Sunday, 27 October 2013


A link to our crowdfunding page;

How do you raise half a million pounds?

Stupid question isn't it?

It's just a pipe-dream really.

So why am I asking it?

Yesterday we went to look at a house. We have been asked to go and look at it for some time, and, finally, yesterday, on a gloriously sunny late Autumn day, we went to see it.
We aren't property experts, we have been asked simply because the elderly couple who own it have been trying to sell it for some time now, and another friend of ours suggested to them that we might be able to get it onto the internet and help to make that sale.
We have passed the house many times on our way to and from the city, but I had never seen it before.
To put it simply, I had never looked.

When we got there, parked up outside and then walked down the drive through almost a Hectare of mixed-fruit orchard, I have no idea what I expected to find, but it certainly wasn't what I actually did find.
The house was built by this couple for their family. They bought the land in the early 90's with a plan to have their own very large house built, where sons, daughters, and grandchildren could all visit and stay together occasionally. 
Unfortunately though, over the years as their family has grown and they have all created their own, busy, independent lives, none of them have ever stayed at the house.
The first year after they bought the land they planted cabbages on it, just so that the land was being used. When they sold the cabbages at the end of the season they made more for them than they had paid fro the land!
Over the years the couple have continued to develop their dream, and the house has grown, together with a large number of very useful outbuildings.
It is now surrounded by mature fruit trees giving apples, pears, cherries, and plums, as well as at least one nut tree.
Another adjacent piece of land of about half a hectare in size has been used this year to grow Maize, which is a staple part of the Romanian diet, as well as being very good animal feed. Traditionally even the cobs are used. Once dried they make very good fuel for fires.
The house itself is enormous, with about nine bedrooms on three levels as well as three bathrooms a large dining room, kitchen and an  enormous pantry, and more.
It is built in a traditional Romanian mountain style, looking very Tyrolean, or even slightly Swiss. 
Houses of this style are common in the mountain regions of Romania, but not in lower lying villages where this one is.
It is almost entirely timber-clad, with traditional carved detailing.
As you rise up through the three levels of the house and go out onto one of the many balconies, each has a stunning view of the nearby village and the hills beyond, as well as over the fabulously beautiful valley that the house sits in.
Building this house has been a labour of love for this couple, and that is obvious as you tour it, you can feel the love that they have put into it.
After we had been shown around, taken hundreds of photographs, and we were sitting talking to them about how we might be able to help (over the inevitable glass of Tuica, of course), the real purpose of this house and our visit there just suddenly filled my head, and those thoughts have just carried on coming and coming since we left, promising that we would be back.
We, as Volunteer Romania, work with some local orphanages, as well as schools for special needs children, and we try to bring as many volunteers as we can from all over the world to help. It's a thing that we love doing and it is our whole reason for being here in Romania.
It is all entirely non-profit and on its own would never be able to yield the funds for a project such as this.
While Ali was chatting to the couple though, I just kept looking around and I started to see a bigger picture, a bigger possible future for the house.
I saw it filled with children, of all ages.
i saw it busy and bustling and productive.
I saw the couples dream, only not, sadly, with their family.
I saw the house and the whole property as new orphanage.
The location is ideal, the house is ideal, and it would take very little additional work to make it operable as a home for the children who we work with.
We would even be able to provide separate accommodation for volunteers and helpers.
The people we already work with at two nearby orphanages would be an intrinsic part of making it work, as would the children. The house would become another member of the 'family' of houses that they have already built for the kids.
It wouldn't just be a house though, it wouldn't just be another orphanage. it would be a working property. The hundreds of fruit trees could be tended and picked every year, the fruit then used to make preserves, jams, cakes, pies, etc etc just as they have been by families in Romania for hundreds of years.
The fields could be used  and the produce they yield could be used in the same way.
In this way, as well as getting an ordinary education, the children would also learn the traditional village skills of self-sufficiency, and by doing so may help to maintain a traditional way of life that has lasted and lasted, through wars, changing political climates, and through periods of poverty and hunger.
There is more that can be done here though, far more.
There is space between the trees in the orchards to grow even more produce, potatoes, onions, garlic, beans, ......the list goes on and on.
There is space to build a large greenhouse.
There is space to keep chickens, lots of lots of eggs.
The childrens' home had a chicken enclosure last year, but it was at a house in the city, and the neighbours complained of the noise the cockerels made. Eventually notice was served by the authorities stating that 'the chicken house is not in an area where it is appropriate to keep chickens', so it had to be pulled down. All of the chickens though were re-homed by being gifted to a different orphanage out in the country.
There are plenty of experienced locals who would be willing to help, advise, and teach, so that the children and their carers could gain a level of self-sufficiency that they would never otherwise dream of.
Any surplus could be sold at the local markets to help fund the day-to-day running of the home.
We also have another dream of providing respite for the many special needs children we know and respite for their families, and this property could also do that. A small mini-bus would also enable us to be able to collect those children from the city and transport them to play and work alongside the more able-bodied kids so that they could benefit from it too.
They would get some fresh air while their families also get a well-deserved break knowing that their children would be safe in good hands..

