CHARITY volunteers who have improved the lives of countless disabled Romanian children have had their efforts recognised.
Hartlepool-based European Children’s Help Organisation (Echo) have been given an award by Swedish charity Star of Hope Romania in recognition of their 10-year collaboration providing aid to the eastern European country.
Echo’s fundraising and support has helped Star of Hope open two learning centres for Down’s syndrome children and those with moderate or severe disabilities.
The main goal of the centres is to organise informal educational activities for the children to improve their daily life skills, especially for the teenagers and youngsters who are not integrated in any mainstream schools.
Echo trustee Mick Sumpter said: “The members of Echo are proud to have played such a significant part in the opening of these centres. The members are fully aware that these centres offer hope and opportunity to the parents and to their children, being around people who understand, but who most of all, care.”
One of the centres is in Botosani, which is one of the poorest towns in Romania. In the county, there are 2,500 children with disabilities, many of them living in rural areas or in towns with no social or educational services.
And the centres don’t just focus on the children as they also offer help, support and advice to parents who have children with disabilities.
Mr Sumpter said many feel guilty because their child is disabled and they feel isolated and neglected by the rest of the community.
Once the parents have come in contact with the centre, they are offered counselling sessions in order to help them overcome their worries and fears.
The parents of both centres have formed groups that get together on a regular basis to discuss issues such as legislation, training courses, what services are available for their child and what rights their children have. The parents also organise various activities, such as school visits, picnics in the countryside and barbeques.
Children from both centres have even competed in the Romanian National Olympics for Disabled Children, winning several medals.