In 1997 I was teaching a class on active listening skills at a pastor’s conference in Kungsbaka, Sweden. One of my students was a repatriated Romanian who was traveling frequently to his home city of Constanta, Romania to help work with the hundreds of thousands of children with severe handicaps that had just become known to the west after the fall of the Communist government in 1989. We quickly became friends and he invited me to accompany his group on a trip to Constanta. Three other adults and five teens from Faith Church in Milford went on that first trip in June 1998. The event was all about waking up to a world we could only imagine. There were children in the parks, on the beach, in abandoned buildings and in the sewer system. They were rejected and treated with shame and hatred by the entire society. We were there for 10 days and it was powerful. I told the Romanians we would be back, they doubted the truth of my statement. Many had told them things like that, no one had ever meant it.
That was seventeen years ago, we have been back. We have learned much about the culture and their lives. We have invested time, treasure, and tears.
In 1999, RHM was incorporated. RHM-Ro was incorporated in 2004 in Romania. In 2004, we hired a young married couple, Silviu and Gabi Ghereben, to act as our Program Administrator and Doctor respectively. We also hired Liviu Marin to act as social worker and teacher.
In 2004 into 2005 we purchased a small retail space on the bottom floor of a block of high-rise tenement flats. By the fall of 2005, RHM-Ro. was a daily year-long program. Later in 2005 we purchased a handicapped accessible van and several years later we purchased a second van. By that time we were fully staffed, Silviu, Dr. Gabi and Liviu were full time. A psychologist, an accountant and a government required auditor filled out our paid staff. RHM-Ro has only recently taken on two volunteer teachers from a government run program in the city. We also enjoy teens from a local high school where Silviu and Gabi’s daughter Luanna is a tireless promoter of the work we do. Finally in 2013 the black market grocery next door went out of business. We miraculously raised the purchase price in two months, connected the spaces with a door, rehabbed the space and open the new center much to everyone’s surprise by years end.
The program consists of practical and language education, medical care and medicines, physical therapy and exercise, crafts, stories and teaching, Bible lessons, social activities and much more. During the summer the Americans return for an annual summer camp, like a big, noisy VBS and at Christmas RHM-Ro holds a Christmas celebration.
In summary, we have seventeen years of history, a daily program, six employees, a dozen regular volunteers, two vans and a newly enlarged facility with room for large group meetings, a regular supply of medications, a clinic with sophisticated medical equipment, and the blessing of the God of the universe who has always provided our every need. How’s that for history!