2002 Visit Reports

2002 was an exceptional year for the Charity.  We had two teams working in Mina-1-Mai during July and August in and around the Hospital.  The weather was atrocious with continuous rain and low temperatures, the worst we have ever encountered.

The teams were made up of electricians, builders, carpenters, care workers and DIY enthusiasts.  Most members had visited previously so were familiar with the surroundings, nevertheless there was the usual settling in period, renewing contacts with friends.  During the latter part of 2001 the resident Doctor, Dr Soica, left for a more senior position in another hospital and will be missed.

Survey Trip, March

The three man team went out to the hospital with a view to installing the ventilation extract fan in the kitchen.  Due to low temperatures in the village over the winter, the pipes in the flat were frozen so there was no water available.  For this reason the team stayed in a hotel in Brasov and commuted daily.  

Once the old fan had been dismantled, it took another two days to assemble the parts for the new one.  Once completed, it was wired through an isolator and contactor to allow correct operation.  It was initially found to be too powerful for the area and thought to be making the cooker draw more than required.  This was solved at a later date when the cooker was reconditioned and the holes in the top of the cooker sealed to prevent the extract unit drawing directly from the fire in the cooker.


The flat was inspected and found to have many leaks in the plumbing.  It was decided not to repair these at this point because the temperatures were still well below freezing which meant any repairs would be short lived.  Towards the end of the week we had a meeting with the Governors of the school and discussed the possibility of providing computer facilities in the summer trip.

First Summer Team, July

On arrival it was found that there were several water leaks in the flat, which involved significant repairs to pipework.  Having viewed several cars / minibuses for purchase, none were deemed suitable, so the team would have to rely in Istvan for transport.

The care team was keen to start, but it was obvious a number of special friends had degenerated due to poor diet, were were still up for the activities arranged for them, and seem very lively.

A number of projects were discussed with the Head Nurse, and agreed that we would try to repair the front wall with buttresses, clean and redecorate the kitchen and anterooms, continue the rewiring of the hospital and attempt to build a new laundry in the old boiler room.

Istvan, with his contacts, negotiated the hire of a lorry and all materials were purchased and delivered to the hospital very quickly.  Despite having to avoid frequent thunderstorms and downpours, the wall was repaired, and three buttresses completed.  The kitchen walls and ceilings were cleaned prior to Francis Toner's Irish team arriving to paint them.  A 7kg washing machine was installed in the laundry, repairs to the pipes in the flat completed, and 9 socket outlets were fitted in the school.

The care team was busy every day making up women, shaving the men, painting pictures, playing football and skittles, and providing stimulation and love these poor people crave and deserve.  The value of their work was recognised by the head nurse who said the patients often ask for this type of activity, but they were generally unable to provide it.


Second Summer Team, August

The tasks for the period were agreed with the Head Nurse - complete the pillars started by the first team - continue wiring the kitchen - carry out essential maintenance - if time permitted construct a further outside shelter.

The building team started the foundations for the pillars and extended the existing ones to accommodate a design change to incorporate buttresses forced against the collapsing wall.  The main problem during the week was water.....gallons of it pouring from the sky necessitating drainage ditches to be dug.  Hospital maintenance stff assisted and actually built two of the pillars and added rendering.  Work continued throughout the two weeks in the rain.  As fast as cement was being applied it was washed off.  In the end extra lime had to be used in the mix which caused havoc with skin care and eyesight.  To complete the project, a roof structure of terracotta tiles was added.  This was a mammoth project and to finish it in the prevailing conditions  and against what seemed insurmountable problems, showed that determination can overcome adversity.


The electrical teams work proceeded to plan.  Lights were adapted and fitted with external fittings.  During the second week, the computers arrived from the UK for installation in the school   Existing sockets were inadequate and new ones had to be fitted.  In all five computer suites were installed and tested.  The wiring and lighting to the kitchen suite of rooms was completed and tested.


