Trip to Romania

A project by: Nicole Parkinson-Kelly

Successful

WE RAISED £700

from 20 donors

This project received pledges on Mon 07 May 2018
11 months, 2 weeks ago

Day 6 of the trip

110 of the Project

I've realised that although I was heavy with the suncream yesterday, I forgot to do one place... I was brushing my hair this morning getting ready for Day 2 at Dezna when the bristles slashed across the tops of my ears. It felt like a million needles had stabbed them at the same time. If my mum was here, she would be laughing at me for forgetting such an 'obvious place' which she always did for me as a child.

The weather was more humid today with a light breeze, perfect for working in the 'garden' of wilderness....until a scorching heat spread up my back and sweat droplets trickled down my face. A roaring bonfire had been lit to burn the piles of brambles and rotten wood from inside the house, metres from where I was working. After the abuse from the sun yesterday I was not going to let the bonfire stop me from working today. It motivated me and the rest of the team to work harder and faster to escape the angry heat it spread. We sliced and chopped and tugged the brambles, thorns and nettles, some of which were taller than me! By the end of the day, between the work from yesterday and today, almost 6 acres of land had been cleared with shears, strimmers and rakes. It was a sweaty day and yet again I came home with blisters but luckily no sunburn! After working at Dezna for two days and hearing about the plans and excitement that Kevin had for the new project, I decided to call the UK office and donate almost £300 of my excess fundraising (I had to raise £700 but we raised almost £1000) and put it towards the project. I can't wait to see how the project goes and can't wait to visit the completed Outreach centre and centre for the blind or visually impaired!

The team worked very hard today but faced a terrible challenge. We discovered that one of the main influencers for Smiles Mission Trips in Northern Ireland, Barbara Morrison, had sadly passed away. She had planned to join us on the trip but had ended up in hospital days before we left for Romania. I had only met the woman once but sitting with the team today, it was clear to see what a massive impact she'd had on their lives. The pain in the room brought tears to my own eyes as the shock that a woman, who was so full of energy and life, had taken a fatal turn at a much earlier time than expected. It was a shocking realisation for everyone of how futile life is. We never know what is truely around the corner. Nonetheless, after some prayers for her friends and family and listening to some praise music, we got back to work, now doubly motivated to make this project, that Barbara was so passionate about, a reality.  Soon everyone was smiling again, determined to complete their tasks before the end of the day. In the words of Kevin, we worked through blood (Andrew split his head open with a hammer), sweat from the blistering hot heat and tears from the team's grief today, to get the work done. We left the centre feeling hopeful and proud in the work we had completed.

After 90 minutes back to the centre on the minibus, everyone tumbled out if the vehicles and stumbled into showers. However, Matt Chloe and I decided to go for a dip in the swimming pool to cool off, before our Romanian barbeque and after to swim off the dessert of strawberries and marshmallows in melted chocolate.

After a long challenging day, I lie in my bed putting this piece together after a long hot shower (where I noticed a tick on my stomach, panicked and plucked it off) listening to the sound of crickets outside my window, dogs barking in the distance and the laughter and chattering of the team upstairs supporting Kate and Warren in their game of snooker. I wish I could stay here longer. I feel like I've only just settled in and now I have to prepare for my final days in Romania. In 48 hours, I will be home in Banbridge catching up on some long lost sleep 😂 Maybe home isn't so bad after all!

NPK X

11 months, 2 weeks ago

Day 5 of the trip

109 of the Project

Well... I don't think I'll need that gym membership by the time I get home!! We all worked very hard today with the sun's rays glaring at us - the heat weighing down on our shoulders. Plastered in layers of suncream, sweat and insect repellent, we worked from 10am - 5pm at a new centre that Smiles are constructing in Dezna. It was an old project which unfortunately fell apart but now it is being resurrected by Mission Trip teams! The centre will be a retreat for children's outreach camps, conferences and may have a wing for those living without their hearing or without their sight.

