Chris Fox, from London, has been our first long term volunteer to work at Forget-me-not, starting in 2014. Here he writes about his experiences:
My wife, whom I met in London in 2009, is Romanian and from a city called Focsani. It was a wonderful coincidence that I found a British charity, Forget-Me-Not Romania, based in her hometown. Normally, we both work and live in central London. I work in the insurance sector and my wife works in the fashion industry. Why did I volunteer?: It's easy to get too focused on your personal objectives in life. I felt it was time for me to try to help some young people that have had a less fortunate life than me. Sometimes it is simple things that can inspire someone in life like describing other countries, cultures and customs. It's not a burden to spend time with people and talk, in fact it's a pleasure and can really help.
A day in the life of a volunteer at the home:
9:00 am: I arrive on a weekday at the home after a short walk from our home at around this time. Half of the children (about 7 out of 14) are at home and half are at school, they left at 7 or 8am. There are normally one or two managers at the home during the day in the office and there is always a cook in the house. The cooks work in shifts so that there is always one there, day and night.
9:30 am: I teach English to the kids that are eager to learn and to the ones that want help with their homework. They are good learners and mostly well behaved. They can be cheeky but are polite. I am also learning Romanian so we are often helping each other. I make a lot more mistakes in Romanian than they do in English!
11:00 am: The house is always a hive of activity but generally the kids that are in the house are in the kitchen between 11am and 12pm eating food before school. Its not like England when everyone goes to school at the same time! In fact, some of these kids leave at 11, 11:30, 12 or 12:30. They need to organise themselves with reminders from the cook. I am always told that it's unacceptable to turn down the food by the cook and the kids, even saying you're "already full" doesn't suffice anywhere in Romania! The food is always delicious and due to the size of the house everything is cooked in bulk like a small canteen. During the holidays, the kids play a critical part in food preparation and the feasts are usually big!
12 pm - 3 pm: The kids schedules overlap and they are all at school so I go home for a few hours.
3 pm: I'm back at the house teaching another set of kids English in the living room. I've also helped with some maths but most of the time the kids say that they have their maths and science under control which is nice to hear!
5 pm: The original set of kids come back from school and we talk and watch TV in the kitchen. Despite the language barrier, the cooks and the children always want to talk and joke with me, and they always greet me kindly when they see me.
6 pm: Home time for me. The kids eat dinner, relax and do their homework. Later, the boys and girls sleep separately in the house. The boys have one bedroom with 4 beds and another bedroom with 3 beds. The girls have exactly the same. The house is always clean, tidy, warm, friendly and with enough space for everyone.