2012 Visit Reports

Summer Trip, 2012

The 2012 Summer Trip had various members attending between the 23rd June and the 3rd July. Peter & Vanessa Tolson, 23rd June - 3rd July

John Roche, John Hale  25th June - 3rd July

John Hexter, Tony Calarco 25th June - 30th June


 Throughout they were superbly assisted by both Istvan, and Nina, we thank them both for their assistance.

Saturday 23rd June 2012

Peter and Vanessa arrived in Romania to drive back to Mina in thunder, lightening & hail stones, had to stop the car as it was so heavy & the car was being battered by the hail, scary stuff.


Got to the flat by 7.30pm and after one cup of tea, the power went off in the whole village and didn’t come on again till 3am.

After breakfast their were more storms. Then the weather got hotter and hotter, with a little rain on Tuesday.


Sunday 24th June


The flat looked like a bomb had hit but by the time Istvan arrived at 11.30 it was all squared away. We purchased provisions from the local shops, which made a change not having to go to the Metro.


They went to Istvans in the evening to watch the England match & drove the car back to the flat as Istvan was going in the mini bus next day to collect the others from the airport.


Monday 25th June

Peter and Vanessa went to meet the Elders Vicky & Randy who arrived from Bucharest and another Elder who was based in Brasov. They had arranged for the materials to be delivered at 9.30 am. We did the introductions &  supplied them with some tools from the flat to commence the work on the shelters.

Surprise Surprise the materials had not arrived, they arrived at 11.30 as the driver had got lost.

 Peter worked with the others who were unloading the lorry.


The rest of the team arrived with Istvan at around 6.30pm We had a meal and then Istvan went home. We all went to the pub for a ‘team building’ evening and Nina met us there too.


Monday 25th June onwards

Started with a meeting with Randy Wolsey and the members of the team that arrived yesterday, and we were all allocated tasks to perform during the build of the drying shelter.

Randy was getting really involved with every bit of work we engaged in.

The carpenter had retired, and most of our power tools were locked up in his workshop. Nobody had the key! We had made arrangements for the carpenter to return this morning with the key so that we may get on.  Randy had planned to be finished by Thursday evening, this we knew was not going to happen and as the week went on, work tasks were rescheduled, things went quicker, and we started to catch up.


One notable event was that there was a patient who was an accomplished thief. He would steal anything and everything, often under our very noses! He even stole the number plate off of Randy’s van. Eventually we cottoned on to his antics and started to develop a system to dissuade him from stealing. Needless to say it never worked. Life at Mina doesn’t change much. Different people, same problems.


By the tail end of our work, we were taking the initiative, and the work was going well. The project was finished late on Friday afternoon where Randy made a speech telling us that we were the best people he had ever worked with, and to make sure that if we had any other projects, to let him know so that he may work with us again. This made us very proud. He acknowledged all the work we have produced in the past, and pledged his support to our cause. Stirring stiff!  I think that what he did was very brave. To take charge of a team of workers that he didn’t know, and to lead them, is a situation where he should be applauded.


Saturday came all to quickly, and we had to bid farewell to John Hexter and Tony Carlarco. They flew home to Cardiff for a well earned rest. As for the rest of us, we continued working on other things.


First up was a modification of the band stand to accommodate Nina working with the patients. The table was too far away from the seating making it difficult to sit and work.


The second and last mini project was the removal of the fireplace in the flat. This structure was in our way since we have been in the accommodation, and now we were determined to make it disappear. One tap with the hammer was all it needed for it to literally fall apart. Clouds of dust formed and we all ended up like chimney sweeps. It must have weighed around 2 ton, and it all went over the balcony onto the ground below. What a transformation. Now we need to build a series of shelves to support our tool boxes and give us more room during the project work. Next year perhaps.


All in all, it was a successful trip where we had 2 new members who excelled in their work. John Hale and Tony Calarco are two very capable people who worked incredibly hard for the team. It was also a great test for the rest of the team, who rose to the challenge. Everyone worked very well together and it was a well balanced team effort including Vanessa who kept us fed and watered at the appropriate times, and even joined in helping with the build.  All the crew worked together and for each other. It was a pleasure to see.



 First Winter Trip, 2012


This trip was made by John Anyon and Matt Bigwood during the last week of November.



Arrived in Mina 1 Mai and had a meeting with the head nurse on Monday, who gave us a list of items we could buy for the Christmas gifts for the patients.

We managed to get each of the patients a pair of socks, a tin of pate, a carton of orange juice, a bar of chocolate and a tin of corned beef that was put into the stores to be used over the Christmas/New Year period. With Istvan's help, and assistance from the staff, we quickly and efficiently distributed the gifts on Tuesday.

The head nurse told us that the roof of the building opposite the flat (the former OT building, which is now four wards) will have its roof replaced next year through funding from Dutch and Irish charities, at a cost of around £6,000.

