the RAP foundation through Allyson’s family. The organisation is based in Dumfries, Scotland. The organisation has developed links with hospitals, government departments and social services organisations in Bucharest, Romania.


On the 31st of May we flew from Glasgow airport in the afternoon, setting off to Bucharest. We had one change at Amsterdam airport and then arrived at Bucharest in the early hours of the morning. The traveling itself was an experience for us both as we haven’t flew very often at all and doing it independently for the first time was our first life lesson of our adventure. As we arrived safe and sound on the Romanian grounds we were greeted by Linda and her husband, John, who kindly offered us to stay at their apartment for the first night. Although it was dark while driving from the airport we were both still eager to have a look at the scenery of this different country.  The first impression we grasped was that the city was densely populated as the surrounding was mainly high risen flats. Conditions of the flats on the outside were very poor and neglected which highlights the poverty within the country as a whole. However, inside the apartment was modern and fresh. So after a long wait and work over the past month we had finally made it!!


Today was an early start for us both, we packed our bags and were raring to go. It was a short drive to our new home for the week, which was a camin within a high school. At around half eight in the morning we met Beatrice (Betty) and Valentina, who we were staying with for the week and Gabi, Beatrice’s mum. We made our way to a school sports day where we met Viorel who was a soccer coach, we got to watch some of the pupils perform karate; sadly we were unable to present them with awards as the sports day got cancelled due to teacher strikes. This was unusual for Romania as they hadn’t experienced many strikes before, therefore we noticed things being handled in more of a panic in comparison to over here. We then went back to our room at the camin, and we were able to have a tour of the high school next door. We even got the opportunity to sit and watch a volley ball competition which we were given great honour to present the final prizes at the end. We were able to join Viorel to coach soccer to a group of nine children; this lasted for about two hours. We thoroughly enjoyed getting involved and interacting with the children. At the end of the day we got to go and watch Betty and Valentina in their water polo training. This was interesting as it is not as popular of sport in Britain as it is in Romania.


Thursday, we had a chance to go for breakfast at the “Auchan”, the Romanian version of Tesco. This put our curiosity to rest as we wondered how the shops worked over there. Later that day we had a meeting with two ladies that are involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Award. They were intrigued to hear about what we have done for our award and how things worked over in Scotland. We had a good opportunity to exchange skills between us all. After the meeting we were able to go around the centre of Bucharest for a bit of sightseeing. The girls, Valentina and Betty, spoke us through the history of the buildings as we walked through the city centre which was great to build our knowledge of the city in Romania. We also got to take the subway to different parts of Bucharest, which was quite an experience for us both. We found it very overcrowded as it was a useful method of transport to remove as many people of those crazy roads as possible!! We had a quick tea with the girls and went back to the camin for the night. We spent a bit of time getting to know the girls before resting for the night.


On Friday we woke up and made our way to the Palace of Parliament which is the second largest building in the world and the largest building in Europe. We wondered round taking pictures and exploring the walls of the palace, before long we made our way to Grigore Antipa Museum. This was a spectacular museum we both thoroughly enjoyed, it reminded us a lot of the film “Night at the Museum”. We were holding our breaths for the animals to come to life. After visiting the museum we met up with Viorel and Gabi, dropping Betty off at home. We made our way to Jumbo which literally was a perfect name to describe the store. It had everything in it to throw Betty her surprise party which was to take place on Sunday. After a busy day we sat down to some dinner which we had at Chicken Staff.


