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December 15, 2014 / lachie47

Roberts Reflection on Romanian Trip 2014

Something For Romania is a charity that has been in existence for nearly 24 years and is headed by Lachie Macleod MBE, member of Partick Free Church Congregation, Glasgow.  Over these years and multiple trips; sometimes with lorries but in more recent years supporting and mobilising palliative care in association with Diakonia a Romanian organisation working under the auspices of the Hungarian Reformed Church. Diakonia is involved in work amongst the elderly, gypsies, young people and in recent years, the delivery of palliative care to patients and families who otherwise would have little or no access to such treatment.

Robert & Joy

Robert & Joy

From 16-24th May, Something For Romania invited Rev. Robert Macleod, minister at Lochgilphead and Tarbert, Argyll and Joy Elliott, Patient and Family Support Co-ordinator at Accord Hospice, Paisley, to facilitate a five day seminar within the University of Medicine and Pharmacy Conference Centre in Cluj on the subject of ‘Grief, Loss and Spirituality’. Conference facilities were donated by the Professor of the medical facility and a past Dean of the University. The participants, other than for three Chaplains from Cluj District, were doctors, social workers and nurses, all employees of Diakonia from throughout Romania.

Romania is a country of paradox or at least that is the impression Rev Robert Macleod arrives home with. His daughter, Louise, having been there a number of years ago for a camp under the auspices of Eastern Europe For Christ, had created the impression of a country where horse-mobile, poor roads and dodgy food was the order of the day. The reality of Cluj and other parts of Romania today is different. Cluj is a university city with a student population of 100,000. Its medical Faculty is internationally esteemed. Roman influence presents the visitor with many beautiful buildings and the centre is full of modern cars, fashionable people, mobile phones, chic shops, bars and restaurants and with supermarkets that would adorn any European mall – quality of roads that put Scotland to shame! Yet, go to the suburbs and there is obvious poverty amongst the gypsy communities. Reach further out to places like Mera and you are reminded, despite modernity, there is subsistence living, with the sight of horse and farm implements aplenty, goods transported by horse and cart and generally a more traditional lifestyle.  Whether in the city or rural communities, we were met with exceptional politeness and welcome.  It was touching to w

Andrea & Robert

Andrea & Robert

itness the esteem in which Lachie is held.

The five team members who travelled were able to visit a young people’s care-home, a school and care-home for the elderly [under-going an extension to make it a 30 bed unit] as well as network with medical staff at the university and with the director of hospice care in Oradea [Marinela Murg], who, by 2017, hopes to open a new Hospice state-of-the-art facility.  What a visionary and inspirational lady!  Behind her office desk was a plaque that read: “life is not measured by the number of breaths that you take, but by the moments that take your breath away” – meeting her and other dedicated healthcare professionals in Romania and the work they are engaged in, saw me come home with many such moments.  This was wonderful to witness and humbling that people with so little have achieved so much.  The week spent with healthcare professionals was extremely hard work but special and privileged.

For these healthcare professionals seeking to provide holistic care within a country where there is great social inequality, this was a new, rewarding and challenging experience. In their evaluation returns there were comments: “let’s do this once a year: next time can we have ten days; I have benefited much from these days; constructive, confirmative, instructive; I felt great, it must be CONTINUED!” The 20hr journey was worth it to hear such positive feedback from people doing so much with so little framework and support.

The NHS comes under constant review and criticism. Despite such, we are a privileged people to have access to such a service. When it comes to receiving palliative care, many Romanians are impoverished. The response of a dying lady to the question:  “if….. did not come, who would?” The haunting reply: “no one!” That is not uncommon in Romania as far as access to good palliative care is concerned.

Rev Robert MacLeod

 

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October 17, 2014 / lachie47

Spiritual & Emotional Training Seminar

Working with patients who have life limiting or terminal illness is very much a labour of love and not everybody is cut out to work in this area of healthcare. This much needed and very important work is only a little over 22 years old in Romania and 15 years or so in Cluj thus it is still very much in it’s infancy.  There are very few hospices in Romania and while there might be many homecare organisations purporting to provide palliative care very few have staff who are trained in all aspects of this type of care the most important aspects of which are medical, social, spiritual and emotional.

