1993 Visit Reports

This year, four visits were made to Romania, one in the Spring, two in the Summer, and one in the Autumn.  Also this year, the charity bought its own van which covered in excess of 4,000 miles.

Spring Survey Visit

An engineer and an architect went out to prepare the way for the summer, with meetings held in Mina-1-Mai, Bucaresti and Botosani.

In Mina-1-Mai, it was encouraging to see the amount of work which was underway in the Vulcan psychiatric hospital.  A local building company, funded by money from a Lutheran Church in Strasbourg, Germany, was making headway is various areas.

WARDS : When we first went out in 1991, 140 patients were sharing four footprint w/c's which had no flushing water, leaking drains, no hand basins, no lights, virtually no heating and little glass in the windows.  There was one communal shower where once a week the patients were stripped and washed down, rather like cows used to be on the way to the milking parlour.  In 1993 here were the builders altering the layout of the building so that each pair of wards would share a toilet with w/c and hand basin, a separate unitary shower cubicle, and each ward would have a hand basin.

MAIN KITCHEN : No more raw effluent running across the floor from a broken sewage pipe, a separate storage area being created for the food, a re-planned washing up area and a large number of detailed changes planned to bring a much higher degree of hygiene.

'SOCIAL' AREAS : A lounge area had been planned to replace the 'TV' corridor of our first visit, a chapel area set aside, and an activities room where it was intended that patients could relax, receive visitors, enjoy knitting or read.

In Bucaresti talks continued with the psychiatrist who has the responsibility for restructuring psychiatry across Romania.  It is hoped that he can help to develop an overall strategy through the contacts we have in the UK.  Another sign of hope for the future came from a visit to the Gheorghe Marinescu Industrial Therapy Unit, the first unit of its kind in Romania where patients can use their skills to work, rather than just lie hopelessly in beds or wander aimlessly around the corridors or grounds.

In  Botosani up by the NE border of Romania, discussions were held with another psychiatrist, a director of a large hospital.

Summer Visits

Not a good start.  Some of the first team flew out, intending to rendezvous in Brasov with the van which had left England three days earlier.  The van broke down in Germany and suffered a four day delay, so the three flown out had no food, supplies or tools to work with.

Arrived at Brasov Nord railway station after three hours sweltering on the train from Bucaresti, and met by out interpreter Istvan who thankfully 'thought we might be on the train!'.  Home to Istvan's parents to be looked after for three days, and not so embarrassed this time by the wonderful generosity and hospitality.  What started as frustration ended as a great beginning for the summer's work.  As the first three arrived at Mina-1-Mai in the back of a Dacia Ambulance (a story for another day) the story went around the village about our plight.

Home made bread arrived at the door, just baked, vegetables from the gardens, eggs laid that morning, a hot meal from the hospital canteen, hand tools lovingly cared for by craftsmen for years lent to us without hesitation - we had arrived.  The trust established between us over the past years had become evident as Mina-1-Mai took us under their wing, the value of returning each time to the same area became obvious.

This year we did not have the frustrations of travelling to work each morning from Brasov.  We were able to stay in the Vulcan Hospital property in the village and the benefits were great, especially the sense of being part of the community, part of that village in the hills.

There was tremendous disappointment concerning the building work in the hospital.  In the Spring a sense of excitement, so much started.  Revisited now, very little finished, everything still covered in builders dust.  The reasons for this complex, but the end result of the Strasbourg church's injection  of thousands of pounds is some minor improvement to the patients quality of life, but many are still at Zarnesti two in a bed, there are still few toilet facilities, there are no leisure areas and the kitchen still functions on one oil-burner stove.  As this report is being written (October 1993), the outcome of the meeting between the hospital authorities, the building contractors and the German church is awaited.  The tragedy is that the Strasbourg church may have to withdraw.  


Separate from the main ward building, in a two storey detached block, our builders started, and finished their Summers work.  Discussions identified that many patients received no visitors as there was no way to get to the village an back in a day, and nowhere to stay at Mina-1-Mai.  It was decided therefore that we should convert the top floor of the block into accommodation for visitors.


There is now a two bedroom flat with sitting room and bathroom within the Hospital grounds.  The Charity has been allowed to use this, so we can live where we work.

More time was spent with patients and children, difficult to describe in words.  How can you describe a young man being helped to write, an old lady with her new Bible, a party with children, patients and villagers chasing balloons, drinking coffee and eating Tesco chocolate flan cake.  Also the football match where Romania beat England (well, they had a few more players than us !).

Autumn Visit

On the 1st October, Istvan Szekal, out Interpreter for the past two years became a full time employee of the Charity.  Before being made redundant he was an engineer with a Helicopter manufacturer, he will now spilt his time between working as a youth worker with the Baptist Church in Brasov and for us as the 'man on the spot'.  His salary is the equivalent of 40 per month.  

On the 12th November the van will making another trip out taking appropriate aid a s the hospital, the school and the village prepare for another bitterly cold winter.  Three drivers will stay for a week, putting the finishing touches to the accommodation. 

In mid-November a psychiatrist from Bucaresti responsible for restructuring the psychiatric service in Romania arrives for a few days as our guest.  As well as attending an international convention in London, he will visit a number of psychiatric establishments around the country, his particular interest while over here being to investigate UK patterns of occupational therapy and industrial therapy.