It's just a dream though.

It would take about half a million pounds to buy the property and give the elderly couple a fair price for it.
A little of what was left would be used to make the house right for the children and to make it fully disabled accessibe. Some would also be used to pay the inevitable legal fees in setting the home up with it's proper status in Romania.
A little would also be used to buy that minibus, it is an essential.
None of that would take long though, because the property is so perfect.

Anyone out there know how to raise half a million pounds?
That's about 585, 000 euros, or about 800,000 US Dollars.

When you think about it, it isn't actually a lot in the great scheme of things, but I have no idea where to start, or how to go about raising such a sum.
By the time I do find out, it may be too late anyway, and the house will be sold.

So is there anyone out there who can help?
Anyone who can advise me on how to raise the money. or maybe just hand it over now, so that we can turn a dream into a reality?

Even if there is someone out there who can see the dream too and would like to do it themselves, we would be only too willing to help.

We all need a dream in life, but to have suddenly found a dream in this way, a dream with such purpose is so special, and it isn't a dream that I can just allow to fade away without at least giving it  a try.

Wish me luck!

Volunteer Romania

Friday, 25 October 2013


Horses and carts are a common sight in the village we live in, just as they still are all over Romania.
The horses are hard working.
They take families and workers to the fields, then plough or draw other farming equipment while they are there, and then they bring whatever has been harvested home again.
These ones though are special and These are just some quick snaps that we took of them yesterday evening.
they belong to a friend of ours, who bred these horses, just as he has done all of his horses through his lifetime. he carried on where his father left off and these two are his fifth generation.
They are so perfectly matched. Unlike many other pairs of horses that you see.
When these two trot down the road, only one horse can be heard, they are so perfectly in unison.
Here they are happy, it is the end of their working day and they are bringing their winter feed home.


Friday, 18 October 2013


We have already had a lot of volunteers from America join us on Volunteer Romania's programme working with the the under-privileged children and children with special needs of Romania.
The biggest problem for them though has always been the high cost of travelling from the USA to Romania.
Well, that may all be about to end.
A new discount service will be launched from July 2014 providing fares as low as £300 return from New York, Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles to Gatwick Airport in London.
Cheaper flights are already available from Luton Airport in London from another airline, called Wizzair 
With a coach transfer between Luton and Gatwick airports only costing £10, it is entirely possible that the total cost of a trip from the USA to our preferred arrival airport Cluj-Napoca, here in Romania, may costs from as little as £450 to £500 return!
Great news if it means that more of our American friends can join us here.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013


Although every minute of the time I get to spend with the children at the children's home is a real pleasure, there are the odd moments, just like this one, which are so special, and which remind me why we are really here in Romania with Volunteer Romania


Sunday, 11 August 2013


If anyone has any questions or comments about any of my Blogs, Romania, or just want to say Hi!
Don't be afraid to contact me at

