Today as Romania celebrates Good Friday according to the Orthodox Christian Calendar, I am preparing for my visit to Bucharest on Monday, where I will catch up with the RICF team and project participants. I am excited that I will be joined on this visit by Cheryl Cunningham, a social worker from Rayleigh, Essex, who has a massive heart for disadvantaged and vulnerable women and children. Cheryl will be sharing some of her expertise with our eight foster carers, in particular talking to them about 'life story work'. This is aimed at helping children in care to understand their own biological roots, identity and life journey, and what makes them special and unique as a person.
I am looking forward to finding out more about how this is done when Cheryl and I meet up with all of our foster carers at one of their regular monthly support meetings next Wednesday. I am sure we will also hear some of the highlights and 'lowlights' of when our foster carers have talked to the children in their care about their biological families.
One of my personal favourites for my visits to Bucharest is when I get to take our HQ team and foster carers out for a meal, as a thank you for their dedication and hard work. This is always a fun occasion and has become a bit of an annual tradition, just a small token of our appreciation for their efforts and emotional energy invested throughout the year.
It is always encouraging to meet up with the HQ team, headed up by Ovidiu, to hear first hand the successes and challenges we are facing in running each of our projects, as we decide on objectives for the next 6-12 months, as well as longer term goals. I am particularly looking forward to catching up with our new social worker Emilia, who I first met a couple of years ago when she was placed with RICF for practical training as part of her social work degree with the University of Bucharest. She will be covering Mona's maternity leave and we are excited about her being part of the team, and all the ideas she will bring.
I am also looking forward to catching up with Simona, our psychologist, to find out which of the many ideas she picked up whilst on her UK work experience placements she has determined will be appropriate for adaptation to the Romanian context for implementation in our projects. We are very grateful to Team Fostering in Sheffield, and Cantercare and Porchlight, both in Canterbury, for welcoming Simona back in February / March and sharing their expertise and methodolgies with us.
IT Education project
Through 2015 there was a special fundraising campaign by members of Bushey Baptist Church, which raised over £1400 for an IT education project which is running from March through until the summer of 2016. This will provide training in topics such as The web, search engines, social media and internet safety, online communication including email, word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and technology and relationships.
We are running the course twice, once for our young people aged 10 – 18 and once for our foster carers and guardians. The course has been put together in response to a need identified by our young people and their foster carers, parents and guardians.
Key aims of the IT education project
To maximise potential for full integration into Romanian society
To develop the capacity of young people cared for through RICF’s projects, and their peers, to make use of computers and the internet
To equip our foster carers to support their foster children in their use of IT
To increase awareness of potential dangers of internet use and protect young people against potential exploitation and abuse.
It is great to see the photo showing some of our young people taking part in the RICF IT education project. The participants are predominantly young people we are supporting in foster placements or our family reunification project, and each of them has a story to tell. One is an incredibly talented young lady, with an amazing gift for sports dance, in which she has won diplomas and medals, even at a national level. She and her little brother are two of the children we support through our family reunification project, living with their grandparents, who took over their care after they were abandoned by their father and their mother prematurely passed away. It is a privilege for FICR to provide financial, educational and emotional support for these siblings, and to support their grandparents in their desire to care for their grandchildren despite signficiant financial hardship and painful bereavement.
Young girls in Romania, in particular those in difficult financial circumstances, are especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. We are keen that each child we support should understand their value as an individual, their freedom to make choices, and that RICF will act as an advocate for them to ensure they are kept safe from harm.