2010 Visit Reports

Winter Promotional Report, January 2010

The team consisted of Matt Bigwood and John Anyon.

Matt and John visited Mina at the end of January for a few days.  The object of their visit was to create some promotional media showing the differences at the hospital, school and village since the charity first visited nearly 20 years ago.  It proved an enlightening and successful visit, and a new DVD should be available in the near future.

Spring Survey Report, March 2010

The Team consisted of Peter Tolson, John Roche and Paul Smith

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Monday saw us meeting the head nurse who had her list of jobs ready for us. These included purchasing some food for Easter, some ceramic floor tiles, and some printer cartridges.  Her requests for the summer was still centred around the drying shed, and also the purchase and fitting of a window for the sewing  room as the existing window is too small.

We also suggested that with all the investments we have made in the flat area, namely the dentist studio, toilets and showers, and the new wards, then perhaps we should be looking at doing something with the roof.  The head nurse said she had a contact and would get us a quote.  

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After the meeting, we did a tour, and found evidence of shrinking in the new building. Splits were visible and set to get worse. The patio area was superb and professionally built with decking and high steel railings.

All around the hospital frantic cleaning was going on. We were told that it was just spring cleaning, but also an inspection by the health authorities was imminent. The kitchen was being washed and cleaned. There were some signs of dampness in the new shower area. We were told that a pipe had failed in the cold winter and leaked into the wall. We will investigate.

We were informed that Dr Grigoriou was expecting us in his office at 12 noon the following day.

We spent the rest of the day getting some basic supplies for the flat, and sorting out where the plaque was going to be sited. 

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We chose the hospital for several reasons. Only Garofita in the school knew Phil. And the likely result would be is that it would not be looked after, and even painted over. We chose the entry to our flat area because it was sited on our own partition and was visible by both the hospital inmates, and our team as they passed to get to the flat. This way his memory would live on with the hospital patients and staff, and also the team members. Click here to see the photo’s of the fitting of the plaque.

The following day, we went around the builders merchants to purchase some tiles and adhesive. We also looked at steel and roofing slates. We found some very cheap roof tiles, but after inspecting the roof, we decided that it was not possible for our team to do the work. It would be too dangerous, and had many pit falls.

We arrived at the Brasov Hospital for the meeting. Dr G. was very courteous and thanked us for all our work. He gave us the same work list as the head nurse, but also stated that the roof should be a priority. He also asked us for more of the garden shelters that we built. We explained the idea of a canvas roofed structure on a steel frame for the drying area, and was happy for that to go ahead.

We stopped at a roofing centre, where we were given a contact of a roofer who may consider the work.  We also purchased some materials for the repair of the shower valve. We went in to a new building super centre where we found many things that we would need for the summer.

We met the dentist on the road, and she said that she was low on stock and would make a list of items needed.  

We distributed the Easter cards that we had for the patients, who as usual, were pleased and excited to receive them.

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The following day, we toured the school where we found crumbling walls due to the concrete that was laid last year. Anything that we do for the school would be pointless with the concrete in the yard making the structure wet.

We examined the doctors surgery where we met the doctor. She said all was well apart from a stop valve in the corridor. On examination we found that it had cracked through the body and the threaded end was sheared. We replaced this that afternoon. When we finished we had a call from the roofer who said he was in the village. He stopped outside the surgery, and together we went up to the flat.

The roofer made a thorough examination and said he could do the job and gave us a an all-in price. His estimates were in line with our own, and he showed a great degree of expertise which impressed our team. The tiles replaced would also be of a known quality. The price break down will be at the end.

Finally everything was done and it was time for home. We left at 5:00am for the airport where everything went smoothly.  

Summer Team Report, July 2010

The team consisted of : Peter, Vanessa, John R, Chester, Stephen, Piers. 11th July – 24th July,   John H  11th – 17th July.  Mike, Kirk, Carl, Liam, 16th July – 21st July + 4 missionaries on 19th July.

As always, the team started their work the day after arriving by meeting the head nurse and the Doctor. To our surprise, none of the requirements had changed, so we were able to get on with our work straight away. The tasks were as follows:

A drying shelter for the back of the hospital, as large as we can manage, replace a window in the sewing room, and install an extract fan in the new toilets.