Hospice Casa Sperantei  began in Brasov in 1992 when there was no concept of hospice or palliative care in Romania.  Much has now changed and Hospice Casa Sperantei is a Centre of Excellence being described as a ‘Beacon of Hope’ for all of south-eastern Europe.

Still the majority of patients, adults and children, who suffer with a terminal illness do not have the type of care they really need. Hospices of Hope and SFR want to see this concept of care extended throughout Romania and also in the surrounding countries where hospice care services are minimal or even non-existent.

As well as providing hospice care to those who so desperately need it, training and education is key to ensuring this provision of specialist services is extended throughout Romania and South-Eastern Europe. The Princess Diana Education Centre was opened in 1997 to provide hospice resources and training courses for medical and social care professionals from all over South-Eastern Europe.

While the training is of very high standard spiritual & emotional training was lacking so SFR sponsored a National training seminar in 2006. This was supported by the Marie Curie Hospice Glasgow and Dawn Allan Chaplain ran the course in Cluj Romania. This seminar proved to be a success but it was not until 2014 that a repeat course could be arranged. On this occasion staff employed by Diakonia and working in palliative care were the target group together with three independent chaplains who were also invited.

Joy Elliot, Family liaison and Support Coordinator at Accord Hospice together with Rev Robert MacLeod Free Church Minister at Lochgilphead and Tarbert delivered the training which was one again organised and sponsored by SFR. This was a very worthwhile exercise from which the majority of participants benefited and are already asking about the next one! Andrea the multi talented palliative care nurse coordinator at Diakonia did most of the translation during the training ably assisted by Briggie the social worker and Emese one of the independent chaplains

The use of the venue was donated by the University of Medicune and Pharmacy in Cluj which, as can be seen from the photos was a very suitable and comfortable place for all to meet. All thanks to Lachie’s very good friend Prof. Dr Constantin Ciuce who is the Medical Chief at the University Hospital.

 

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2007 Newsletter

Newsletter, June 2007 ——————————————————————————–

Introduction

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Ga 6:9)

Paul that great Apostle, despite all the hardships he endured, did not shrink from doing what was good. Not only did he perform his duty as a Christian, he went beyond that call of duty even to the point of being beaten and imprisoned for his service to His Lord.

‘Doing good’ does not simply mean doing our duty, but the performance of acts of kindness and display of Christian love. We are ‘not to grow weary’ in helping others, in performing good works and in exercising generosity. By nature we are reluctant to discharge duties of brotherly love, and many unpleasant experiences can cool the ardour of the best disposed persons. We meet with many seemingly ungrateful people who continually tell us that they are ‘entitled’ to our help and they also often remind us of our ‘Christian responsibilities!’ The vast number of needy cases can overwhelm us, and the demands which crowd upon us from every quarter can sometime exhaust our patience and resolve. Our warmth is often abated by the coolness of others. In short, the world presents innumerable ‘stone walls,’ which tend to lead us aside from the right path. Most properly, therefore, Paul admonishes us not to relax through weariness.

No matter the difficulties we must “persevere to the end.” (Mt 10:22) and by doing that we shall reap the fruit which God promises. Those who do not persevere resemble an indolent farmer, who, after ploughing and sowing, leaves the work unfinished, neglects to take the necessary precautions to protect the seed from being devoured by birds, or being scorched by the sun, or destroyed by cold. It is to no purpose that we begin to do good, if we do not press forward to the goal. We are to exercise hope and patience and trust that God, in His time, will bless what we do in His name by giving the increase.

It is now almost 19 years since the so called revolution in Romania and 17 years since I became involved with healthcare in that Country. Romania is now part of the European Union, yet change for better is almost imperceptible for many. I am often asked if I ever get discouraged. Thanks be to God and His faithfulness, while I often experience frustration, I have never been discouraged, for a reward is promised if we do not lose heart; ‘for in due season we shall reap.’