Sunday, 28 April 2013


Our weather has changed.
After a long long winter, and a hardly existent Spring, summer has arrived, with a bang.
Sunshine all day long and temperatures up to 30 deg C.
The weather forecast told us it was coming so we planned for it.
At last we could get out into the garden and plant all of those oh so essential crops for this year.
At last we could get outside and do some of the essential maintenance work that need to be done and start to build our greenhouse and the chicken run we have decided that we need.
In Romania though, nothing ever seems to go to plan,, so we should have known better.
On the first day of the sunshine our hot water heater decided to go wrong and started delivering steam through the taps instead of hot water. A little investigation and a little common sense told us that it was the thermostat, which is a relatively easy job to replace, and we did so. Whilst doing it though we discovered that about 6 of the joints in the hot water pipework were leaking badly, apparently having been melted by the overheated water passing through them!
They are still dripping away, soaking our basement floor, for reasons that will become apparent if you read on.
That evening we discovered that our website had gone down down. It didn't only go down, it disappeared completely. It transpired that our Hosts servers had crashed, and by the time we discovered it (because they couldn't be bothered to inform us of the problem) it had already been down for 6 days.
This is an important time of the year for Volunteer Romania as it is just about the busiest time for bookings onto the programme, so having the site down for so long was no joke.
A large number of irate e-mails later and an apparent lack of willingness by HostSo to treat the problem as an urgent one, we decided that we had to change our Host provider. Not quite as simple as it sounds because as our old Hosts' servers were constantly down we couldn't just copy the site over to a new Host and re-launch it, it had to be completely re-built, from scratch!
Now, I am no computer genius, and neither is my other half, but she had already built the first site and she set about doing it again. if you have ever tried this you will know that it requires a knowledge of 'coding' which to the uninitiated viewer looks like complete gobbledegook. It's coming along though, and we would love people to take a look and let us know what they think of the new site Volunteer Romania. We have now received a very generous offer of help from someone who is far more expert than we are, so Ali is busy putting all of the information that he needs together so that he can take over and allow us to get on with the rest of the jobs.
Then, to cap it all, on our first day in the garden, I fell over, stupidly. trouble is I fell right on to a pile of metal that we had moved, badly cut my hands and ended up with a cut on my leg and on my stomach. The cuts in my hands are so bad that I have been unable to wield any tools to get on with things, so I, just like Ali, am stuck back here on the laptop all day long, just doing whatever I can to help move things forward.
John, our friend and co-worker who lives with us has done a stirling job keeping everything going in the garden and cutting the grass that was just getting longer and longer and without his efforts we really would be in a mess right now.
We will perservere though. The information for the website will take a couple of days to complete and my hands are healing, so soon we really will be able to get on with things properly and achieve some of those goals that we have given ourselves for this year.
Keep an eye out, hopefully it will be interesting.


Monday, 18 March 2013


The Castle overlooking our nearby city, Deva

This is the front of our house
This is the small house that 8 of you will sleep in bunk beds.
It has it's own wet room,with stand up shower as well as a small sitting room

These 2 pictures are of our guest bedroom, which has it's own
small en-suite bathroom

This is Hunedoara Castle, that you will be visiting

this is a typical daily view in our village, and this would constitute a traffic
jam where we live
This is the Casa de Cultura in Deva

This is our lounge with it's open fire, hopefully we won't need it. This is
overlooked from a galleried landing between the two upstairs bedrooms

This is our painted village church which sits high on the hill overlooking
the valley

Another typical sight in the village, this, or the odd escaped pig!

This is the second room that 5 of you will be sleeping in, as you can
see we still have to put the beds back after it's Spring clean

