Nightingales Children's Project Romania - Charity number – 1047698

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. 

19 Dec

Volunteering at Nightingales Children’s Project, Romania

I first started volunteering at Nightingales Children’s Project in the summer of 2014 and did so for the next 3 years.  During these summers, I worked with children from the town, the girls in the Girls at Risk Project and the young adults in the supported and independent living flats.  I quickly fell in love with the charity and its beneficiaries and particularly loved the supportive and caring environment provided by the charity.

Throughout the summers, I would help run programmes with the beneficiaries such as mini Olymics, arts and crafts sessions, games days and run activities such as making fruit kebabs. The summers were full of fun and always went too quickly.  I felt like there was so much more I could do, offer and also learn from working with the charity.  I missed it when I returned home and couldn’t wait to arrange my visit for the following year.  Although I kept in contact with the beneficiaries throughout the year and helped raise money to support the charity, I always found my time actually staying in Cernavoda was so much more beneficial.

During my visits during the summer holidays, I would stay with the young adults in the supported living flat.  The young adults were so welcoming and we learnt a lot from each other.  We worked on healthy eating and cooked and ate together every day.  We would also play games, talk lots and much more.  I began to feel really at home here and was able to help these young adults with anything they needed, day or night.

After my first two visits, I decided to move to Cernavoda in order to commit to the charity more and support the beneficiaries in a more consistent way. Since moving here, I am more readily available to help the beneficiaries of the charity and love every single day. I am so proud to be part of this wonderful charity and am excited to continue to contribute to this community.

I have now been living here in Romania for three months and have loved every minute.  I work mainly with the girls from the Girls at Risk Project and mentor three girls in particular.  I find this so rewarding and am enjoying developing this relationship with them.  We meet up frequently and do mentoring sessions whilst getting a juice, doing some art or playing games.  I love spending time with the girls and enjoy seeing them learning and developing.

Since having moved here, I also run an English programme each week with some of the girls from the project.  We speak in English, read, write, listen to music, watch films and more.  I am also able to help with the girls’ homework if they need it. The music and books we listen to and read are tailored to aspects of development that I think would benefit the girls too.  For example, we read books about inspirational women and listen to songs about being ourselves.  This time with the girls is so valuable and I thoroughly enjoy it.

Volunteering for Nightingales is, without a doubt, the best decision I have ever made.

19 Dec

The story of Mihaela – The long term care programme:

woman-731395_960_720Mihaela* was abandoned by her mother when she was just a baby in an orphanage. Her mother was unable to look after a baby. Mihaela struggled health wise for the first part of her life, often spending large amounts of time in hospital with various problems. She would become quite anxious and angry because of this and being unable to express herself so she would bite her hand for relief.

When Mihaela was 12 she was moved from the state-run orphanage to a home run by an NGO where finally for the first time in her life she could grow her hair, something that she is still very proud of, she was able to start education and have a few possessions that she could keep and clothes of her own rather than communal. She lived with her friends at the NGO until the age of 18 when she finished grade 8. If she had remained in state care this would have meant she would have been sent to an old people’s home for the rest of her life. But in 2007 she moved into a supported living house where she and 4 others live with the support of car workers. They are fully active in their daily lives, shopping, cooking, cleaning and doing daily chores at the NGO which oversees the house.

Mihaela would not have the quality of life she has now without this support, she is able to shop without being able to read or write, or understanding the notion of money with the support of workers and the local community. She loves spending her free time making jewellery, drawing and watching Turkish films. She understands everything even though she cannot read the subtitles or understand the Turkish.

*Names have been changed to protect this young person’s identity.

04 Jun

Cycling from London to Cernavoda you must be mad?

2 Wheels 2 Cernavoda

Jo Wells is cycling from London to Cernavoda this summer to raise funds for Nightingales. Here she talks a little bit about her worries, plans and excitement about the trip ahead. Jo will be joined on her trip by Douglas MacGregor, who has  just had a hip replaced! Links to their Facebook pages you can find at the end of the article.
Their aim is to raise £5000 for Nightingales Children’s Project.

