• 2012 - The year of the Dragon brings happiness and success
  • 21 years – the key to success
  • Coffee Collaboration
  • Interview - Viorica Dinu
  • A Taste of Romania - Ionel’s Bean Soup

Dear Sponsors, Friends,

Some of you know about the work we are doing in Romania, some of you gave me your business cards and don’t really know much about us.  Our first newsletter of 2012 will bring our many friends and sponsors up to date with our news and will give our new friends an opportunity to find out a little bit about us. We hope you enjoy this newsletter – we will be sending out about 4 a year; if you do not wish to receive future newsletters please let us know and you will be removed from the mailing list.

With very best wishes,
Kathleen Biggs - HAO representative to Romania

The year of the Dragon brings happiness and success

Welcome to our first newsletter in 2012. This is a very special year for us being our 21st in Romania. It is also the Chinese year of the Dragon, the most auspicious symbol in the Chinese calendar symbolising happiness and success.

Last year we had many successes in our work with young people with disability here in Romania; we helped 2 young people move into their own apartments; we supported 13 young people to live in the community; we took 26 young people on holiday and towards the end of the year we moved 5 more young people out of institutional care into an apartment where they are learning to live independently.

2012 has started off well for HAO with 4 of the 5 youngsters from the new project in full time employment; we are hoping with our support they will be able to move into their own apartments later this year.

HAO is also now a registered charity in the UK opening up many more possibilities to raise funds for our work, so we face 2012 with confidence.

21 Years

The key to success

Dear Friend,
In Ireland and the UK celebrating a 21st birthday is regarded as a very important occasion in a young person’s life. It is the milestone that marks the transition from youth to adulthood. Apart from wonderful celebrations we normally associate a 21st birthday with a key, which symbolises greater independence, responsibility and growth.
Reflecting on 21st birthdays and what they represent has been in the minds of all of us in HAO recently. It is 21 years since HAO, then known as Babies of Romania, began working in Romania by providing life saving services to the babies and young children who were trapped in the living hell of the institutions.
While celebrating HAO’s 21st birthday, it is also fitting that we have our own key that represents our coming of age. The symbol of the key is particularly relevant for HAO.
Our key first unlocked the doors of the institutions where we saved the first group of babies and children.

  • Our key opened up greater opportunities for those babies and young children as they began to grow more healthily and experience kinder and warmer lives.
  • Our key has opened doors in community life where these children, now growing into teenagers, accessed education and employment.
  • Our key has opened the doors of our group homes where small groups of young people live contentedly and safely.
  • Our key has been used in a very real sense when in 2011 two of these young people moved into their own small apartments. They now have their own keys to their own homes and their own independent lives.
So, with our coming of age, our 21st birthday, you can see how the HAO key has opened up new and better worlds for babies with a disability, children, teenagers and young adults in Romania.
It is our intention to keep using that key to open other doors during the coming years.
Thank you for giving HAO all those opportunities to use that key.



If you knew that for every cup of coffee you drank when you went out to dinner HAO received a €uro from the restaurant, would you drink more?  We hope so…. and so does John McCarthy the owner of Malagamba restaurant in the heart of Bucharest’s trendiest district Lipscani who offered us just that.   For every cup of coffee his customers drink in March, he will give us a euro.  So drink up……
In these financially troubled times when finding funds for the valuable work we do is a struggle, we have to become more and more creative.  HAO Romania have initiated a collaboration with 2 other organisations working in the field of disability, we will be looking at ways we can raise funds together.   Sharing resources to achieve a common goal is we believe the way forward. 
Remember what Alex Levine said:

“Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat”.

Viorica Dinu

Viorica has worked with HAO for 12 Years – she is an occupational therapist and first started to work for us in one of the large institutions in Galati.  She has since moved to Constanta where she works closely with young people with disability who have moved from institutions to live in apartments in the community.
Recently Viorica shared some laughs and a couple of her concerns with us....