The en-suite bath that 5 of you will share

Wednesday, 27 February 2013


We went to Sibiu this weekend.
The trip was primarily to meet members of Sibiu Ballet Company, who would like to do something to help support the Special Needs Centre that we work at, or even to do a performance to raise some money for them. They are really lovely people and we had a great time with them.
While we were there though we also had a little time to relax.
When we have had city breaks in the past, relaxation during the day happened by finding cafes frequented by the locals, not the tourist ones, and sitting in them and just to watch the world go by.
That's exactly what we did in Sibiu. We found a cafe overlooking the beautiful main town square, went in and sat down at a table in the window. We drank great coffee, chatted, and watched the world go by as people went about their business in the square in front of us.
As usual we talked about the people we could see and speculated occasionally about what they might be doing or where they might be going.
After a few minutes a pair of street sweepers came into view, a middle-aged woman and an older man. They were both dressed in dark coloured waterproof jackets and trousers with high visibility bands around the arms and legs. The woman was brushing hard at the cobbles, really having to make an effort to get the dirt and cigarette butts out form the cracks between them. All she had to work with was a Besom Broom, you know like the famous 'witches broomstick', which seemed to make the work twice as hard as it needed to be, but she just kept on going without resting, really working the broom into the cracks between the cobbles.
Road sweepers throughout Romania use these brooms, but most are sweeping tarmac or smooth paving, not ancient cobbles.
As I watched I thought about the road sweeping machines that they use in other 'better developed' cities in the world and wished that this poor lady could have one. Then I realised though, that if the city of Sibiu did have one, she would probably be out of a job and it would be the man she was 'working' with  who would probably be driving the machine around the square and making a nuisance of himself among the many pedestrians.
Piata Mare, Sibiu
His task this day seemed at first to be one of just leaning on a floor brush next to a wheelie bin, and watching as the woman swept and swept at the rough paving, occasionally making a comment or pointing at something she had missed. He stood watching her for about ten minutes, then suddenly he leaped into action. He took a shovel from his wheelie bin, swept the pile of dog-ends and litter that the lady had made up into the shovel and then almost ceremonially emptied the shovel into the wheelie bin before tapping it on the side and then throwing it and the brush inside. He then strode off, at pace, pushing the wheelie bin towards the other side of the square.
I craned my neck around to look out of the corner of the window and I could see that another lady was on the other side of the square brushing just as vigorously at the cobbles over there. Once the man arrived next to her, he took his brush from the bin, leaned on it and stood watching her, just as he had been doing when I first saw him.
Another lady, completely different place, same hard
work, similar broom.
I looked back at the first woman and she was still working her broom furiously, making neat piles of rubbish, and I suspected that she might be trying to get far enough ahead of her task so that the man didn't have any time just to stand and watch whenever he returned.
As she brushed I saw a young man walk past her and then casually discard a cigarette end onto the paving where she had already brushed, not even glancing at the woman, or caring that she was working so hard.
It was then that it struck me that this really is a never-ending task for these ladies, and a task that would never be finished.
As a story I think this is also indicative of Romanian life generally. there are so many fit and healthy old ladies in our village, in their 80's and 90's they always greet us with a cheeky grin, a happy hello, and often a risque comment too! They are so full of life. The women are on their own, they are all widows, there are no men of similar ages.
It was Ali who pointed it out, and stressed that it is no surprise. After all it is usually the women who do all of the hard physical work, spending all day bent over, planting or picking or weeding in the fields, and then return home at the end of a long hard day to cook, wash, clean and raise their children.
They live a life that has kept them a lot fitter.
The men tend to supervise, just as the male road sweeper was doing.
Either that or they spend their time in local bars smoking, drinking coffee, beer or Tuica 'doing business,' or just talking about what needs to be done at any particular time of year. They might even discuss the big issues of the day, and of course, all will have an answer to them that no-one else has thought of.
Even the younger women who work long hours in bars, cafes or offices in the City have to return home to do the cooking, cleaning, etc., so modern day life hasn't changed things greatly.

So it's no wonder that it is the ladies who have the longevity, they have been kept fit all their lives by the amount of work they have to do, whilst the men live  a far less healthy existence.
It is the women of Romania who are the power houses, who break their backs to try and ensure that their children, and their men, are fed, clean and presentable, and women have lived this lifestyle here for hundreds if not thousands of years.
The same is true in other less-developed parts of the world too, and I know that I am generalising and that this isn't true of all men and women, but from my observations of everyday Romanian life, it is the way the great majority of women live.
It's the woman who are the real power.


