The woods are taking on the Paras’10!
Ian Wood will be running with 35 pounds on his back through the gruelling 10 mile Parachute regiment course, and I (lauren wood) will be pushing him from behind! As many of you know The LIFE Foundation is a charity our family works closely with, this year is no different.
We aim to raise as much as we can to be able to adapt the living spaces of many of the residents in the Romanian homes who are at most confined to their beds. With your help some of the these children will be able to have first time life experiences! We hope you can dig deep and help us out!
All our love,
Stepping off the bus in Cezieni, you will always be greeted by two or three residents. They are so excited to see you, and to see what you’ve bought to play with. They’ll take your hand, they’ll make it clear what they want, they’ll know you’re there for them.
But what about the residents that don’t? The residents that keep to themselves, that don’t realise they deserve this attention too, that don’t know how to ask for it? This is the story of how I met one special resident, who proved that the little things like a smile or hug really matter, and can make such a difference to one person’s day.
On our first day in Cezieni I spotted this particular resident at lunchtime. He was trying to eat, but both his hands were shaking, and he didn’t have the confidence to sit down with the other residents. So, I gave him a hand. I think what struck me about him was how surprised he looked: he kept looking at me, then lowering his eyes, then looking back when he thought I wasn’t looking. It was such a stark contrast to the residents that had bounded up to us when we first got off the bus.
Later, I saw him wandering around the grounds. Someone saw me looking over, and told me that he never comes over to the volunteers. On a whim, I decided that if he wasn’t going to come to us, I was going to go to him! Over that day and the next, I went over to him every time he walked past our group. I would take his hands, make faces, smile. Slowly, he started to smile back, he started coming over more and more. At the end of the second day, he gave me a hug. I had lots of hugs in Slatina, but that was the most amazing, rewarding moment of my trip.
Cut to day three, and he is following me around, the biggest grin on his face. The carers start to notice, and they’re shocked: they’ve never seen him interacting like this. On day four, he met us off the bus. The man that I went over to meet because he didn’t usually interact with the other residents, joined us all for a game of pass the parcel.
This particular resident isn’t the only person that doesn’t approach the group of volunteers, so if you see someone in Cezieni that is keeping to themselves, don’t be afraid to go over. And if you see the resident this post is about, or even someone in a similar position to him, do what I did and give him a chance. You don’t know how much of a difference your quick smile and “buna” could make.
* The name in this blog has been changed in order to protect the identity of the adult we support.
Tell us a bit about yourself…
Hi, I’m Nicola, The LIFE Foundation Manager, and I have been involved with LIFE for over 6 years now. After studying Neuroscience at Glasgow University, I worked with several national and independent charities, gaining skills in charity administration, accounts, training and Event Management. Alongside managing LIFE, I also run an out of hours childcare provision in a local primary school and provide interventions for children requiring additional educational or emotional support every afternoon.
I love my work, but my real reason for getting out of bed in the morning is my two amazing (and very loud) boys, Aiden, 8 and Dylan, 5 – and I can’t forget the 2 dogs, 3-legged hamster and 10 fish which all need breakfast!
Why did you join The LIFE Foundation?
I got involved when a friend asked me to help out with running a training event. Before I knew it, I was out in Romania playing with these gorgeous people who needed help. I stayed involved because I can see the difference we have and continue to make. It’s baby steps, but together, and with the huge help from our volunteers, we are getting there!
What does your role involve?
I manage the day to day running of the charity; finance, volunteer support, training, project development and most importantly I make sure there is coffee and biscuits for the committee meetings!
What’s the best part of your role?
I love the volunteer training days – there is such an amazing atmosphere and energy. So many inspirational people in one room with a common goal, it’s magical.
I’m also so grateful for the amazing Trustees and committee members; professionally I couldn’t do my job without their dedicated support, and personally I have made friends for life.
Any memorable moments?
There are many – some happy, some heart-breaking. The moment a child who tends to have very little interaction with anyone started to include me in his clapping game, dancing and twirling at the adult institution, and having my children help me to load up a van with lots of Christmas presents to be transported to the children and adults who would be so excited to receive them.
What would you say to someone considering volunteering with LIFE?
Do it. Do it next year, or 3 years down the line. Do it when the time is right for you. There are opportunities to make your placement as challenging as you are comfortable with (often driven by personal experience). The reward you feel from meeting these challenges, the personal development – that’s why it’s so amazing.
There are a lot of volunteering groups out there, some more ethical than others, sadly, ‘Volunteer Tourism’ has become a lucrative market for companies driven by profit. As a small charity, this is just not on our agenda. We are all extremely conscious that we have a responsibility to continually evaluate the work we do; its impact in both the short and long term and the strategies we use. Crucially, with LIFE, you can make a difference which is continually built upon – you can leave knowing that the project is sustainable and our work continues throughout the year.