The prayerful and generous support of our sponsors helps to ensure that Something for Romania is still at the forefront of promoting quality Palliative Care for the terminally ill in Romania together with the continual development of training and spiritual support. This would not be possible if it were not for people like Rachel Henderson seen here receiving a t-shirt. Rachel, then a pupil at Braehead Primary School, Dumbarton, raised cash by organising a sponsored walk on her own initiative, thus making her our youngest fundraiser. Well done Rachel!

This little letter is testament as to how our involvement in this important work impacts on the lives of those who are marginalised!

Dear Sponsor,

I am sorry to let everyone know that my daughter, Erzsébet Decsei, lost her battle with MS on the 9th of January. She passed away in her sleep, which was a blessing. As you know, she fought on for many years to overcome the devastation of the disease and the many other medical issues associated with it.

We are very thankful though, and wanted to let you know that the help that you have given us during this time has not gone unnoticed. Thanks to the equipment you provided, Erzsébet was able to spend the last few months of her life at home with her family. Furthermore, she was able to be a part of the family Christmas celebrations. On behalf of the whole family, I would like to thank you once again for making the latter part of my daughter’s life comfortable.

Erzsébet Pillich

This past year has been very busy but one of great encouragement!

Five visits to Romania, the setting up of a new Palliative Care Service with Diakonia (see Christina’s Perspective) and the organizing and running of a National training course for Spiritual and Emotional Support (See Dawn’s Romanian Experience) kept me on the hop, hence the lateness of this newsletter! (Some excuse!) The spiritual and emotional training, a first for Romania was a resounding success. May a faithful God have all the praise and glory.

Many thanks to all who have supported the work over the past year both prayerfully and financially 2Cor 9:7

Reflections Dr Arthur Sarosi is a Christian and a family doctor his career in a small ‘cabinet'(clinic) providing GP Romania.. However, he had a vision to try and existing care services being provided for the sick through his work in Diakonia he has been instrumental building of a nursing home of a very high standard. Arthur several years ago and here are Arthur’s reflections this meeting has changed their circumstances.

Since we met Lachie for the first time a lot of things changed in the life of our organisation and much more.

We were before just a provider of home care and I suppose that we were providing a good quality service, but faced a lot of hard situations, particularly with respect to incurable and terminal patients. For this reason we built our Good Brother nursing home in Cluj to provide more care and better facilities for those who need 24 hour care and /or observation. It was a success to have a running nursing home but, we were not completely satisfied. We felt that our care while of good quality missed something. It was not professional enough and we did not meet all the necessities of patients and families but we concentrated on good nursing.

Meeting with Lachie and the organisation, Something for Romania, brought a change in knowledge, approach, understanding and a lot of high quality information. Their support for the training of 5 nurses and 2 doctors, (through Hospice Casa Sperantei Brasov), and spiritual care training for palliative care personnel done by a Scottish Professional from Marie Curie Hospice (Dawn) has been encouraging

We are learning now what palliative care means and how to do it. Our team now have their eyes and ears more open for the different needs of the palliative care patient and his/her family. We are continuing to do home care, but we have defined a hospice mobile team.

Something for Romania also gave money to set up the work and two cars for the nurses which will help them a lot. We also have more sense what volunteering means and what Christian love, responsibility and charity means. These are the roots of the difference we can make for those who are suffering from a hard disease and for their families. Thank you Lachie, Lorna, Dawn, Christina and many people whom we have never met.

Arthur Sarosi Diakonia

A ‘Young’ Perspective As a Palliative care nurse working in Strathcarron Hospice in Denny I was fortunate to hear about Lachie’s great work in Romania, setting up a palliative care service which, unfortunately, is very sparse in Romania, due to culture, poverty and corruption.

In November I went to Romania with Lachie for a week to see how the plans were going with Diakonia, an indigenous Romanian Charity which Something for Romania (SFR) is supporting.

The purpose of our trip to Cluj was twofold. Lachie had to sort out budget plans with Arthur Sarosi (the Doctor who is managing Diakonia) for a proposed palliative care service and I was to provide a nursing perspective and assessment. This was to be done through home visits with the nurses to see how the current home care service worked and by providing my knowledge in setting up the palliative care service alongside this homecare.

