CIC Association

Serving Community Enterprise

School for Life Romania has worked since 1991 with, now, young adults, abandoned and orphaned in childhood. All grew up in a large neuropsychiatric institution for children, at its height in 1986 housing 1310. All have suffered institutional privation, neglect and abuse and now live in an adult psychiatric institution. The majority will need support for the rest of their lives.

In partnership with our Romanian Registered Humanitarian Organisation, Scoala Pentru Viata (run and directed by local Romanian staff), together we provide special needs education, opportunities for social inclusion, developing peer relationships, trips to the countryside, supported housing, employment and life skills support. School for Life Romania fund this work and provide skill sharing opportunities, regular visits, advice and support to Scoala Pentru Viata.

Over 99% of all donations made go directly to the project in Romania. All admin costs, visits etc are privately funded. Please see our website for more details www.schoolforliferomania.org

We plan in the near future to set up a CIC to support the hospital residents in marketing the products they have made.

As a novice in this area any pointers or advice would be gratefully received!

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HI Silvia,

A couple of things which I hope will be of interest in the context of your work. First our campaign to raise awareness of corrution and neglect within institutional childcare.

http://eng.maidanua.org/node/581

This strategy proposed was incorporated into the 'Marshall Plan' paper we dropped into government channels in October 2006.

http://www.p-ced.com/projects/ukraine/national/

Since then 3 recommendations have become government policy including 400+ rehab centres, doubling adopters allowance and a pilot of the homes for all children concept in Kharkiv, where the paper was developed.

Jeff
Hi Jeff

I had a brief look through the links and your work looks very interesting. I'll have proper read through when I have a bit more time.

Thanks

Sylvia
Hi Jeff,

Sadly your colleague’s report resonates much with what I have experienced and witnessed over the years and the agonising dilemmas that are faced when working in these situations.

Do we tend to the immediate needs of those caught on mass in these institutional systems, providing love, warmth, play, relationships, safety, food, water, shelter, and responsiveness to their needs to minimise the psychological annihilation that prevails and deaths that have ensued due to the extreme levels of privation they have suffered? Or, face deportation, incarceration, expulsion and exclusion from these institutions and ultimately contact barred with these children, and young adults, if we speak out publicly about life in these places?

I congratulate you and your colleagues on raising awareness of these ongoing Human Rights Abuses and propelling systemic change within the Ukraine and other states. Amnesty International are active in Romania and have highlighted these issues to the international community in the past, whilst protecting the anonymity of the residents, workers and volunteers in these institutions so they can continue their immediate and essential hands on work with the residents. Are they active in the Ukraine and former Soviet states? Mental Disability Rights International have also independently investigated these issues in Romania. I’m sure they must have interests in Ukraine and other states which may support your campaign to highlight these continuing Human Rights abuses.

You are probably aware of these organisations already, others that may be of interest are Hope and Homes for Children that is active in several countries including Romania and Ukraine and their model of de institutionalisation and child care reform is promoted as Best Practice by WHO and UNICEF, also the Children’s High Level Group that is pushing to effect childcare reform in Eastern Europe, although I am not sure if they currently have any projects in Ukraine.

A fine balance is needed here too in how these issues are highlighted and the ultimately how the media portray them, as unfortunately I have regularly seen them used as a means to promote xenophobia towards these countries by the UK tabloids. Rather than exploring and highlighting the political and historical complexities that have led to these problems, the everyday hardships individuals living in these countries have faced and culture of chronic fear of, and actual, persecution, incarceration, in prison or psychiatric institutions (“treatment” for political dissidence) and death that has prevailed amongst the general populace under previous and current political powers in many of these countries.

All too often I have observed a combination of corrupt officials high in office in these countries promoting complacency and avoidance in dealing with the suffering in these institutions, alongside inadequate reporting by the Western media lead to inter country conflict and a culture of blame and defensiveness rather than resolution. Each party’s actions propelling self promotion, and ultimately reinforcing inaction due to inability to see, or want to see, the overwhelming complexities of the truth and reality of the situation. Ultimately those incarcerated continued to suffer day in day out, and as I write this.

On researching into what led to the situation in Romania I have found the impact of the previous dictator Ceausescu’s decree 770, referred to as the world’s largest recorded social experiment. Sadly the facts behind the sheer numbers of children and adults in these institutions in Romania I have rarely seen being referred to in TV reports, programmes and newspapers in the UK and hence the general public are widely ignorant as to how Romania, for example, ended up with so many.

As I’m sure you have experienced yourself, there are many dedicated people in the local communities who care deeply for the plight of these institutionalised children and adults, but are caught in the dilemma of the poverty trap of needing employment to feed their families and hence prop up an abusive and corrupt system, or face persecution, imprisonment and at times in the past death for themselves and /or their families if they publicly challenged these systems themselves.

Fortunately Romania has made major leaps in moving away from these forms of political “persuasion” in recent years, but this climate of fear was sadly predominant when I lived there and for many years after I returned to the UK, and in many ways is still ingrained in the general populace who still experience an extreme lack of trust in political structures and motivations.

Fortunately I have seen many improvements in Romanian social and child care reform in the last few years, and during the past 17 years I have witnessed many Romanians from the local community and authorities go out of their way in trying to support these children and young adults with the sparse resources they have and the individual hardships they have faced surviving for themselves and their families. With the new generation growing up in a climate of relative safety from persecution if questions are raised about these Human Rights abuses, forums to discuss these issues are more prevalent and hence action to try to resolve these abuses are continually being explored, although the financial and material resources are sadly still extremely lacking. Human Rights abuses and the damage this inflicts on individuals and cultures as a whole unfortunately, in my view, are and have been very low priority on the EU and World agenda.

I wish you all the best of luck with your work and if you feel I can be of any help please get in contact, and I’d be interested in any further information / contacts you may hear of that may support our work.

Best Regards
Sylvia

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