Nightingales Children's Project Romania - Charity number – 1047698

27 Jan

The Nightingales Library

In the coffee shop Nightingales ran a 3 month season of reading with children. The children and the parents of the town loved the sessions. The children would hear stories, read stories and talk about the stories that they had read. Due to the success of these sessions, Nightingales decided to turn one of the rooms into a children’s library. A place where children, parents and schools can come and enjoy reading. A place where reading can be cool and fun.  The library is aimed for children between the age of 0-11 years old.

For Cernavoda, where many young people who drop out of school due to illiteracy, one of the aims of the library is to help combat this. The local schools have started using the facility, bringing reading groups and who get a chance to read books which are fun and attractive to look at. The students also get to use the playground in the main hall, which is a fun 3 storey climbing centre and trampoline. The library supports the schools in their aim to get all children literate by the time they are 11 years old. This helps to reduce the number of pupils of leave school between classes 5 and 8.

This library has only been possible due to the generosity of Dauntsey’s School, the Duggins family and also the foundation Good Bureau from Bucharest. If you would like to get involved in supporting this project then we are looking for people to sponsor their favourite book so that we are able to have it in Romanian in the library.

27 Jan

A trip to Street Soccer Scotland – Summer 2019

This summer I achieved one of my dreams of going to Scotland. Twelve of the team had the chance to go and spend two weeks in Scotland with two organisations, (Stand International and Street Soccer Scotland). We had a fantastic experience, we saw Cluj play Celtic in a Champions league game. It was an amazing atmosphere, the whole stadium vibrated when Celtic scored a goal. Cluj won the game in the last few minutes.

Each day we went to Street Soccer and learnt how to run a football tournament for the local community, we each had different roles, some of the boys were more involved than others! Stefan, who broke his leg in our first game even though he was on crutches, played a huge part. Each week we had 2 or 3 football matches with various teams, each team treated us with great respect and friendship.

It was an experience I will never forget going to Scotland and seeing so many places, people and also having the chance to support Street Soccer and the work that they are doing. We made some great friends, thank you to everyone at Street Soccer Scotland for making us feel so at home and so welcome.

23 Jan

An overview of 2019

Thank you very much for your support of Nightingales Children’s Project in 2019, without people such as yourselves we are unable to offer the opportunities to the young people in our care.

We have had a year with many highlights and some low points:

The young men from the football team, on the pitch have not had the results they would have wished for but we now have a large percentage of them in full-time education and employment. This means these young men are working hard to becoming positive members of Cernavoda and Constanta. Twelve of them had the opportunity to go to Scotland to participate in a course run by Street Soccer for 12 days. It was an experience they will never forget, and a fantastic time for us to invest in them as people. 

The young people with learning disabilities have had their bathroom and kitchen renovated thanks to a huge team effort of a number of volunteers putting in some amazing work there, and thanks also to the generosity of Stand International and Dauntsey’s School. These young adults continue to enjoy working at the charity, spending time hanging out with the young people that come to the day centre, whilst being the most amazing team of cleaners.

The girls in the mentoring scheme have enjoyed a good year, they have worked hard. One of the girls has graduated High School and is in full time employment, all of the girls passed their year at school. One of the original six girls from the scheme had a baby and got married. The social enterprise the girls run has expanded from candles to greeting cards to Christmas tree decorations. This has helped them earn money and learn new skills.

The coffee shop continues to be a great source of employment for the girls in the mentoring scheme, at present 5 girls are employed there. They are learning useful skills of how to excel in the workplace that will help when they gain full-time employment once they finish school. It continues to offer a great service to the local community, a holiday camp in the summer run by Dauntsey’s School for over 150 people from Cernavoda, each Friday an arts and crafts session provides fun activities for the local community and through a partnership with a local school we sponsor 3 places each week for those who have done well at school that week. In November we opened a children’s library, a space where families and schools can come and help get children and young people enthusiastic about reading. Whilst still being the number one place for parents to spend time actively playing with their children and celebrating their children’s birthdays.

In the last month we have also started supporting a local initiative that has seen people donate goods, clothes and toys which are still in good condition so that they can be sorted and shared amongst the poorest members of society in Cernavoda and in the surrounding villages. It has been great to see the response from the town, and also how people have been interested in volunteering and supporting those who need help. We hope in 2020 that we are able to work together with the people involved that the help and support becomes effective long-term and reaches the people that need it the most. 

These are just a few highlights of the year, there has been so much more going on. If you are interested you can follow us on social media and stay more up to date with the work that we are doing, Instagram @nightingales_romania and Twitter @NightingalesRom.

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. 

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