“God be merciful to us and bless us, And cause His face to shine upon us.”Psalm 67v1

Our accommodation on arrival in Cluj was a flat attached to the Daniel Centre which was set up by Blythswood Care as a home for boys aged 18-25 years who stay for two years learning everyday skills to help them in their daily living. This is done through the teachings of the Bible in a loving Christian environment, starting each day with prayer to which we were invited!

On the Monday we visited Dr Arthur Sarosi at Diakonia and discussed the plans for Diakonia and SFR to set up a good palliative care service. We also visited Arthur’s wife Gyke who is a GP in the village of Mera about 17kms from Cluj. While I thought it wouldn’t be like a clinic at home, I did expect to see a solid, heated building with reasonable facilities. What I found was completely the opposite! Instead, I found Gyke working wrapped up in two jumpers and a big quilted jacket, in a small consulting room in a building which had no roof and really was a ruin. This room had minimal heating but the patients had to stand outside in a freezing cold alleyway and the actual treatment room was indescribable – you had to see it to believe it! A real eye opener for me was when Gyke, who never complained of her working conditions, stated that instead of trying to improve the conditions for the clinic the local council are to demolish it and build a ‘cultural centre’ with no health facility planned for the village. This made me realise that the Romanian government are not thinking of the ethnic Hungarians and Romanian people.

I met up with the nurses who provide Diakonia’s current homecare service, some of whom would later be joining the new palliative care service. We discussed their current and future roles on the start of Palliative care. The nurses were all lovely and eager to learn so as to provide the best service possible. Tundi, the nurse manager, is especially dedicated to her job and just wants to provide the best she can for her patients.

The following day we discussed the budget and the requirements to make the service work well. Having these talks really made me aware of just how little supplies they have available and how they are struggling to manage on minimal resources, such as wound dressings, pressure relieving equipment, medicine pumps and syringe drivers, to name only a few! This made me think how, in Scotland, we throw so much out and complain if we are short of one little thing! It really makes you appreciate what you have! I went out with the nurses to see how they worked, which was such a humbling experience for me. They are very skilled doing the best job they can, considering their working environment and the resources which they have (in fact don’t have). What really touched me was the nurses’ desire to do all they could for their patients and do it right, but could not, due to lack of resources. Nursing care in Romania at present is what we probably had 60 years ago. Don’t get me wrong, what the nurses did not have in facilities and resources they made up for in care and compassion. It is important to try and improve this situation so these girls can provide the service which they so want.

When I later met up with Lachie and Arthur they had finally agreed on the budget which suited both parties but I think there were a few tense moments until it all got sorted out! We all discussed how palliative care and homecare are different and how Lachie wants to provide the most effective and holistic service, looking at the patients’ emotional, physical and spiritual care. Dobratz 1990 states that “palliative care is the intensive caring, collaboration, continuous knowing, continuous giving and providing of spiritual support.”

Lachie, Arthur, the nurses and I discussed the different training courses available, the resources which can be accessed in Romania and what we could bring from Scotland. One of the Doctors whom Lachie already knew from another organisation he was supporting has decided to join Diakonia, which was great news as she is kind and compassionate and wants to help others.

All in all it was a very successful trip and hopefully will soon make a difference to the care being provided for patients. I found the Romanian people very friendly and kind and I feel they deserve to get the best Palliative care possible. Unfortunately, at least in the near future, they won’t receive this from there own healthcare service and government. So it is up to us to do what we can.

“Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away” Matthew 5v42

We returned to Romania principally to see the new palliative care service with Diakonia had started on the 1st of January. Before going to Cluj we called in Brasov to visit Hospice Casa Sperantei, where the first hospice was set up with one British and one Romanian nurse working in a one bedroom apartment. Now, 12 years later it has grown, into a recognisable charity run hospice with facilities and resources similar to what we have in Scotland. This was very interesting and great to see the amazing work done there. As I noticed on my last visit the people are very passionate about their work and want to help putting others before themselves. Even although they seem financially better off than Cluj, there is still so much that they need in the way of resources which would make their work easier! I am becoming more aware of just how well off we are in Scotland -free National Health Service and a country which gives freely to charity! On returning to Cluj there were no huge changes to be seen in the project as there was only one nurse trained in palliative care (training for others would not start for another two weeks) neverthless they had started the service and had a few patients. Our visit was definitely worthwhile as there were a few issues with education and service provision for palliative care to be resolved together with advice on accessing resources to help it run efficiently, ranging from health professionals such as oncologists to volunteers.