Saturday was a very emotional day for us; we woke up early and got picked up by Linda, John and another John and Lynne who were a couple who were staying with John and Linda. Firstly we made our way to collect Razvan and Marian at their apartment. These two men were two of the most inspirational men we had ever met and are honoured to have got to meet them. We carried on our journey, making another quick stop at McDonald’s to collect happy meals for those at the orphanage. Along the way we noticed a change in people’s lifestyle compared to the city, there were people using horse and carts like you see in films and shepherds in the fields. We stopped off to get supplies from a local shop to take to the orphanage such as shower gel, soap, tooth paste etc. When we reached the orphanage it was quite smelly and run down, we both had butterflies as we were not quite sure what to expect as we entered the court yard. It was awful to see that this still goes on in the world today, we don’t realise how lucky we are. There were a lot of people in the yard all of which had disabilities; we found it difficult to communicate with them as none of them spoke any English. It was an extremely emotional site to see, we both had to take some time outside the yard to gather ourselves together as it was a little overwhelming, but we went straight back in as we wanted to make them happy by smiling and comforting them as best we could. We were both very proud of Razvan and Marian as they had once been in this orphanage but now with the help of the RAP foundation their lives had changed. This was so inspirational to get to witness the impact the organisation has done, they were now two very independent men with their own jobs and appartement. We then went inside with about half a dozen of them and gave them their McDonald’s and carried out activities with them. I also got to paint two of the women’s nails. We had a lovely afternoon with them it was so nice to see their faces light up and they were so appreciative of the clothes and food they received.  We then said goodbye and made our way to Razvan’s parents’ home in the village where we received a warm welcome. We had a nice afternoon in the garden with everyone. Razvan’s father grew all his crops in the garden which was amazing that he was still doing it for his age. On our way home we got a tour of the boy’s apartment, it was as clean as a whistle. We signed the visitor’s book and made our way to a restaurant where we sat down and reflected on our busy day.


On Sunday, we visited a children’s foster home in the morning. We enjoyed playing games with them for a couple of hours, they were all great children. We played football, basketball and even got to ride on bikes. We said goodbye, then we got dropped off at Casa Pizza where we helped Linda and John set up for Razvan’s birthday. He got such a surprise when he came in with Marian and Virgil another man who stayed with them at their apartment. He got very tearful and was very appreciative of everything, he was so thankful to have been taken out of the orphanage and have the chance to succeed at life. We said goodbye to the boys, it was now time to set up for Betty’s surprise birthday. She got a big shock when she came in, afterwards we settled down to a traditional Romanian meal which included sarmali. Later at night, we made our way down to the park to listen to one of our all-time favourite bands Maroon 5 who were playing live in front of the Palace of Parliament. It was a brilliant atmosphere, it gave us the chance to loosen off a bit and realise just how lucky we both were. What a great day!


On Monday, we went and visited Betty’s high school which was next to the Camin we had been staying in. The director was teaching the class, it was a lot different from the classrooms back home, thankfully the lesson was written up in English on the blackboard so we were able to understand what was going on. Later we returned to the apartment, and then made our way across the street to visit the Palace of Parliament. The tour was extremely interesting we learned that every year the palace sinks by 6mm. The rooms were all gigantic. Our favourite part of the tour was getting to stand on the balcony where Michael Jackson had stood in 2009; we were able to see the long stretched boulevard in front of us. After the tour ended we met up with Gabi, Catalin, Linda, Viorel, Alexandra and another man who was a friend of the family. We enjoyed a nice meal then made our way back to the apartment.


Today was the last day of our remarkable journey together. We woke up early and met Linda in town to reflect on our time out in Romania. We then went to the shops with Linda to purchase some gifts for the family, as they had been so kind and helpful to us on our way. As the day went on we said goodbye to Linda and met the girls to visit the village museum. It was interesting to see all the old house and what some people still live in today. Our time in Romania was now closely coming to an end, we gathered our belongings and Betty’s Dad kindly drove us to the airport where it was time to say goodbye. It was quite emotional when it came to saying goodbye, they had been our family for the week and we were so grateful to them for taking care of us, they were all lovely people to get the chance to meet.


Overall our time in Romania was a truly amazing experience and it is something we will never forget as long as we live. We wish to keep in touch with the RAP foundation and hopefully one day will be able return to Romania again. It was a real eye opener for us both and we are extremely grateful for Linda, John and the RAP foundation for giving us this memorable opportunity. We would highly encourage youngsters doing Duke of Edinburgh or those who want to become involved to get in touch and see the reality for themselves.