Motivated after a snooze on the 2 hour bus ride and after hearing the disappointment that the team felt at the project's fall in 2006, we got straight to work upon arrival. The labour was hard. The sun was persistent. I think everyone came away with blisters or sunburn (if not both) but it was worth it. By the end of the day, the land at the back had doubled in size with overgrown bushes having been cut back significantly. After some intense scrubbing, the marble patio was visible again. Two rooms with rotten floorboards had the old timber removed ready for fixing. The windows were all cleaned inside and out. The plumbing was fixed to allow toilets to flush and access to clean water from taps. This abandoned, neglected project which had fallen into disrepair, was starting to come back together again. We left the centre with a sense of pride and achievement as the potential for something good became a realistic vision once again.

We are being rewarded for our hard work tonight, staying in a local hotel which looks like it's stepped out from a fairytale. It's a like castle in the mountains surrounded by forestry. We are eating dinner on a wooden terrace  with a glass of cider in hand listening to the sounds around us. Little birds are singing, the crickets are chirping, the stream is dancing down the mountainside and the breeze is whispering through the thousands of leaves surrounding us. It's heavenly.

This evening has been very peaceful with an acoustic sing-along/worship session and a walk around the other resorts in the area. I feel calm and rested after the long day of work, which I definitely needed. Tomorrow we head back to Dezna to finish the work we started so the grounds are prepared for construction to continue  from 12 years ago...

11 months, 2 weeks ago

Day 4 of the Trip

108 of the project

The things you do it make children happy ... 😂 I love working with children, making them smile is rewarding and their laughter is infectious. No matter the language, you can still communicate happiness.

Today I got the opportunity to volunteer at a local Holiday Bible Club called COPs (Children's Outreach Programmes) with local Romanian and gypsy children. When we first arrived, the tiny heads all hid behind the backs of the pews peeping over wide uncertain eyes, unsure about how to cope with so many new people at once. After a very competitive game to help them remember names, we started straight into our prepared plans for the day. We taught them actions to Romanian songs, we taught them a children's religious song in English, we taught them a Bible verse and we did a roleplay on a Bible story. We even made crafts and played team games. It was strange to see how divided the communities of 'Romanians' and 'Romani Gypsies' were, but it was very rewarding to see their innocence as they came together in the team games and overcame these cultural barriers. I wasn't expecting to arrive to a community as divided as our own. Although Romania doesn't have the same violent past as Northern Ireland between these two communities, they have faced their own struggles with gypsy communities being denied basic needs such as access to water a s electricity as they were 'unwelcome' to stay in towns and villages in Romania causing tension and dispute. It was enlightening to see bridges being built between younger generations, I hope I have for our own future in Northern Ireland.

One child really struck a chord with me. She didn't speak to me but smiled at me throughout the day. She was the eldest sister of a family of gypsy children. As a young child herself, (no older than 8) she showed a level of maturity beyond her years, caring for her younger siblings. It made me quite emotional watching her help them with their crafts, leaving hers to the end, answering questions on the Bible stories to give her reward (a lollypop) to others each time and collecting her goodies at the end to return with the youngest sibling to help him collect and carry his. At this young age she was selfless and sensible which so I was glad to be running a programme which kept her smiling all day!

There were Romanian girls who reminded me of myself when I was younger, who were enthusiastic learners, stretching their little slender arms in the air as high as they could reach, waving their hands and wiggling  their fingers to answer questions in the quizes. At the end they chose a furry stuffed animal each as their reward to take home which would have been my choice too. It was a moment of realisation for me, that these children were just kids, no different from our own at home. It upsets me to think that anyone could think negatively of children who are just like ours but raised with different languages in a different culture. Some of the older girls even had smart phones and asked me for selfies on them afterwards!

Today was a very positive day and full of giggles. From discovering the largest watermelon I've ever seen, to pretending to be a dog to entertain children during a song, to being a target for soft balls!

