Three Hartlepool men are making great progress in their campaign to help children in Romania.
Mick Sumpter, Bob Moore and Lee Boyd headed to Iasi in the western part of the country under the auspices of the European Children’s Help Organisation (Echo) movement.
Mr Sumpter is a trustee of Echo, which has been active in Romania since the early 1990s.
He said: “Since then we have taken on a whole range of projects.”
The latest is a campaign to provide support for two centres which helps people with Down’s syndrome. The Hartlepool men are in Romania to build a new workshop where people can learn skills.
Both centres are run by parents whose children attend the centre.
Mioara Iordachi, the president of the Parents’ Association called Rebirth of Hope, said the day centre started 15 years ago.
It was a place where children with disabilities could come to socialise, and learn skills needed in every day life.
But it became so much more than that.
Mioara added: “The children grew up and they became young people and adults. Now it is time to move on to another level, that of skills for work, and the room built by Echo Foundation will be used for this purpose .
“They will start to work with wood – to make some picture frames, jewellery boxes, to work with wax to make candles and if we will have the financial resources to buy what we need, maybe they will do pottery.
“In another room they will do cooking lessons. They learnt until now to make sandwiches, some biscuits. It is time to start to do something more difficult.”
Mr Sumpter said: “This is where the young people can learn new skills, particularly in the arts and crafts area, producing merchandise which can be sold at local markets and the proceeds used to support the centre.
“At the moment however, the buildings don’t lend themselves to workshops so we have had to consider increasing the size of the building by way of an extension.”
The Hartlepool men have already constructed the shell of the building during their week-long stay in Romania and it is almost ready for use.
Hartlepool-based Echo has previously made the headlines for its work.
In 2011, they received an award by Swedish charity Star of Hope Romania in recognition of their 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.
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.