‘This weekend, I attended the second annual Cycle Touring Festival in Clitheroe. Unsure of what I would get from being there, I was keen to try and absorb as much useful information and advice that I could from a host of experienced bike tourers.
What I came away with far exceeded all of my expectations. I left inspired, buoyed up and almost ready to leave that instant. My planned journey, from London to Romania, paled in comparison with the extraordinary adventures of the majority of festival goers but every single person was keen to offer road-tested advice and support.
Recently, many of the conversations that I have had about my trip have left me with a silent and growing sense of dread.
How is your training going?
Have you planned your route thoroughly?
Where are you going to stay?
Have you thought this through?
How are you going to stay safe?
Do you think you should do it next year and have a nice holiday this summer instead?
Never quite sure of the answer to any of these questions, I have flustered through vaguely plausible answers but this weekend I have realised that I have the answers to all of these. Yes, I am ready for this trip. Anyone can come up with an excuse for not starting and all of these questions could provide legitimate reasons but actually none of them are good enough to prevent me leaving on 29th July 2016. Many things will go wrong; most things will probably go wrong but I will learn as I go and adapt to what I have to overcome.
Leaving the festival on Monday morning, I felt as though I had been welcomed into a community of people who cycle for the love of cycling. Cycling is not a race, nor just a means of commuting, nor a chore or part of an exercise regime. These people cycle so that they can experience so much more of the world and the people in it. The realisation that the world is a friendlier place than we are ever led to believe was so evident in everyone that I spoke to.
On my journey to Romania, I have no doubt that there will be many highs and lows but the inspiration for this trip will always remain the work of Nightingales Children’s Project and if that is not a good enough reason to just get going, I don’t know what is!’

Jo Wells
Douglas MacGregor

28 May

A quick day trip round Romania

Once a month the young people from Nightingales are invited on a day out to Bucharest by a lady who runs a charity there. She prepares monthly trips for young people and children from various institutions and hospitals from the Bucharest region. Thursday 19th May was supposed to be another trip just like every month. Martha, the lady from Bucharest told us that we would be visiting 4 monasteries just outside of Bucharest and that we would have to be at the meeting place, McDonald’s at 8.00am rather than 8.30am.

The start time from Cernavoda was 6am, the sky was bright and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. We loaded into the mini-bus still a little sleepy ready to head off for a fun day!!! Little did we realise that this ‘fun day’ would take in a round trip of Romania and we would return to Cernavoda over 15 hours later!!

The first stop after McDonald’s was Targoviste, a beautiful town to the north west of Bucharest. The sun was shining and the grass around a local monastery was a true green colour. The young people loved walking around the grounds, chasing the odd cat and lying back relaxing on the grass. We were soon off to the next monastery, situated on a hill outside Targoviste, with amazing views over the town. It was after 1pm after we left here and the young people were a little hungry and tired and looked ready to go home!

Luckily it was also Turkian’s birthday and she bought everyone some crisps and juice to keep the spirits up until lunch time. The next monastery we had hoped was on the way back home, but this was wishful thinking!!! The GPS pointed us in the direction of the next place, over in the county of Arges!!

We arrived in Arges as the rain started to fall, and the young people’s stomachs were rumbling!!! The first monastery in Arges was also the lunch stop!! For us this was the last monastery. The young people ate as quickly as possible and we were in the van ready for a long drive home!! Almost five hours later we made it!!

Now to the outsider this might not seem like a fun day, but it was great, the young people were happy to chat, talk about summer plans and look back on the good times we have had together over the last few years. Adriana obviously did a lot of bus dancing!! Elena enjoyed some coca-cola, Baba was giving the driver constant instructions of where to go and the girls from the apartment were on really good form!! Often the best times are the most unexpected ones, exactly like our trip around Romania!!!

A quick day trip round Romania

27 May

The unsung heros of Nightingales

Nightingales like most charities relies on people to donate and fund raise, to be able to offer the opportunities for the beneficiaries of the charity. Without the drive and vision of David Savage we would not be where we are now, but there are a few unsung heroes who do all the groundwork, who daily are there with the young people and children we are working with, our staff and volunteers.