I left the church today with a face sore from smiling. Some of the children had even tried to speak English to me which melted my heart to see them try!

By the time I got home and had a sleep I was able to explore the area around the centre some more. We went for a walk to explore the local area. The weather felt reflective of my calm and reflective mood after dinner with the sunset streaming cross the golden fields of sunflowers and corn. There was a faint, tickling, warm breeze to brushing through the sunflowers' petals and through the strands of my hair. It was comforting and welcoming. I'd love to come back here. I think I have to.

11 months, 2 weeks ago

Day 3 of the trip

107 of the Project

We're all really still children at heart aren't we? I still love a good Disney film.   I still enjoy arts and crafts and if fancy dress was viewed as 'normal' for adults to take part in I would probably still do that too. The thing is I don't think people really age in life. People are trapped in bodies that age but their mind does not. As you get older your body becomes more limited in what it can do but your mind is limitless. Can you imagine how trapped you would feel? This is the reality for the elderly in our society. One day it will be our reality too so we must strive to provide the best quality of care not just for our current care home residents and social care users but for our own futures. We must set the standards now.

Today I visited a care home in Tileagd. It was a home primarily for elderly people but it has the facilities for assisted living for adults with disabilities or that need 24 hour support. It was an eye opening experience. We walked around the different residents' rooms and learnt about their life stories, their families and how some don't wish to be on earth anymore. It was painful to hear this and how some really missed their independence. It was scary to hear how one turn of events could cost them that ability to care for themselves. However today, as we engaged in activities such as singing, arts and crafts and ball games, we brought smiles to their faces and gave them one less day to worry about. Seeing them smile and joke with eachother really bridged the intergenerational barriers between us as we realised we have more similarities than differences. It was strange how much the activities revealed about the personalities of the people in the care home. In particular, today I met two ladies who seemed to have a sporting or athletic background. At the age of 92, one of the ladies was able to play a game of beach volleyball whilst sitting down with us. We all laughed together when a beach ball accidentally hit someone in the face or hit someone who wasn't playing. Another lady who was younger gave me a back massage which was not what I was expecting at all!! (She was very good at it too although I feel it should have been me giving her the massage!😂) She was even wearing very modern clothes that our teenagers would wear, such as cut-off sweat pants with a tracksuit top and trainers which seem to be either Nike or Adidas.

It was a wonderful day and it was enlightening. It made me realise what kind of care I would want when I am an older person in the future. I don't think I would want the kind of care that is stereotypically used in care homes nowadays. I would much prefer a more mature approach to arts and crafts such as classes and courses to teach me how to knit and sew or even paint at a more advanced level. If I was able, I would love the chance to attend a dance class. The care home have recently installed a projector which allows for them to run cinema nights which is a fantastic idea.

I suppose we should really treat care homes as a holiday retreat but with permanence because by the time we're at this stage in life, I believe everyone has had a full and challenging life. I think everyone has earned the chance to relax and pick up lost or new hobbies that they weren't able to do whilst they were working and raising a family throughout their lives (especially since some are unable to leave the care home for such activities).

I am so glad that at home we have Activities Coordinators in care homes because I think that role and it's importance will increasingly grow.

Today caused me to reflect a lot. It even made me consider the care and support that my grandparents and my mother will need as they get older. It has made me realise that they have supported me through the beginning of my life, when I needed help, and it is my duty as a child and a grandchild to give help and support back to them when they need me the most. I know this has been a very reflective blogpost and maybe not exciting but I do believe it is very important for others to consider this too. I would very much encourage for people to at least spend one day volunteering in a care home for even a fun day to experience what I have experienced. Although I have been told all of these lessons before, it is taken this experience for it to really have an impact on me.

The work that Smiles are doing with elderly care in Romania is admirable. I expected to arrive to a home with unpleasant smells and unhappy residents but it exceeded my expectations on every level. The staff know the stories of every individual and the care they provide is fit for royalty.