To start the work, we laid out the canvas that we sent, out on the floor to see what the size looked like. We immediately realised that it was nowhere near as large as they wanted. This meant that we would have to do a quick re-design, and source the material we needed. We worked out the steel requirements and went off to find them.

Dedimans is the biggest & newest do-it-yourself store in Brasov, so we started our search in there. We ordered steel for the frame, corrugated roof sheets along with clear panels to let in some light, Cement, and fixing screws. Everything was arranged for delivery on the Wednesday. Sand was the next thing on our list, and proved the hardest to find. After several stops, Istvan sourced a merchant who had the sand, but could not deliver. Just as we were trying to figure out what to do, a van driver arrived in the yard who had worked with us before to deliver our items. We immediately asked him if he could deliver, and he said yes. Istvan had worked with this man before, but he had changed his phone number. What a stroke of luck he turned up at the very minute we needed him.

The team got on with digging the holes ready for the steel. We purchased a drilling machine for around £50. It saved us many hours of work, and performed perfectly. The chuck was not very good, but it did the job.

We were thinking about Mike and his team who were arriving later in the week. What would they have to do? It was decided that the canvas tent could fit the bill. We gave them the project, and let them build it completely on their own, with a little assistance in sourcing the tubing and cutting the steel. We were not sure what the hospital would think of this tent as it was gaily coloured like a circus tent. We didn’t need to worry. They loved it. John (one of the patients) soon rigged up lighting and organised the making of tables and benches. The last we saw, he was cooking on a stove in the tent, with a fan keeping him cool.

The third part of our work involved removing a small window from the sewing room, and installing a larger unit to get more light. Sourcing a ready made unit proved to be a problem, as the sizes were quite odd! We went into Brasov to get a tool from the market, when Istvan spotted a dealer of windows and doors. We all went in and to our surprise they said that they can make any window to our size and install it in a few days. The even put in mosquito netting that the sewing ladies asked for. The fitters arrived on time and the window was fitted with no problems whatsoever.  

We will use this company again. They even accommodated a change in the size that we asked for the next day!

Mikes team arrived, and started their project, and also purchased and distributed fruit and sweets for the patients. Mike is going to organise a regular fruit distribution with Istvan. The erection of the tent went smoothly, along with painting the steel. Later in the week, Mike organised the visit of 4 missionary workers. These were young people all from various parts of America. The spoke Romanian like the locals! They played with the patients and did some drawing with them; this was a great success as we had little time to spend with the patients ourselves.

Our little thief (one of the patients) was back on the job this year, and seemed to pop up everywhere including the flat. She stole some items from our kitchen. We never even heard her coming up the stairs, she even came up behind us, so quietly.

We had some recreational outings during our time in Romania. We had a meal with Mike and his group at the bed and breakfast that they were staying, in Vulcan. We also went to a new hotel in Brasov on the Friday to say goodbye to John H who was flying home on Saturday. On the Sunday, the boys went into Brasov, and Istvan took John, Vanessa and I on a mystery destination. It turned out to be a delightful cable car trip to the top of a beauty spot in Brasov. We didn’t even know that this one existed. We can thoroughly recommend this to you all, despite John and I falling over on the exit. We had to jump off of the moving seat with no assistance. We survived just!

Vanessa did her usual miracles feeding all the workers.  What a difference this made to our work. We were working in extreme heat and humidity this year, worse than we had known before and we were drinking fluids constantly, we got through 100’s of gallons of water & pop. Without Vanessa keeping us supplied, we would never have done our work.

Our final contribution to the hospital was to install a “new” computer in the hospital office. This was a computer we sent over with the lorry load.  Also sent over from England was a new ladder for the fire escape plan for the flat. Bert and Jean financed this ladder, and we can report that the size was perfect, and it was tested by Chester and Steve. Bert and Jean also sent a step ladder, and some food for team use.  Our thanks go to Bert and Jean for their contribution. This support really does make a difference.

For once, our visit had no real problems. Apart from a few delivery hiccups, everything went as planned. What we planned to do, we did. We even managed to get John H and Piers some new types of work. They still did loads of painting, but also worked alongside the building crew. They did exceptionally well and should be applauded. John R, Steve and Chester just got on with whatever they had to do. Well done to all of you.