The care staff went into the hospital and assisted the patients with strip washing, hair cutting, shaving and nail clipping.  The hospital only had hot water one day a week, so water and toiletries had to be carried from the flat.  Different wards were visited each day and it was interesting to note several patients which had previously been withdrawn came to us and knew exactly what to do when given a toothbrush and shampoo - it is a shame these are the neglected ones.  Due to the extreme weather many activities had to be performed in the clubroom, where two occupational therapists watched over needlewomen and budding artists.   Each day squash was provided to the patients, and on the last day toiletries, jewelry, biscuits, cigarettes and balloons were distributed.  There were 137 patients, on a budget of 1 a day.  There seemed to be no shared beds - except out of choice.  Some mattresses were in poor condition and lacked waterproof covers.  As always the gap between degrees of mentality is huge and the efforts of some folk to maintain dignity has to be admired.

To round off the teams work, a compete set of strong, safe, hygienic furniture (25 tables and 75 chairs) was ordered from a local manufacturer to be installed in the dining area.  Also a new set of desks for the school was ordered.


Winter Team, December

Detailed below is the report by Matt Bigwood which has been submitted to various media agencies.  It includes some photos taken during the visit.


Romania experienced social and political upheaval during the twentieth century. Following the rise of the Iron Guard fascist movement in the 1930s Romania fought alongside Germany in the Second World War until 1944 when they changed allegiance, and a Soviet-backed government was installed the following year.

The country has struggled to embrace a market economy since the collapse of the communist regime after the bloody revolution of December 1989 which overthrew dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. His rule began in 1965, and ended on Christmas Day 1989 when he and his wife were executed - broadcast live on national television. 

Inflation has played havoc with the economy. In 1989 an English pound was equal to 20 Lei. A decade later 1 would buy 33,000 Lei, and today the exchange rate stands at 53,000 Lei to the pound.

The ailing economy is one of the reasons for the difficulties at the hospital in Mina 1 Mai. 


Russell Butcher, Matthew Bigwood and John Anyon travelled to Mina-1-Mai on December 7th.

A variety of men's and women's shoes were donated by Russell's workmates and given to hospital staff to fit to patients most in need.

Russell Butcher spoke of the need for shoes.  "Last year it just seemed to me to be something that would be useful, so I made a request for people to donate shoes, and I was actually inundated with them - more than we could bring.  I think it's been quite successful and we hope to continue this in future years.  I've still got more shoes at home which hopefully we can bring out on the next trip in March."

Whilst some had stout pairs of boots or shoes, some patients walked through the snow and freezing temperatures in either plastic sandals, or in one case, no shoes at all. 


Head nurse at the hospital, Mariana Stoica told, through the team's translator, how many patients did not have good shoes: "The country's medical system suffers because of the state of the economy.  Between 1993 and 1995 almost all the shoes and clothes came from the North Nibley Romania Team. There would not have been any help from the government, everything came through humanitarian aid.  Even now the hospital is alarmingly reliant on help from the charity: The team's help means a great deal to us at the hospital.  We rely on soaps, disinfectants and toiletries donated by the charity for three-quarters of the year".

The team funds a lorry each year to transport such goods as well as any building materials needed by the teams who visit each summer.

A survey team of three or four visits in March to prioritise the work which needs to be done. In July and August two teams of builders, electricians, plumbers and helpers visit for two weeks and work at the hospital. Last year work started on replacing the wiring. This will continue next summer when ancient distribution boards will be replaced and safety brought into line with that of the rest of Europe.

Team members Russell Butcher, John Anyon and Matthew Bigwood made the 2,000-mile trip to the village north of Brasov to distribute gifts to patients and children in the nursery school - which gave a Christmas concert in their honour. Children in national costume enacted a traditional Orthodox Christmas and New Year celebration which saw a pupil whipping out the old year, and children throwing grain to assure prosperity in the coming year.


In October new desks were delivered to the school - these had been funded by the charity and built in Vulcan, a nearby Romanian town. The team's philosophy is to buy within Romania as this helps the ailing economy and reduces transport costs. The desks they replaced were reminiscent of those in use in Victorian Britain.

Money was donated to buy a small package of gifts for each of the patients and the 60 members of staff. The biscuits, chocolate, wafers and soft drink were handed out on Tuesday. Team members were moved by the gratitude shown for such humble presents.