Year: <span>2019</span>

21 Jan

Experiences from Volunteers visiting Nightingales

My time at Nightingales Children’s Project by Hannah Giraudeau a pupil from Dauntsey’s School


In the summer of 2018, I had the privilege of visiting the children’s project after raising money in its support for several months with my school. Nothing can prepare you for the community you’ll come across at Nightingales, a community built on a foundation of love and support and a place like no other. We arrived in the evening, welcomed by the Nightingales team, and of course a lovely meal prepared by Stela (who was an incredible chef throughout our time there!). This trip is an annual tradition for my school, yet it still came as a shock to hear how anticipated our arrival was by the local children, and how they had been showing up at the gates days before we were even there for the activity days. The week itself was simultaneously the most exhausting and incredible experience of my life; starting the day with the wake-and-shake, spending mornings playing games on the field (“rata rata gasca – duck, duck, goose” a personal favourite), dancing to “Waka Waka” for hours on end, and of course finishing the day with one of the famous Dragon’s Den frappuccinos-ice coffee with ice-cream, all whilst creating cherished memories and friendships along the way.  Some of my favourite moments have to have been playing “Cal, Cavaler – a variation on music statues” (despite not winning once, I still think it was rigged!), Baba and Vali’s amazing dance duet during the talent show, and the intense games of volleyball played between almost one hundred people. The final day was an emotional one; it was so hard to say goodbye to everyone we’d met, and it amazed me how quickly such strong bonds were made with everyone. Everyone involved in the project is so hardworking and immensely creative, and I came away from Romania with an unforgettable experience. I wish them all the best in the future!

A trip to Nightingales with Stand International – September 2018 by Sarah-Louise Kennedy

I had an amazing time at Nightingales project last year. I spent two weeks volunteering through Stand International. I was nervous and excited about the trip with Stand as I didn’t know what to expect with coming to a new country and not knowing the language but I was surprised at how many people could speak English. I couldn’t wait to start the work at the project and to see the difference it would make. During the two weeks I painted murals at the project, I felt my painting skills were not the best for the job but by the end of the two weeks my skills develop and my confidence grew. I really enjoyed meeting the guys at the house on street Ovidiu and seeing the excitement on their faces when we arrived and building a relationship with them even though I only knew very little Romanian. The Nightingales team are special people who have a heart of gold and put so much of themselves into the project. If it wasn’t for them where would the guys at Ovidiu be? What would the children have to do in Cernavoda?  The trip made me realise how grateful I am for what I have and how lucky I am to have what I have. 

My Summers in Romania – an entry from a pupil from Dauntsey’s who came with her school and then returned the following summer to volunteer with some friends.

I first visited Nightingales Romania in July 2017, where I volunteered as part of the Dauntsey’s school annual trip to the charity. In this time we worked arranging activities for children from different backgrounds. I found this experience valuable as I have always been interested in different cultures and in charity work. I then visited Nightingales in 2018 as part of a smaller group when we took some of the girls from the ‘Girls at risk’ scheme away on a holiday to the coast in Constanta. This allowed us to engage in team-building activities and build stronger relationships with the girls. Working with the Nightingales charity has taught me how materialistic Western society can be, and while I appreciate everything I have, it has encouraged me to help those less fortunate than myself. I plan to visit again in 2019, and after developing strong relationships with those involved with the charity, I will maintain contact and continue to do anything I can to make a difference. – Beth Lacey

21 Jan

Summer 2018

The summer time in Cernavoda is always full of activities, trips, groups and visitors. This year was no different. It is a great time for the young people at Nightingales and in Cernavoda to meet new and interesting people. A time for some of them to learn new skills; and also step up to use these newly learnt skills.

Dauntsey’s School from Wiltshire have been coming to Nightingales every year for the last 11 years. It is a fantastic partnership. The young people from Dauntsey’s learn new skills and are forced to open their eyes to some of the problems and pressures facing those people in Cernavoda. They run a week of activities to which anyone in the town is welcome to come. This year saw about 150 people a day come to these activities. Young people from all walks of life in Cernavoda, young people who would not normally mix socially were there enjoying the activities. For the young people of Cernavoda it is a week when they can forget their problems and enjoy fun activities all day everyday.

One of the highlights this year was seeing one of the quietest girls of the project translating for the Dauntsey’s students.  She came out of her shell and one day completely led an activity with 15 children and 5 English students. It was just so brilliant to see this.

Stand International (based in Scotland) bring out three teams a year.  This summer they bought a fantastic team who did some amazing building work, working alongside the young people at Nightingales .

This summer the team worked hard but also were a great example for one of the young men from Nightingales in particular. During the week we saw him work side by side with the Scottish team, often getting angry as they talked in English and he couldn’t understand. But at the end of the week with the whole team from Stand having really enjoyed spending time with them, he apologised to them and told them that he would miss them and that he had learnt a huge amount.  It was amazing to see his maturity and the way he was able to apologise and express himself.  Something he would have struggled with in the past.