Other activities :

The Dentist visited on the 2nd Wednesday we were there and did 7 extractions & some examinations.  We paid her up tol end of September and left Itsvan money to pay her again for Oct – Jan.

We found though that many patients clothing is not improving at all, they still walk about like tramps, no shoes, sometimes no underwear. The clothes they have on are although quite clean, in a bad state of repair, broken zips and ill fitting. We realise that with mental health issues, some of the patients choose to dress like this and no matter how nice the clothing they will destroy it.                               When asked, the head nurse said a shipment of clothes and shoes would be greatly appreciated. They do not need bedding. On discussion with some team members we decided that we could organise a ‘clothes and shoes collection’.

Winter Team Report, December 9-13th 2010

The team consisted of Andy Walker and Sharon Hare, this was Sharon's first visit to Romania

We had an interesting journey to Mina.  Flight delayed by 2 hours. Arrived in Bucharest with the pilot welcoming us to a balmy 16c.

The conditions were good, and we got to Brasov in reasonable time, colder and raining. We had a good meal there (thankfully), and set off for Mina, having had a text from Nina saying drive very carefully.  We soon found out why.  As soon as we got towards Ghimbav, we were hit by a blizzard, gale force winds, the roads covered in branches and treacherous snow.  We eventually got to the hospital about 10.15pm…..in darkness, and temperatures well below freezing.  All credit to Istvans excellent driving, and the benefit of winter tyres on the car was obvious.  So, arrival at the flat, and no power in the village.  Deep snow, freezing cold, and only thanks to John the Painter did we have two candles to ‘heat us’.  We slept fully clothed in the blankets and bags available.  Welcome to Romania Sharon !!


By the morning, power had been restored, and got the emersion going to get some hot water. 

Our first task was to see Stoica, and we had a constructive one hour meeting :

Food was not too bad, and they had sponsorship from several sources keeping it going

Fuel was ok

Projects for consideration

They could benefit from a standard size washing machine to wash staff uniforms etc separately to the patients to meet new regulations.

In the new OT building, they would like to make a kitchen area for the patients to learn to cook.  When we checked, only two real options.  1) Convert the existing storage area, which would be logical, but where would you then store the contents currently in it, or 2) build another extension for either the storage or kitchen area.  Both though would require a lot of tradesman type skills.

Insulation of the colder wards.  Possibly insulated false ceilings. Again another big job requiring lots of skills.

Yet another drying area.  While we were there, all were totally full, including the attic in the hospital. There were washed clothes lying on the floor in the corridor, and we even noticed excrement on the wall near them.

The most recent drying area we built from the tarpaulins had blown over in the storms.  Stoica said they were going to repair it urgently, but on the day we left it was still untouched.

We discussed other items which could be of benefit, and these included Incontinence ‘pampers’, blood pressure monitors and dressings / bandages.  Medicines also, but providing they were not beyond their expiry date.

Stoica advised there had been a 38% reduction in Health Service funds meaning large cut backs.  For staff, this also meant they can only bring in one new person for each seven that leave.

Presents for the patients.  Stoica was again very pleased we could do this, and it was agreed that the ‘practical’ gift in the bag this year would be a toothbrush.

While we were there, we met the Fire Officer who was doing a health & safety check of the hospital.  He made comment about the quality of the electrics, and the new fuse box, and said they were the best in the Brasov District, a great tribute to our electricians in the Charity.


During the day, with Nina and Istvan, we made a surprise visit to the school.  The kids looked well, and we got the traditional rendition of songs sung to us. What was concerning though was the state of the front exterior wall.  Up to about 3-4 feet from the ground, it was crumbling from the dampness, and is in urgent need of repair.  It would again be a big job to repair, and pointless unless the concrete base at the front of the building could be levelled or altered to divert water away from the walls.


We visited the Dentist in her surgery in Vulcan, and ensured she had her wages, and all was ok with her.


We then visited the Metro to do a pre assessment of the contents of the patients gift bags, and what we could afford.  We also looked at the potential of buying a washing machine.


In the evening, a home cooked meal, and the traditional evening of Jenga ensued with Nina and Costica.


