We continue the excerpts from the diary of one of our researchers, who spent time working in a Romanian orphanage.
Part 3: The White Cross Houses
One of the aims of the White Cross Mission, aside from supporting the Spitals of Bratca and Remeti, is to get as many children as possible out of the State orphanage system and into family homes. There are currently four White Cross Houses open, with at least another one planned for this year. Three of the Houses have land attached, which is farmed to help support the families within them.
The first White Cross House - Casa Ferecit (House of Happiness) opened in 1997 and the five children there now lead a normal life working on the land and in the house, and attending the
nearby school. They have almost forgotten where they came from, and have formed a close friendship with their next door neighbours. The three other Houses: Trandafir (House of Roses), Anoushka and David, have all opened in the last 18 months, Casa David only just before
Christmas, and the 18 children living in them are in various stages of settling down to life in a happy family home.
Each House employs four Romanian 'house mothers' who work 24 hour shifts and then are given three days off. They all have their own families and homes, but treat the children as their own, and the children are more than happy to have four 'mamas'. The money for each House has largely been raised by one particular group in conjunction with the White Cross; they raise the initial money to buy and refurbish the houses, and then a certain amount each year to
support them. Buying the house and then getting the children
into it is a long process, as all the children have to be declared abandoned officially, and then time allowed for anyone who wishes to adopt or foster them to come forward. The parents of some of the children are coming forwards to try and reclaim their children, either because they can see that they are normal, or for the simple reason that they are better able to support them. These children frequently say they don't want to go with their parents - if they
are gypsies... (gypsies are second class citizens in Romania) and would rather stay in their 'family'.
The White Cross plans to fund the Houses until the youngest child is 18 at an estimated total cost of £100,000. When the youngest child is 18, the house will be put into the children's name. The long term goal is for the families to become self-sufficient. It is unclear how this scheme will work if put into practice as it seems likely that the Houses will always need some kind of support. There are, however, at least another four years until the scheme would need to be acted upon. There are plans to open one more House this summer, possibly two. The Onion House (Casa Ceapa) has been bought by former Bratca volunteers and Sebi, Viorel, Lucian, Ramona and Domnika from Bratca will hopefully move in there at the end of the summer. There
will inevitably be children unable to adjust to life outside the Spita, so it is important to the White Cross Mission that they continue to try and make life in the Spitals as good as possible.