“They make me laugh every day”, Viorica said about the young people she works with, “we insist they learn to cook their own food from day one when they arrive in the apartment.   Most of them have never cooked before or even been inside a kitchen; in the institutions their food is brought to them from a central kitchen, usually by women.  One of the young guys we brought out of the institution recently told me he didn’t cook ‘women cook’.  I told him if he didn’t cook, he didn’t eat.  When I mentioned we were employing a woman to stay with them at night – he said ‘wow, that’s great; we’ll have a woman specially to cook for us’.  This same young guy smokes, we have a ‘no smoking and ‘no alcohol’ policy in the apartment so he has to go outside to smoke.  At the opening of the project last year we had wine – seeing an opportunity, he said ‘if we can drink alcohol can I have a cigarette….’ He is an optimist….
Fair exchange can be robbery – when Dan saw my nice new pen the other day, he asked if he could have it – I told him no, as I liked it.  When I went to get it a few minutes later it wasn’t there, I found 2 old pens in its place.  “Dan what did you do with my pen?” I asked; “well” he said, “you’re never happy, I give you 2 pens instead of 1 and you’re still moaning”.
“What impresses me about these young people”, Viorica told me, “is how they have managed to find the strength to overcome all that has happened to them and keep going.  I am continually astounded at how well they manage given the hardships they faced when growing up.  Ion taught himself to read and write; he had a little schooling but not much – everyday he took himself out to the back yard and practiced reading.  When he lost his job after Christmas, he went straight out and bought newspapers to look for a job, he found one in a car wash; his new boss is really pleased with how hard he works and how seriously he takes his job.  This was not easy for Ion who has a physical disability and has faced a lot of prejudice and discrimination because of it in the past”.
“Coming from an institution and being disabled, these young people face a lot of discrimination.  If they happen to be a gypsy they face even further discrimination.  I recently went with one of our guys to a job interview at a car wash – he is a gypsy; he didn’t get the job.   When I asked the employer why he didn’t get the job, he took me aside and said, “you know – the clients look at my workers faces, if they see I have a gypsy working here they won’t come in”.
“I worry about the guys and what would happen to them if HAO weren’t there to keep an eye on them – they are too trusting, I worry they will be taken advantage of.   There just isn’t the support in the community to look after them.  Just after Christmas one of our guys had an episode of extremely destructive behaviour that lasted for about 2 months. With little psychiatric and no psychologist support we were worried he might have to go back to an institution, that this could be the end of his life in the community. I thought this was so unfair; Stefan is always helping people – he is so generous; yet when he needed help, none of these people were around.  People important to him, who he thought he could trust, harmed him by saying and doing things he could only partially understand; he felt betrayed and disappointed.  Thankfully he seems to be over the worst and is gradually getting better”.

A Taste of Romania

Ionel’s 'Ciorba de fasole'

(Ionel’s Bean Soup)
When the young people first move out of institutional care they have no idea how to cook for themselves; most of them would never have been in a kitchen as the food in institutions is cooked centrally.  As part of their ‘independence skills training’ our young people are taught to cook.  Some of the group enjoy cooking and have their own favourites they like to cook on a regular basis.   When we were preparing for the new group to move into the community, we thought it would be a good idea to make recipe cards for them and asked our old group to help by sharing their favourite dishes. 

We would now like to share these recipes with you and plan to have one in each News Letter.  We chose Zeadins recipe for ciorba (pronounced chorba) a traditional Romania soup to start us off - a good warming supper dish for this time of year. 
1 kg beans (tinned beans work very well);
2 carrots;
3 parsnips;
1 celery root;
4 onions;
2 spoons of tomato paste;
1 cup of oil;
2 tea-spoons of salt;
1 spoon of dry vegetable mix;
1 hand full of parsley;
1 spoons of lemon juice.
  1. If you are using dried beans you must soak them overnight;
  2. On the day of cooking, change the water in the pot and boil the beans for ten minutes, drain the beans and repeat the process of boiling and draining two more times;
  3. Meanwhile, wash the vegetables and chop them into small pieces;
  4. Put the vegetables with the beans in the pot and let them boil;
  5. When the beans are cooked, prepare the onions by frying them in oil;
  6. When the onions are translucent add the tomato puree and stir until well mixed.  Add this mix to the soup with the stock cube and a little salt;
  7. Chop the parsley and add to the soup;
  8. Add the lemon juice and let it boil for a couple of minutes. You will have a thick, hearty soup an ideal supper dish for this cold weather;
  9. Enjoy! ;-)
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