It gives me so much hope to see good work done by good people and I hope that Smiles' legacy will contunue to grow and touch many more lives, setting examples to others. So thank you to all who donated towards my trip. Whilst the trip has brought me here, there's still a large sum of money that is going into the work of the charity and they need this continued support to touch the lives of many more vulnerable people here in Romania. I am eternally grateful for this opportunity.

NPK X

11 months, 2 weeks ago

Day 2 of the trip

(Or 106 of the project)

My alarm rudely interrupted my dreams this morning. I was unimpressed with it's lack of respect for being quiet when people are sleeping. As my eyes narrowly squinted open, I dragged my heavy limbs to the edge of the bed, turned off my alarm (whilst silently cursing my phone for waking me) and faceplanted back into the welcoming embrace of my pillow. The sun's beaming rays streamed from the window tickling and growing across my face, gently waking me for a second time this morning. Finally I got up.

The houses here are very beautiful and ecclectic. Each have a unique personality. It's not like home where we have groups of identical houses built for efficiency amd profit. No. These people have their own land in which they've built their own houses to represent their tastes. You could have a giant house with iron gates and a balcony fit for for a scene of Romeo and Juliet...beside a small house with a yard for animals and an orchard for plums and grape vines. The colours of houses are vibrant and expressive. Some houses are mustard yellow, others are a brilliant white, some are even painted red or blue! They don't just paint their doors like we do at home.

The church service was just as random as the countryside and equally as beautiful. With a brief talk on scripture followed by an open stage for people to share prayer, thoughts or songs of praise. Children from the Romani Gypsy community took on the challenge and sang songs in both Romanian and their own language. We got up and attempted two songs unexpectedly and unrehearsed so it must have been an interesting performance...

Do you know how you know you're on holiday in Europe?

I had some after lunch and it made me feel like I was definitely on holidays alongside the weight of my sunglasses on my head, the oiliness of my face and scalp from the humidity (even though I had showered this morning) the stench of suncream and greasy texture of my arms from an unpleasant mix of sweat and suncream. We piled off the minibus for a walking tour of Oradea. I have never felt such passion for a city before. A passion for change. The city was old and the architecture was stunning. The old buildings have started to crumble and I wished I was a billionaire who could come and renovate them back to their previous glory. It was a city of great potential. It just needs some love and a visionary. The city has already undergone some of this work with roads being fixed and the beginning of some buildings being reinstated back to their previous beauty.

Then the remarkable happened.

We found the rain the UK has lost!! A thunderstorm so heavy burst from the clouds soaking my skin under my clothes in the few seconds I ran from shelter to the minibus which would take us home. The windows became misty as the minibus filled with the smell of warm, damp clothes. The roads began to flood and cars on the other lane  splashed our windows with water from puddles as they sped past. The sky was alive with the rumble of thunder and flashes of lightening. I hadn't seen weather like this in a long time!

After dinner in the centre, we revisited the planning meeting we had after church this morning to discuss the areas we would be working in over the next few days. The timetable has now been confirmed and I'm very excited! I have been delegated a little bit of everything... but I'll keep those details for my next few blogs 😉

A summary of my experience so far is:

Romania is a little random, in church services and in housing. Oradea is an old tired city with great history and architecture that needs some love so people can appreciate its true beauty restored - an ongoing project which will make beautiful hotels, restaurants and apartments for the wave of future tourists. I have no doubt of this..

..and at least we know where all of the rain that was supposed to hit the UK went 🤷

I am so excited to get started on the real work tomorrow now that I've had the chance to warm to my surroundings and gain some knowledge of the area. I can't wait to bring hope to people who feel that all is lost. Tomorrow my real work begins.