The summer also means beach trips, getting out and BBQs. The young people who live at Nightingales love this period and this year was just the same. Baba had his birthday at the beach, we had many walks in the town; Trips to Constanta and also the Girls at Risk had a fantastic few days away just south of Constanta. The summer is huge for the work we do. Working through long hard winters it gives our young people and staff something to look forward to. It also makes for a perfect place for conversations when people are relaxed and happy.

21 Jan

Social Enterprise at Nightingales

In January 2017 Nightingales opened a coffee shop and play area for young families in Cernavoda. The reason for opening it was because we needed a place where our young people could work, learn what it means to have a job and also to provide young families in the town who need support. In the last two years we have seen the place grow in ways we didn’t imagine happening. And it has all be down to the hard work of the young girls who are employed to work there.

The story starts before 2017, in 2015 when the gym we were running out of the building closed down due to huge competition from other gyms in Cernavoda.  For a year we tried to get the paperwork for the charity to run a business. We knew it was possible and were told it was possible but no-one knew actually how to do it. So finally we set up Nightingales Children’s Project Srl, the Romanian version of limited. The young men from the football mentoring scheme then set about renovating the gym into a coffee shop and play area. They did an amazing job and things began to take shape. The organisation IWA Bucharest then sponsored the coffee shop so we were able to buy the furniture needed, a coffee machine; (very important in a coffee shop!) and also a machine which our disabled adults will be able to use in the future if we can employ them. Dauntsey’s School and Stand International worked hard to make the outside area look inviting and a fun place to be.

After a huge team effort,  by January 2017 we had all the paperwork, chairs, tables and coffee needed to start.

In January 2017 we had no employees but  2 of our long term volunteers Ben and Luiza Wells were able to work there as volunteers as administrators of the business and on  19th of January 2017 we opened the doors.  We didn’t expect a huge amount of people to come, but in the first week, (when we were open just Friday and Saturday afternoon), we made almost 100 pounds!

Since then we have really seen the place evolve.  It is now a regular meeting place for young families, a party venue for Children and a place where our young people who were in our projects come and hang out with their friends.

We have employed 10 young girls who have learned the benefits of working to earn money. They now have the skills that make it possible for them to have a bright future.  They have worked in a workplace which has often asked hard questions of them but also supported them through out.

We have become a place where young people want to come to, a place where, every Friday night, over 30 children come to an arts and crafts activity. The place has grown more than we could have imagined over the last two years and we are all very excited about how this will develop further going forwards.

21 Jan

Social Change Through Football

Nightingales has been using football to mentor young men, to prevent them from trafficking young girls since 2012.

Initially we ran a five a side football team that played in a local league.  From the first game where we struggled to get 6 players, within 18 months we were running our own league with up to 120 young men taking part on a Monday night.

It became hard to use this as a mentoring opportunity due to the vast numbers of people involved, and the lack of volunteers. Then when the sports hall that we were using was closed down for renovations, it gave us some time to decide how we could best use football to effect change in the lives of the young men in Cernavoda.

In 2018, A.S Emaus Cernavoda, joined the sixth tier of the Romanian football league, with the dream being that in 7 years we could be playing champions league football!!! The reality has not quite followed the dream. At the half way point of the first season, we are bottom of the 6th division, but off the pitch the young men are growing, maturing and have proved themselves to be positive members of society. together with a team from Constanta.

A. S Emaus was born from the young men in Cernavoda, with whom Nightingales had been working; a group of young people who had recently left the state care/orphanage system of Constanta, some recovering addicts and a group of boys living in a Roma, a community in Constanta.  

More than 70% of the young men involved in the Football Academy are now also in fulltime employment or education. Many of them have started to volunteer at local football projects which help disadvantaged young people in the local area, and some will be helping to run a pilot scheme in a local prison, to teach the members of the prison life skills and football skills.

This group of young men are proud of their team, they have the smartest strip in the league, (the old Sunderland away kit); they play their home games at the third largest stadium in Romania (for no fee); for Christmas their received original polo shirts and jackets from the England team and, they have the only foreign coach in the league. So far the only victory on the pitch was celebrated like they had won the champions league. Although the hard work in training has not yet been translated into results on the pitch, off their pitch in their lives they have had great wins and I am sure these young men and team will have more and more success.

It is strange for the team when they lose a game to be asked by the opposition, how can they come and play for them, because even though they have beaten them, they prefer the atmosphere, the way they support each other on the pitch and the team spirit between the players, coaches and even the ball boy. This is a different team, playing a different style of football with some beautiful results on and off the pitch.