Bringing smiles to Romania – that’s exactly what The Smiles Foundation are achieving in Romania. It’s also what every mission tripper hopes for when they visit the country – an opportunity to bring some much needed love to the homeless, the poor and those who society have forgotten.
One such trip took place recently when a team of Smiles supporters from all over Northern Ireland headed off for a week. Among them was university student and first time mission tripper Nicole Parkinson-Kelly. In her blog she posted daily updates of her experiences, emotions and what they got up to in and around Bihor County, north west Romania. We’ve used a few excerpts from her blog, which you can read below, to give you a flavour of what a Smiles mission trip entails.
Bringing Smiles To Romania
Today I visited a care home in Tileagd. It was a home primarily for elderly people but it has the facilities for assisted living for adults with disabilities or that need 24 hour support. It was an eye opening experience. We walked around the different residents’ rooms and learnt about their life stories……..today, as we engaged in activities such as singing, arts and crafts and ball games, we brought smiles to their faces and gave them one less day to worry about. Seeing them smile and joke with each other really bridged the inter-generational barriers between us as we realised we have more similarities than differences.
The work that Smiles are doing with elderly care in Romania is admirable. I expected to arrive to a home with unpleasant smells and unhappy residents but it exceeded my expectations on every level. The staff know the stories of every individual and the care they provide is fit for royalty.
The next day Nicole writes:
Today I got the opportunity to volunteer at a local Holiday Bible Club called COPs (Children’s Outreach Programmes) with local Romanian and gypsy children. We taught them actions to Romanian songs, we taught them a children’s religious song in English, we taught them a Bible verse and we did a roleplay on a Bible story. We even made crafts and played team games. It was strange to see how divided the communities of ‘Romanians’ and ‘Romani Gypsies’ were, but it was very rewarding to see their innocence as they came together in the team games and overcame these cultural barriers. Today was a very positive day and full of giggles.
12th July 2018 is a day everyone connected to The Smiles Foundation will never forget.
The team, including Nicole, were working on a project in Dezna when they got some devastating news. Her article that day says –
The team worked very hard today but faced a terrible challenge. We discovered that one of the main influencers for Smiles Mission Trips in Northern Ireland, Barbara Morrison, had sadly passed away. She had planned to join us on the trip but had ended up in hospital days before we left for Romania. I had only met the woman once but sitting with the team today, it was clear to see what a massive impact she’d had on their lives. The pain in the room brought tears to my own eyes as the shock that a woman, who was so full of energy and life, had taken a fatal turn at a much earlier time than expected. It was a shocking realisation for everyone of how futile life is. We never know what is truely around the corner.
Barbara was The Smiles Foundation’s Development Ambassador & Volunteer Co-ordinator. She will be sorely missed.
Nicole continues – Nonetheless, after some prayers for her friends and family and listening to some praise music, we got back to work, now doubly motivated to make this project, that Barbara was so passionate about, a reality. Soon everyone was smiling again, determined to complete their tasks before the end of the day. In the words of Kevin, (Smiles CEO) we worked through blood (Andrew split his head open with a hammer), sweat from the blistering hot heat and tears from the team’s grief today, to get the work done.
Nicole goes on in her blog to share the team’s experiences when they visited the homeless, the Rapa gypsy community and much more. You can read ‘Bringing Smiles To Romania’ part 1 to part 7 on her blog here.
She leaves a final comment, “It was an incredible trip!! I really enjoyed it and would love to go back next year if I was given the opportunity.”
Has this whetted your appetite to go on a Smiles Foundation mission trip to Romania? Would you like to be part of a team from your church or group who go to bring smiles to the people there? Find out much more about their mission trips on The Smiles Foundation website here.