NPK X

11 months, 3 weeks ago

Day 1 of the Trip

(... technically Day 105 of updates on my fundraising page.. . Sorry for the quiet period 🙈)

Well it's fair to say that student life hasn't prepared me for the early start I had today! Placement and work have thankfully turned my sleeping pattern back to normal so it wasn't as bad as I predicted but I'm still pretty exhausted. After my giant bowl of porridge and honey, me and my 3 month foodbaby belly rolled up at the Dublin Airport bus for 6:05am. I think I'm having a lucky day... I got up after my first alarm (I didn't hit snooze even once?!) I arrived on-time for my lift, my bus, my plane and even had extra time to top up on my MAC foundation stock to make sure I can cover the shadows embedded into my face under my eyes during the week.

The patchwork quilt of fields and scent of humidity makes it feel like home but the flat landscapes remind me that I am away. There is no shadow of mountains in the distance and the fields either side of the road are vast and wide rather than uneven and hilly. We pass miles of fields of golden sunflowers stretching their faces towards the sun's rays soaking up the sunlight competing to be the tallest of the season.  We travel on smooth new roads and finish on bumpy gravel roads as we arrive at the centre. It's not unlike any other youth centre and has a pool for us to cool in after our days of work ahead.

As I listen to the calming screaming and laughter of teenagers who rebel against the kurfew, I try not to age by 60 years by rolling my eyes, sighing dramatically and pulling the covers over my head. I was one of those teenagers on a youth week not that long ago myself so I guess karma has came to bite me on the ass.

*Note to self* Do not keep other people awake on the premises when I'm also on holidays 👍

Also please can we have a moment of silence to remember my Body Shop Seaweed Collection toner which was probably murdered by airport staff when they more than likely flung my suitcase from conveyor belt to plane and back again.

I can't wait for my first day I'm the country 'properly' tomorrow. We will be told exactly what areas we will be working in for the rest of the week!

Wish me luck! 🍀🍀

Nicole PK

1 year, 2 months ago

Day 30

Thank you to all to have supported me through my fundraising journey! Thank you especially to Tiffany Portman who made my birthday special yesterday by finishing my fundraising by bringing it up to the target! Thank you to Carol Murphy for my birthday present donation and to James McCarthy for your support!! I am so excited to announce that my fundraising is now complete!! Any extra money raised over the target will help someone else's travel and accommodation in the group or will go towards a project that we will be directly involved in when we are in Romania!!

Thank you all so much ❤️

1 year, 2 months ago

Day 23

I arrived into work today to a third donation from Mynt Entertainment's customers!! Thank you to all who have donated in store!! I'm humbled by your support. I'm getting more excited every day as we get closer to the target!!  I can't wait to embark on my journey thanks to your help and encouragement.

Thank you!!

1 year, 2 months ago

Day 20

Wow guys! It's been quiet in this section of my fundraising page so this will have to be a massive update! First of all, a list of thank yous to my friends and family who have been incredibly supportive from Day 1. We have now reached 80% of my target for my trip away to Romania! That is incredible. I am so grateful for every little donation that has led me to this point. Thank you to:

  • David Francos
  • Alison Swanson
  • Claire Connolly
  • Margaret Fawcett-Brown
  • Grace Stevenson
  • Andy McAnallen and Grace Boyle
  • Ballydown Presbyterian Church
  • Anonymous Donor in Mynt Entertainment

for all of your generous donations.

I am sorry that I didn't announce my gratitude sooner with being away at conferences with university for the past 3 weeks! I am so lucky to be around so many supportive people. I really didn't expect this much support from you all!

Thank you!

1 year, 2 months ago

Day 20

Wow guys! It's been quiet in this section of my fundraising page so this will have to be a massive update! First of all, a list of thank yous to my friends and family who have been incredibly supportive from Day 1. We have now reached 80% of my target for my trip away to Romania! That is incredible. I am so grateful for every little donation that has led me to this point. Thank you to:

  • David Francos
  • Alison Swanson
  • Claire Connolly
  • Margaret Fawcett-Brown
  • Andy McAnallen and Grace Boyle
  • Ballydown Presbyterian Church
  • Anonymous Donor in Mynt Entertainment

for all of your generous donations.