Together with Lachie and Arthur I spoke to pastors of the Hungarian Reformed Church and some of their congregations about the great need for people to volunteer and do such things as visiting patients, doing their shopping, driving, etc. All of these things are so important to help the service function. Unfortunately due to the culture in Romania it is very difficult to get people to understand the concept of volunteering when they feel they have enough troubles of their own! I tried to give a bit of insight into the work at Strathcarron Hospice and how only one third of costs is paid by the Government, the rest being provided by Charity, and only through the help of volunteers does the hospice survive! There are nearly twice as many volunteers as paid staff!

Lack of resources such as pressure relieving equipment and dressings for wounds continue to be the main source of frustration for nurses. When Lachie asked the nurses if they could have one thing to make their work easier, they all said RESOURCES. Resources which we take for granted, would help patients with pressure sores and bad wounds, but instead these get unmanageable and infected. Awful to experience, as not only do patients suffer, nurses’ morale is undermined with frustration due to limited resources. A suggestion that we might bring material and equipment in May raised their expectations and boosted their morale. Please pray for God’s continued hand in the work that their expectations be not dashed!

Christina Ghiran, Nursing Director from the Hospice in Brasov, visited Diakonia. This was very productive, as she can prove that it can be done with hard work and many challenges!

All in all we had another enlightening and successful trip. Yet again I have seen God working in Romania and I feel so privileged to be involved in the work of SFR and to see Lachie working so hard for the Lord. It is a great inspiration to me as a young Christian.

We also visited Casa de Copii, a home for 14 children aged from 5 to 18, in the mountain village of Bratca, which SFR supports. This was a good experience! In the UK, when we hear about Romania, we automatically think of children and orphanages from the Ceausescu era. Although these orphanages do still exist it is not all as we might imagine. This home which we visited was run by house parents, Stella and Calin, who are so loving towards the children and have created a family environment for them. All the children greeted us with hugs and hello and when I left I had 5 soft toys as gifts from them. This felt strange as I should have been the one giving gifts, not the other way round! This was very humbling and I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to help out in Romania with SFR.

Christina Young (Palliative Care Nurse)

“Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works on man’s behalf! He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot—come, let us rejoice in him. He rules for ever by his power, his eyes watch the nations—let not the rebellious rise up against him. Selah” (Ps 66:5-7 NIV)

Christina has become very involved in the work of Something for Romania having volunteered, despite indifferent health, to go to Romania and work with Diakonia for a year. She has shown real fortitude and commitment through her fundraising activities and would covet your prayers of support. Dawn’s initial impression of her Romanian experience… It was with great expectation that I ventured into Eastern Europe after Lachie invited me to fly to Romania with his daughter Lorna to teach at a Spiritual and Emotional Training Course which he had organised for October 2006. I didn’t know then that on arrival at Budapest in Hungary how scary my first road journey in Eastern Europe would be. I’ve never quite experienced the drive that Lorna and I had, courtesy of a local Romanian who lives in Cluj. We travelled through the night from Budapest Airport, Hungary to Cluj, Romania. It was a very dark night, few if any street lights, winding our way along sometimes narrow pot-holed roads and overtaking what seemed like endless queues of HGVs – describing this trip as scary is an understatement especially when on-coming HGV lights lit up the inside of the car and we had to quickly brake and pull into our side of the road again! My prayers sent heavenwards were constant and sleep due to nervous tension remained elusive.

However, thankfully, we arrived in Cluj in the early hours to be met by Lachie at the place where we stayed for the rest of the time we were in Cluj. Lorna and I slept for a few hours before enjoying a wonderful morning tea in a lovely restaurant later that day with a local Cluj girl and friend of the MacLeod family. Having got to Cluj in one piece, I spent the rest of the time soaking up what I can only describe as some ‘culture shock’. It was blatantly obvious to me how a country and it’s people, suppressed by communism was attempting to rise out of the ashes and gain respect and rebuild a new Romania that they can be proud of – what an uphill task they have ahead.

