(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not an official Fulbright Program blog; the views expressed are my own and not those of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

NGO Report: Fundatia Inocentia

Mike Carroll, a photographer for the Boston Globe, was among the first to document the pediatric AIDS epidemic in Romania.  He was with a nonprofit relief group sent to investigate the public health needs of Romania after the fall of Ceausescu. After meeting after meeting with doctors who denied that there was a public health crisis of any kind, Mike wandered the grounds of the hospital unaccompanied. “Meetings in offices and conference rooms are not the stuff of great photography,” he explained.
                        A young doctor in a soiled lab coat got his attention, “We have been waiting for you. Come in before they see you. I want you to show the horror of what we have been living with.”  He took Mike to the morgue where there were children’s bodies piled like stacks of wood.  Before the fall of Ceausescu, agents from the secret police would come every night to remove the bodies. After the fall, there was no disposal.
                        He explained that he had secretly obtained blood samples of the victims before the collapse of communism.  A friend in the veterinary school who studied retroviruses tested the samples to conclude that they were infected with a retrovirus, most likely AIDS.  Not sure how AIDS spreads, he said, “We feel we will all die of AIDS now, and we can’t be in collusion with a government that is this criminal.”
                        Mike went to get the others on the relief group, who spent the rest of the day going unaccompanied from room to room observing and assessing children. “Full blown AIDS, not AIDS symptomatic,” one doctor kept repeating as he examined children in their cribs.  It turned out that AIDS was the tip of the iceberg, as many of the institutionalized children were diagnosed with Hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis,  and meningitis.
                        Mike Carroll published his photos in the Boston Globe in March, 1990, and was immediately overwhelmed with New Englanders who wanted to help the orphaned children of Romania.  These early responders met in Mike Carroll’s living room to discuss what they could do, and started a drive to collect children’s toys and medical supplies to send to Romania.  This was the beginning of the Romanian Children’s Relief.
The Romanian Children’s Relief, formed in Romania as Fundatia Inocentia, is among the oldest NGOs operating in Romania.  Their program operations have evolved over the 20 years of operations from providing toys and medical supplies, which were poorly distributed at the Romanian end, to now providing foster care for abandoned special needs children, helping young mothers at risk of abandonment, providing early childhood assessment and intervention and doing early childhood literacy interventions.
                        The NGO is a model of an impact-driven NGO.  Their annual report is an example of clear outcomes that many US non-profits can follow.  They evaluate the outcomes of each program and, over the 20 years, have modified or ended ineffective programs to make things better for abandoned children. In contrast, many US non-profits often “add to” existing programs, rather than discontinue ineffective programs.                   

They currently have five programs to help abandoned and disabled children in Bucharest and Bistrița.
o      The “Child Life Program”  (2 programs: Bucharest and Bistrița) provide volunteers and a play room for hospitalized children.  The volunteers try to involve unaccompanied children in games, art and craft activities, or educational activities.  The volunteers provide interaction and stimulation for abandoned infants (ages 0-2 years) to help them develop normally.  The program provides information on “shaken baby syndrome” to new parents, utilizing a computerized doll that showed the type of brain damage that can occur.  The program seeks to identify new-borns who are at risk of being abandoned and intervene with help and support for the new mothers. Impact: due to the combined efforts of the foundation, the county social services agency, the child protection agency, and the hospital, Bistrița/Nasaud county has reduced abandoned infants from approximately 200/year in 2005 to 35 abandoned infants in 2009.
o      “Me and My Family” program provides assessment/ intervention and recreational activities for disabled children in foster homes and in a special needs school in Bistrița/Nasaud county.  This county government has taken the lead in transforming the care of abandoned disabled children from institutional, total institutional care to foster family care.  Fundatia Inocentia helps the county government recruit and train foster families to care for special needs children.  The foundation’s outreach workers provides additional physical and occupational therapy, and leads a support group for foster parents in their village. Impact:  The county residential center for disabled children has reduced its population from approximately 300 children to around 50 through creating foster care placements in the county. The current residents of the center, ages 8-17, live in family groups of 8-12 children in an apartment with an adult caretaker and educational specialists for each group.
o      “Early Literacy” program links volunteers with children in foster care, orphanages, and hospitals who read to the children and encourage literacy.  They show the parents, many of whom are illiterate themselves, how to encourage reading with their preschoolers by using picture books without words. During their annual “Reading Day” celebrated at a local library, participating preschoolers received a free picture book to take home with them.
o      The “Early Intervention” program offers activities for developmentally delayed Roma children ages 0-3 to help them access social services and prepare them to enter school.  This is their newest program, starting in October, 2009.  In addition to reading to the children and playing educational games, the program provides information to parents on children’s development, hygiene, and shaken baby syndrome. 

No comments:

Post a Comment