On the Saturday, (and overnight), we had lots more snow.  It was amazing how quickly the road into the village was ploughed and gritted, it put the UK to shame.  It was a chance to spend more time in the hospital checking out the conditions. 


We spent more time visiting the patients, and then off to the Metro to buy the gifts.

The pre-visit proved valuable again, as we were able to go straight for what we wanted.  But our oversight was how to get it all back with 5 in the car !  A quick phone call to Vladimir at the pub, and he valiantly came to our aid with his van.

Sharon and Andy decided that they would make a personal donation, and purchased a new washing machine for the laundry, which we were able to take back with Vladimir.


For the gifts, we were able to purchase the following for 150 patients :

-         Toothbrush

-         2 x wafer biscuits

-         1 x chocolate bar

-         1 x bottle of juice

-         4 x clementines

-         1 x banana


Late afternoon, we unloaded all the gifts and with the help of the usual clan of patients got them carried up to the flat.

We then took the washing machine around to the laundry area, and handed it over to Simon, who would ensure it was fitted.  We checked, and all the plumbing was already in place from a previous washer, just need connecting up. 


During the evening, ably assisted by Istvan and his daughter Karina, we started the bagging up of the gifts, and after 2 hours, we were done.  then another nice meal cooked, and more Jenga and Dominos.


Overnight, temperatures plummeted to –15c, but the heaters in the flat did us proud.


Sunday morning, more snow, but a crisp cold day. We had said to Istvan he didn’t need to come until a little later as we were going to spend more time with the patients, and gifts would be given out after lunch.

Sharon and Nina attended the church service for a while, and then it was a chance to wander around the village experiencing its beauty in the snowy conditions. 


Istvan arrived late morning, with Karina., who wanted to help distribute the bags. After lunch, all the gift bags were carried across to the nurses office, and then ensued the usual queues of patients waiting for their bags.  We then distributed around the wards the remaining bags for those patients unable to get to the office.

After this, we then spent more time going to the patients, and it was so heart warming to see the pleasure on their faces, for such a small gift.  The image of one chronic patient trying to eat her fruit brought tears to the eyes, and Sharon ensuring (with the help of a lovely carer) that the man strapped up was released.  It was an emotional moment helping him eat his chocolate, and the first time we had actually got him to talk.


We had two crates (about 200) of Clementines still available, so we took these down to the school.  Nina chatted to the teacher of the one class there, and she will ensure they are distributed appropriately to the children.


During the afternoon, the weather closed in again, and conditions worsened.  Nina had contact from an English lady who was living in Brasov, and was interested in finding out more about the charity.  We made efforts to meet her during the evening in Brasov.


We  visited Istvan and Enoke at their apartment and were given the usual lovely hospitality.  Because of the weather, we advised Istvan we didn’t want him doing another trip to/from Mina, and would make our way back via taxi.

We then met up with Nina in Brasov, but unfortunately the English lady was unable to meet us. She will contact us via e-mail in the New Year. So, we spent time walking around taking in the amazing festive atmosphere, and the stunning tree in the square.  Snow and ice was abundant in the streets, it was an effort to stay on our feet.  After a meal, we got our taxi back to the village.


Monday, all packed, flat cleaned.  We went over to see Stoica, and gave her the traditional gift of coffee for her and the nurses.  We explained about the washing machine, and it was the first she knew we had bought it.  She was very grateful.


So, on the road back to the airport, goodbyes said.  Plenty of time, but then we hit a massive queue on the road about 20km from Otepeni, there had been a nasty accident.  Despite this, we got to the airport with sufficient check-in leeway………to find the flight delayed !!

So, another 2 hours extra (40 minutes spent in the plane on the tarmac), but we got home safe and sound by 8pm.


During the three days in the village, we spent as much time as we could with the patients, in fact we wish we could have spent more.  We must thank Nina for giving her time to help us in the hospital. Although for some, conditions had definitely improved, for others, there appeared little or no change.  Sharon was right in her observation that the more able patients were benefiting from the new wards, and OT etc, but the more chronic patients appeared to have no gain from these, and still resided in the coldest dampest wards with it seems the least attention.


We would like to record thanks to Istvan and Nina for working together so well and making up our team of four.  It was much appreciated, it meant we had an excellent working and social team, and we couldn’t have done without them and the help they gave us in different areas.