My overall impression of Romania was to compare it to the more rural parts of South Africa where I’d grown up. With its dusty roads, potholes seemingly everywhere and general things like wooden scaffolding just propped up with no sense of ‘health and safety’ regulations just waiting for an accident to happen! Some buildings although classically beautiful in the city of Cluj have seen better days and were in desperate need of a coat of paint. It seemed at times in the city that we walked continuously under a web of electrical wiring – no infrastructure to go underground. In-between what the former communist regime had left of the original classical architecture were the square block ‘modern communist style’ buildings of a now obsolete era. It was a strange mixture of old and new and yet now very much in Romania’s past.

The people themselves in my observation were a real mix of cultures. The Roma (Gypsies) were the street cleaners and after a visit to a Roma compound on the outskirts of the city, I became aware of the good work that’s being achieved by local and international missionaries and what a task they have, to make some positive headway both spiritually and on a social welfare front. The Roma are a people without a recognised identity.

The Hungarian Reformed influence and the local Orthodox culture which in some ways, ‘neither the twain shall meet’ are both proud of their roots with a sense of unwillingness to integrate. It became obvious in my teaching sessions on Spiritual Care, Bereavement Support and Multi-faith issues that integration was not a natural part of even the professional’s psyche or practice. There appeared to be, initially at least, a reticence to be openly involved in discussions with one another when I asked them to work in small groups after teaching sessions. This resistance was rooted in a cultural distrust and fear of acknowledging a lack of experience/qualifications or knowledge in a given area, in case of ridicule – another “left-over” from communism.

The professionals I was teaching were all Christian’s, some in name only from Orthodox or Reformed backgrounds and others who had a real ‘live’ faith which impacted on their professional practice and lifestyle. I was constantly aware of their desire to learn and to soak up any knowledge I could pass on to help them become better practitioners within the palliative care world in Romania. As time passed I realised that communication was the key area for improvement. Having already qualified as nurses, doctors, social workers or priests, the area they most lacked in was cross-discipline, professional communication and team work. The idea of working as teams was almost an alien concept to some.

As they gained my trust many came to me on a 1-1 basis and shared some of their concerns, fears and negative experiences of teamwork. Building on this trust, I was able to speak directly into some of their experiences in a general way. My aim was to get the message across that if they did not communicate openly in a trusting way with each other then palliative care would not progress in Romania. They had to take responsibility for themselves as they learned to pass on their knowledge to colleagues in palliative care in Romania. Although, many of the delegates who attended the conference spoke good English, it was imperative that they understood in a broader and deeper sense the message I hoped to get across and therefore a translator enabled this.

Overall, my main impression after working, living and generally chatting with the people I met in Romania was of a people who are indomitable and intent on ploughing forward through the aftermath of what a communist regime has left them. There is a great lack of money and funding, but this doesn’t stop local professionals from giving up to build a country that they can become proud of. For many their faith is very ‘alive’ and empowers them to believe that without hope they have nothing and without the Lord’s provision and grace they have nothing. I was also reminded of how hugely blessed we are in the UK – we truly are the ‘fat cat with the cream and the cherry on top’ and it’s good to get out of ones comfort zone to realise this.

The return journey was on an overnight allegedly 1st class train with Lachie and Lorna – we were very cold and I attempted to doze on the seat with the hood up of my ‘hoodie’ to keep my ears warm! On arrival in Budapest, Hungary, we’d left behind the Romanian culture and as we boarded the aeroplane bound for London, I counted my blessings and thanked the Lord for a remarkable experience. The people I met remain in my prayers and if you’ve not had the chance to join Lachie and experience Romania for yourself, I highly recommend it – prepare to be culture-shocked, but you won’t leave without an additional awareness of how blessed you are.

A Window on the Work of SFR I had the privilege of accompanying Lachie to Romania in May 2006. Eastern Europe was uncharted territory to me and I was eager to discover something for myself about the people of Romania, the situation they faced and the work of Something for Romania (SFR).