One of the positives about Nightingales is the staff we have, and have had, have always been dedicated to the Nightingales cause, the three paid staff we have currently working for the charity, have a combined total of 60 years working for Nightingales, this is a wealth of experience, and time spent with our young people. This allows them to offer the care these young people need. The staff we have had in the past have also shown their dedication and love for the young people, coming back to visit them, asking about them and we are sure thinking about them often.

The paid staff are not the only ones who have dedicated years of their lives for the young people here, it goes without saying David and his family have been involved with these young people for 24 years, next year it will be 25!!! In those 24 years there have been a whole host of volunteers who have given up time, jobs, holiday and money to come and spend time with these young people. Earlier this month Kerry Davies and Linda Davies came out to visit the young people, after a 13 year gap!! The young people loved seeing them both again, and we hope that there will be more volunteers who return on a more regular basis to visit these now young adults.

There are many people that Nightingales cannot run without, and often the staff and volunteers get forgotten behind those running marathons, raising money and running the charity, but the lives of our young people have been and will be changed by the dedication of the staff and volunteers that have invested so much time and love into these young people. Thank you all of you for your hard work.

The unsung heros of Nightingales

06 May

Sara’s Story


Elena's Story


Sara*, is one of our young ladies from the girls at risk programme, we have asked her to talk about her life growing up in Cernavoda, what choices her friends made and how she has been supported by Nightingales Children’s Project to choose a different future.

“When I was a young girl, I enjoyed playing with dolls all day long. After Daniel, my brother, was born, I had to look after him as my parents had to work. I was like a second mother to him, until class ten when my parents realised that I needed to spend time with my friends without Daniel. Looking back now having Daniel with me when I went out with my friends, helped me to make positive life choices, and because I was worried about what Daniel would tell my parents if I did some of the things my friends were doing.
When I was young my parents were very strict with me, and many times I wanted to run away from home, because I felt they did not understand me. Once aged 7, I was at home with Daniel and my father. Daniel was not feeling very well and I accidently knocked over his medicine. My father was so angry with me, he packed my bags and asked me to leave. I took the bags and left the house, a 7 year old holding a bag of her clothes, not knowing where I was going or what I was doing. Fortunately for me I had not gone far, and I met my mother coming back from work. She took my hand and walked me home. This was the start of the breakdown of the relationship with my father and since that day we have not been close, even though I have tried and often wish we could be close, like he is with Daniel.

At school I was shy, and did not make friends easily. In class 5, I made friends with 3 girls and we would spend all our free time together. Up until class 8; when they started to skip lessons, so that they could have sex with older men. They did not ask me if I wanted to come with them, maybe because I was more timid and shier than they were. Now two of the girls have children, the other girl is working overseas as a prostitute.
Four years ago, I started coming to the charity and getting involved in one of their summer programmes, and then helping to translate for the English volunteers. That summer I met Luiza, the Nightingales social worker, I quickly became good friends with her, opening up about my life and my family. At the end of the summer she asked me if I wanted to be involved in a programme for girls who are at risk of being trafficked. I finally found a place where I felt loved and could be myself without being judged by my family, or feeling as if I was second best to my brother. It was a refuge for me, which has helped me to resist the temptation to run away from home.

The charity has helped me in a huge amount in all areas of my life. It has been a great support when I have felt angry or powerless in the face of certain situations. Luiza has always been there to listen to me and give me advice whenever I have needed it. If she had not pushed me to study and the charity helped pay for extra maths classes I would have most probably not passed my Baccalaureate exams. I am now finishing my second year at university studying to be an accountant and dreaming of a bright future, where I can support my family through a job and hard work, not by having to use my body to make money.”
Sara is the oldest girl in the project and is a great example to the other girls of someone who grew up in their neighbourhood and is making positive life choices. We are very proud of her and the young lady that she is becoming; she has got a great future ahead.

  • Names have been changed to protect people’s identities.