She also told us that the medicine situation is OK at the moment, but there are no reserves. Food is no longer prepared in the hospital kitchen, but 'ready meals' are delivered in a van three times a day. The kitchen is still used to dish up these meals and also for washing up the plates afterwards.

We were told that throughout Romania the health service has set aside 7.1 Lei per patient per day for food – this includes general hospitals as well as psychiatric institutions. The nurse hinted that the amount of food that can be bought for that amount might be OK if you are in hospital for a few days, but is difficult for long-term patients, such as in Mina 1 Mai.

The central heating seems very efficient, and we were told there are 10,000 litres of fuel oil which will keep the system running until February or March. The week we were there was unusually mild, but the flat was very warm and comfortable. There are a couple of wards below the team's flat which are generally quiet, but on occasions we heard shouting and loud noises very early in the morning.

The better the appearance of the hospital they receive more points, and thus greater funding for OT projects. The stipulation is that the extra funding is used by the patients and not for the fabric of the building. The head nurse told us that she hopes the law can be changed to allow patients to sell goods made in OT to help fund staff.



With regard to next year's project, the head nurse asked if it would be possible to build a roof over the wooden veranda at the front of the new OT building. Her main concern is that the wooden decking never catches the sun and is constantly damp and will soon be rotten. She mentioned that it could also be put to use as another drying area.



We also learned that several patients familiar to the charity, including Yolanda, have permanently moved out of the hospital to Holod, a settlement in Bihor paid for by private funding which is home to over 100 patients and aims to rehabilitate them. There are no schizophrenic patients there though.

The hospital in Mina 1 Mai has a limit of 144 patients which is always full. If one leaves they are soon replaced. We got the impression that there is now a higher percentage of patients with schizophrenia.



Later in the week we paid a visit to Garofita at the primary school, and were entertained by children in her class who sang us a song. Things seemed OK there, but she asked if it would be possible to bring some Lego next year.



In all, a very good trip in very mild conditions – to the extent that were were able to stand on the balcony of the flat without a coat. On leaving a sunny Bucharest on Friday the temperature was a very warm 21c !

 Second Winter Trip, 2012

This trip was made by Andy Walker, and Jenny Owen, (her first visit to Romania) between the 13th and 17th December

The visit was a mixture of charity and social.

Unlike Matt and John, our weather was 'real' winter.  We arrived to deep snow everywhere, and temperatures at around -18c.  Istvan picked us up from the airport, and we had a reasonable journey despite the conditions.  We stopped for a most welcome hot meal in Brasov, before heading for the Metro.

The idea was to do all the present shopping on our way to the flat, so that we didn't have to disturb Istvan over the weekend, releasing him to be with his family.  We would use taxi's to get around.  We arrived in Mina at about 9pm.  The flat was warm enough, but we were very glad we had brought cold weather clothes and had the heavy duty sleeping bags.

Nina joined us on the Friday.  We checked on the patients, and conditions were ok, but still distressing.  Many appeared cold, although heating did seem to be on throughout the hospital.

We also checked out the mortuary, and were able to confirm the money donated by Wendy was used to good affect and that it now had a double glazed window and looked in good condition.

We then popped in to the school and surprised Garofita. As usual we were made welcome, and the kids were let of the leash for an hour while we were there with them.   We then had time to explore the village a bit, still snowing, and now -20c.  In the evening we got a taxi to Codlea and ate there with Nina.

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The Saturday was a day of leisure.  We went early to Bran and visited the Castle during the morning.  Nina is currently working with another charity in Harman which tries to get kids with various disabilities integrated into society.  The chap who runs it kindly agreed to take us in his van to Bran.  We had something to eat there, and then went to the Sunshine Foundation charity in Harman for a couple of hours.  It was an amazing experience, so different to the type of work we do at Mina, yet just as valuable in a different way. 

In the evening we went into Brasov to enjoy the wonderful Christmas celebrations, the amazing tree, great entertainment, and finished off with a nice meal before heading off home...down to -22c now.

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On the Sunday we went to see the patients again.  We handed out their individually named Christmas cards and distributed the gifts we had for them.  As usual, they were so happy to see us, and to receive the gifts.

We also hung a framed photo of Bert Colgrave in the dining area of the flat.  Bert sadly passed away in 2012, but to have his face and spirit looking over us is so comforting.

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Later, we went to visit Nina's parents, and were truly warmed up (and one of us a little bit tipsy) by the local spirits they gave us.  They were so welcoming.

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 In the afternoon we went back into Brasov, and went up the cable car to the hills and spent some time walking around the woods, and looking out over Brasov. 

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We returned to Codlea, now down to -26c, and had another lovely meal there before retiring for our final night.

On the Monday morning, we first visited the school again, to deliver a selection of fruit for the kids, before Istvan arrived to take us back to the Airport.

It was a lovely visit, great to spend time with the patients and school kids, and also nice to have a bit of social time.  We also experienced the snow and wintry conditions, which made the village so beautiful. Our thanks to Nina for being there throughout, and to Istvan for ensuring we got safely to and from the airport.