We flew to Budapest and drove to Cluj, stopping en route at Bratca to visit a children’s home for gypsy children that SFR has been supporting. The children there were a delight to meet and a testimony to the love and care they were receiving. On arrival I was immediately whisked off by a group of laughing lads to be converted into a Stau Bucharest football fan! We should resist ‘compassion fatigue’ because the ongoing transformation of the lives touched by charities such as SFR is invaluable.

We arrived in Cluj late that evening where I stayed with the Leszai family, old friends from student days in Edinburgh. Lehel had just come out of hospital following a back operation and I was amazed to hear from him how hospital staff demanded money in order to help patients. Yet the economic reality is that many of them didn’t receive their pay. The legacy of self-serving communism runs deep within Romanian society and is a reminder of how much the transforming power of God’s grace is needed (as it is in the U.K.!) When I asked my friends what Romania’s greatest practical need was they said “Leaders who care for the people.” Pray for that.

Lachie’s commitment to helping the Romanian people is remarkable but understandable, not least in the area of medical care. We visited a hospital where SFR was obviously well known and greatly appreciated. It was hard to believe that we were in the same century as the U.K we had left only a few days before. No curtains separated the beds, procedures were conducted openly and everything was immersed in a run-down and rusting environment. The thought that came to mind was, ‘if this is care for the living, what happens to the dying?’ The question has a very short unhappy answer: nothing. That, of course, is now SFR’s main area of concern and work.

The difference SFR can make was highlighted when we visited an elderly lady in her apartment. She was dying, but unlike the vast majority of her compatriots was doing so with dignity and with professional medical and social support. She was fortunate; her daughter, a doctor in France, had returned to Cluj and had left no stone unturned to find a source of help for her mother. That help came in the form of SFR which integrated the services of two organisations, Diakonia and Fundatia Perspective Medicale (FPM), both of which it supports, to provide home care. Having lost my wife to cancer 18 months previously I knew very well the value to a family of effective palliative care and could identify with the gratitude expressed by this woman’s daughter. It is disturbing that her case is so very rare; the vast majority still die without medical attention, pain relief or spiritual care. Think about it. Her case is a very small statistic, but the difference to her and her family cannot be measured. It was a challenging but positive experience.

Rev Derek Robertson Mera Day The oppressive regime of almost 50 years of Communism with Ceausescu at the helm for over 25 of these years, almost completely destroyed any sense of community spirit in Romania. This perhaps is not so noticeable in the cities but in villages, of which there are between 2500 and 3000 where 68% of the population live, this is much more obvious. Time, of course, is a great healer and some communities are trying to cast off issues that divide, and promote those that unite. This is nowhere more noticeable than in the village of Mera which is a commune, around 12 miles from the City of Cluj Napoca. The majority of the population in this village are ethnic Hungarians and housing conditions are rather poor.

Nica Ileana-Gyorgyi is a GP, and Mera is one of the villages for which she has responsibility. Together with her husband, Dr Arthur Sarosi, who is the director of Fundatia Crestina Diakonia (the Romanian organisation which we support to provide palliative care) Gyke (as she is affectionately known) has been instrumental, along with others, in promoting a community spirit within the village. This is no mean feat, when one considers that all the planning and funding has to be undertaken in a completely different culture to what we are accustomed to in Scotland.

A new GP clinic has been built and Diakonia are currently trying to put the finishing touches to a new care home for residential and day care for the elderly which will also help to generate a more cohesive community spirit as was so evident on Mera Day.

When I visited Romania in May 2006, I was privileged to attend the annual festivities associated with Mera Day. This is a time of great festivity and activity by young, old and not so young or old! The people of the village have a very strong sense of their Hungarian roots and culture, reflected in the activities which were taking place, particularly communal eating – nay feasting! The size of the pot is a dead giveaway! Traditional bread making and weaving are undertaken by many of the women for a meagre income on ancient equipment.

It is a privilege for me to be associated with Diakonia who’s work is clearly community and people orientated and, more importantly, they have a desire to see advancement being made in healthcare and social welfare from a Christian ethos!