22 Apr

A different week at school a great week at Nightingales

During this last week Romanian schools run a special programme of extra curricular activities instead of usual lessons. This week Nightingales has offered activities ranging from dance and games to cooking and arts and crafts. The activities were designed and run by a group of 8 of the girls at risk.

The girls spent the 2 weekends before this week devising a list of activities and getting eveything for the week. To be honest those of us supervising their sessions did not have faith that it would run smoothly, that they would be there on time or that sessions would captivate the children’s attention. How wrong could we of been?

school Nightingales

On Monday morning, having been told they should be there at 7.50, they were all there ready to go. The first group came and went, no problems all very smoothly. After 4 hours and over 120 children the girls were exhausted, so much so that one even feel asleep that afternoon at school. They did it, they ran engaging, fun and well run sessions all week. Children left saying it was the best time of their life. Teachers talked for hours about the value of what their children had just done. Mothers of pupils asked how they could engage more with the charity. None of this was down to the charity, the staff or the volunteers it was down to this group of 8 girls who showed that although they struggle in areas of life, they have such huge potential.

These girls have taught us a lesson this week, never underestimate anyone and we all have such great potential if only we have somewhere we can show it!

cooking and arts and crafts

19 Apr

Claudia: One tough cookie!!

Claudia was bought up in Cernavoda Orphanage, she was one of the brightest and smartest girls in salon 18. It must have been hard aged 4 seeing her friends and classmates move to another home in Mihail Kogalniceanu. But for Claudia this was the start of an amazing relationship with David Savage, a relationship which has lasted over 24 years and Claudia still keeps in contact with David and his family even though she is now living in Italy.

Claudia has suffered a huge amount in her life, this suffering has made her into the headstrong and determined young lady that she is today. The mother of a bright, intelligent child and a loving wife. Claudia’s friends will tell you that she is fiercely loyal, something that was developed in her as she was growing up, being let down by those around her and the people in whom she put her trust. She was an active and senior member of Casa Fericirii, the home run by Nightingales, always pushing boundaries, the first of the young people to go to High School, the first to pass their driving test, the first to move out and live independently.

Claudia has turned into a remarkable young lady, living and working now in Italy. She certainly has to thank David and others for helping her become the person she is today; but a large amount of the hard work was down to Claudia herself. Growing up without a mother, gave her the passion to be a great mum to her son, growing up in a communal living has made her independent, but also a loyal friend. Claudia has fought against a lot in her life, but she has turned into a fine young lady of whom we are all proud.

Claudia: One tough cookie!!

16 Apr

In case anyone asks, glue comes from Devon!

24 years ago a young man from Devon came for 3 months to work in an orphanage in Cernavoda, those three months changed his life and the life of those children more than anyone could imagine.

For the last 24 years Nightingales has cared for hundreds of children and young adults, provided often life changing volunteering opportunities for a large amount of people and employment for over 50 members of the local community, all this would not have happened if it had not been for one man, who has had the drive, ambition and the fight to make this possible, David Savage, MBE.

Yesterday David celebrated his 49th birthday, his last before he has spent more of his life in Romania than he has in England!! It is hard to put into words the effect that David has had on the lives of the young people who lived in Cernavoda orphanage and those families he, and Nightingales, have supported in the community. The majority of his work, will go unknown and unnoticed, (until we persuade him to write his autobiography), but the effect can be clearly seen in the lives of the young people today, lives that have been radically changed from 1992. Young children living with no hope, and little or no love waiting for the next of their friends to pass away; who today are active members of the communities they live in all across Europe. They are now mothers to children, hardworking employees and most importantly young people who live in the knowledge that they are living a better future, than they could have imagined back in 1992!

David will take none of the credit for what he and Nightingales have achieved, saying it was down to a group of people, or it could not have been done without certain people, which is true he had an amazing team of workers, helpers and employees during the 1990’s; people who are still actively supporting the charity today, but David is still here, with 24 years of experience and now the support of an amazing wife and 2 beautiful children, still helping these young people, he is definitely the glue that holds Nightingales together.

Happy Birthday, thank you from all the young people you have helped, thank you from all the volunteers who you have given amazing opportunities to and thank you for holding Nightingales together for the last 24 years!!