I am sorry that I didn't announce my gratitude sooner with being away at conferences with university for the past 3 weeks! I am so lucky to be around so many supportive people. I really didn't expect this much support from you all!

Thank you!

1 year, 3 months ago

Day 8

The past few days I have been away to the NUS-USI Confernce so I have been kept busy! I just wanted to say a massive thank you to Sandra Connolly and Sean Burns for your generous donations! Sean, you will receive a vlog and a signed photo from my trip to Romania! I am very excited to be a third of my way towards by fundraising target so thank you so much!

We are organising a bake sale, a quiz night and a movie night at Ulster University/Belfast area for the weeks ahead!! If you can help out at any of these events or if you can donate items towards the bake sale or prizes for the quiz night, please contact me on:

Email: nicoleparkinsonkelly3@gmail.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nicoleparkinsonkelly

Mobile: 07860366623

Thank you!

1 year, 3 months ago

Day 5

Thank you so much to my better half Mark Francos and two of my besties Zara Bradley and Rosie Conway for your generous donations! All of you will receive a vlog from my trip and a signed photo from my travels! Your support has helped me smash the first 25% of my target ! Thank you so much for all of the support guys! It's been incredible!

We are still securing dates for a bake sale, a quiz night and a movie night at Ulster Uniersity/Belfast area over the next few days for the weeks ahead!! If you can help out at any of these events or if you can donate items towards the bake sale or prizes for the quiz night, please contact me on:

Email: nicoleparkinsonkelly3@gmail.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nicoleparkinsonkelly

Mobile: 07860366623

tHANK YOU!!

1 year, 3 months ago

Day 4

Thank you to all who have donated and shared fundraising my page! A special thank you to Rory Mansell for being my third sponsor and to Mynt Entertainment , Banbridge for collecting donations in a charity box at the counter!! I really appreciate all of the help and support that people have been giving me.

We are currently securing dates for a bake sale, a quiz night and a movie night at Ulster/Belfast area over the next few days for the weeks ahead!! If you can help out at any of these events or if you can donate items towards the bake sale or prizes for the quiz night, please contact me on:

Email: nicoleparkinsonkelly3@gmail.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nicoleparkinsonkelly

Mobile: 07860366623

tHANK YOU!!

1 year, 3 months ago

Day 3

Hi there everyone! Day 2 was a quiet day but today I have had my first 2 sponsors ! Thank you to Tiffany Portman and my mum Linda Parkinson-Kelly for your generous donations. As they have both donated over £20, both will receive a vlog from my trip and a signed photo from my travels. It has also brought me over my minimum amount to raise meaning that my project will receive every penny raised!

Thank you girls!!

I have two fundraising events' plans underway for the two weeks after Easter at University so watch out for updates on those events, here!! My supporters will be the first to see my fundraiser posters of course! Maybe you could come along and support my events when they are fully planned! If you're available to help out at my fundraisers, let me know your availability between Monday 23rd April - Friday 27th April! You can contact me from my details below:

Mobile: 07860366623

Email: nicoleparkinsonkelly3@gmail.com

Thank you for all of your support so far!!

1 year, 3 months ago

Day One

Day 1 of fundraising and I am sharing this page around as many social media platforms as I possibly can! Hopefully it will bring some traffic... I am very excited to embark on this mission with Smiles and with the church team. I am currently in the process of organising a fundraiser in my university in Jordanstown so watch this space for further updates on that!! If you can help me in any way (such as having a collection box in your workplace or helping me organise a fundraising event) please do get in touch with me via

Email: nicoleparkinsonkelly3@gmail.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nicoleparkinsonkelly

Mobile: 07860366623

Thank you for your support!