“For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” (1Pe 2:15 )

National Palliative Care Conference For those who have a passion for skiing, Poiana Brasov at 3350ft-5687ft altitude is the best known budget ski resort in Europe, with visitors from UK, US, Germany and other parts of the world indulging in its delights! Poiana is referred to in all SKI directories as having the best developed skiing facilities in Romania with 2 cable-cars, one gondola, 7 ski-lifts and 14 ski runs! It has more majestic hotels than French ski-resorts, classy restaurants, very good multi-language ski trainers, nice indoor swimming pools and treatment facilities. Since 1895, when it was created, the biggest ski event ever hosted here was the International Winter Olympic Games for Students in 1951. Situated approximately 13km from the medieval City of Brasov in the heart of Romania and in the southern part of Transylvania its views are spectacular and provides for all tastes never mind the skiing!

The City of Brasov benefits from the influence of an ancient history with records going back as far as 1235. Lots of grand old buildings and ancient architecture tell their own story and archaeologists have discovered traces of civilization going back to the Bronze Age.

Now you are asking what this has to do with the work of Something for Romania. I am sure you will agree that it could all be very exciting depending on your choice of past-time, but my introduction to this part of Romania was not because of my sporting or tourist activities but as a result of my interest in supporting healthcare! This was where I was first introduced to the Hospice movement in Romania and where the first flicker of my passion for Palliative Care was ignited.

Graham Perolls OBE who has been deeply involved in the Hospice movement in Kent for many years has also been a prime mover in palliation in Romania. Hospice Casa Sperantei in Brasov, founded by Graham, is a centre of excellence with inpatient beds for adults and children, a daycare centre and a base for homecare and many other services. They also have a Study Centre where National training is undertaken for nurses and doctors involved in Palliative Care. It was through Graham’s pioneering work in Palliative care, which we have supported since 1994, that my interest was kindled and what finally prompted me to introduce Palliative Care to Cluj. I work closely with Hospice Casa Sperantei whom, I believe, have a model of care which is worth following and who have been of great support in our initiatives to provide a quality service.

I was privileged to be invited to the 7th National Conference which was held in the winter resort of Poiana Brasov and NO I did not go skiing! Perhaps, however, you see the connection with my ‘touristy introduction!’ This was a beautiful place to be, which was enhanced by what I was to hear and be involved in! While some of the presentations were in English the majority were in Romanian and not translated. Nevertheless, I was still captured by the enthusiasm and passion of those involved in providing care for the terminally ill through seemingly insurmountable difficulties! Palliative Care in Romania is a very new concept as you will no doubt have noticed I keep emphasising, so it was very encouraging for me to know that some professionals in Romanian healthcare are willing, not only to embrace the concept, but to promote it with all their heart!

Here was a forum where health and welfare professionals could share their views, cares, concerns, frustrations and successes and show their commitment to bring their country into the 21st Century.

Pray fervently that God will raise up for Himself, men and women who, “do not grow weary in doing good.” (2Th 3:13 NKJV) Commitment The Sherwood Greenlaw Church Junior Singers from Paisley have been around long before I was born and are still going strong. Ranging in age from 5 to 18, a succession of young ladies have over the years given up their Friday evenings to practise their singing skills under the voluntary guidance and instruction of Mary Bonner, a school teacher who lives in Langbank. The tenacity and commitment of the girls is only overshadowed by that of Mary who has been associated with the choir for over 40 years, fulfilling the role of tutor/conductor for over 30 of these. This is real commitment!

I providentially met this remarkable woman in 1994 in my professional capacity as a police officer (no she is not a criminal) and the short time we were together our discussion got round to how we spent our ‘leisure time!’ It soon became apparent to me that Mary had very little time for leisure! When she heard about my work in Romania, Mary promised that the ‘Choir’ would help to raise funds and this certainly was no idle promise! Mary and the talented young women of the Choir and other friends have been tireless in their support of Something for Romania, raising thousands of pounds over the years, using their God given gifts of sweet voices. Nothing I write can convey my appreciation of their magnificent effort!

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