Friday, 1 February 2013


I have written a lot in previous Blogs about our aim to be as self-sufficient as we can in every aspect of our 'new' lives here in Romania.
It's been something I have been thinking even more about recently, as with Spring approaching we need to set about preparing the ground and planting our early crops.
We did so well last year, even if we were finally beaten in the end by the enormous amount of weeds we had, so we have been talking about how we might be able to manage our garden in a better way to achieve even more over 2013. Those plans are now firmly in place and with the warmer days we have coming over the next few weeks we will be implementing them, with full confidence that they will succeed, on the basis of the things we learned last year.
However, I have realised while I have been thinking about it, that 'self-sufficiency' goes so much further for us than just being able to grow our own crops, or do the work around the house ourselves, or chop our own wood.
The main reason we live here is so that we can continue our work with the children through Volunteer Romania, and attract as many people as we can, from all over the world, to come and help us with that work, and, as we like to say, 'create smiles'.
The fees we charge for our programme's with those kids are all calculated on an entirely non-profit basis. We charge exactly what it costs us to run the programme. We made the decision to do this last year to try and attract as many volunteers as we could, because it is so important to us that we keep the great work that volunteers do with the children going.
If there is any money ever left over from running our programme, we use it to fund other little events, such as the free two-week summer camp we held in our village last year.
It means that we live off of a very small pension, and that at times it can be very hard, but that is also a spur to greater self-sufficiency in many different ways.
This year we have even been burning scrap wood left over from building the extensions to the house instead of buying logs. The scrap wood has been lying around for years anyway, just going rotten, so it made sense, and it saved us money.
This year we will also be felling some self-seeded Acacia tress and some old Plum trees so that we have proper firewood, next year, or preferably the year after.
It also means that we don't have an advertising budget, so we rely on the kindness of the many many friends we have made on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc to help us to spread the word about what we do.
We also use Skype to speak to people internationally, simply because it is free, and find as many ways as we can to recycle, re-use, help ourselves rather than relying on others, etc. etc
It all helps to keep those costs down, and keep our fees amongst the lowest in the world for a fully supported programme such as ours, and hopefully as time goes on, that simple fact will attract more and more people to visit our beautiful adopted home of Romania.
We also use free websites where we can and here is the great feedback that one very special lady gave us on Volunteer Abroad following her visit to us last year. She is planning on returning as often as she is able and we are so looking forward to having her back with us. 
Even our website is entirely Do-It-Yourself. 
Ali had to learn from scratch how to write a website, and she has done a great job.
It may not be at the cutting edge of internet creativity, however, it is clear, it is simple, it is informative, and it works so well.
The work Ali does on the website and the things we do to promote Volunteer Romania using social media seem to be working too. This January the website has had over 1000 hits. 
A sneak preview of the 'new look' website
In the early months of 2012 we got between 15 and 20 hits a month. I can imagine that there may be an expert out there saying "Is that all?", but remember we have had no money to do this, or to advertise the site, it has been done simply through our own hard work and effort and with help from those friends we have found who support what we do.
At the moment Ali is entirely occupied with the task of completely re-designing the website, with a brighter, fresher much more appealing aesthetic. Hopefully that will be launched over the next few days, but she does find it hard having to use the 'free' software that is all that we have available, as at times it can be slow, and occasionally just lost everything Ali has done in a day through no fault of her own. It's all we have though, so she perseveres, and (most of the time) she just keeps smiling.
So keep an eye out for it, it will be published soon and we will shout it out loud and as far as we can when it is.
Those low low prices will remain the same though.
All we need to see is a few more of the people who have looked actually deciding to join us, it would be great and the more the merrier.
It would even be an enormous help just to
print this new poster out and display it
where you think it may get interest.
Please let us know if you do, we would
love to say thank you.
We are realists though and we understand that times are tough all over the world, and even those who would like to come may not be able to simply because they can't afford prices even when they are as low as ours.
We are small but we want to grow so that we are able to do more and more with the disadvantaged children we work with.
So if anyone reading this would like to help but can't actually come to Romania, how's about following on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and helping us to spread the word far and wide about what we do here, by sharing our messages about our mission, by re-tweeting, or just by chatting to us?
We would love to hear from you.

Volunteer Romania

And don't forget Holiday Romania if you would just like a cheap holiday or would like to come and discover this wonderful country for yourself.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


Now is a great time to book what could possibly be the experience of a lifetime with Volunteer Romania. 
What could be better than spending a holiday in a village in a largely unspoiled and beautiful country whilst also putting smiles on the faces of disadvantaged children, orphans and special needs children.
Then also get an extra treat if you book before the end of January 2013, of a free trip to one of Romania's most beautiful and creepy Dracula castles, called Corvin Castle, in Hunedoara.
It still only takes a deposit of £100 to secure a place on what is possibly the cheapest and best fully supported volunteering experience anywhere in the world.
So, go take a look at the website and see how you and the children of Romania could benefit.


Thursday, 3 January 2013


So now 2013 is finally here, what will it bring for us and what do we have planned?
Well our first and most important task is to try and tell everyone out there who will listen about the work we do with orphaned, disadvantaged and special needs children through Volunteer Romania.
It is the real reason we are here after all.
So follow us on Twitter @Vol_Romania or on Facebook and help us by letting more people know!
We had some wonderful people join us on the programme last year and it would be great to have many many more wonderful people join us this year. Meeting, and making friends with new people from all over the world when they come and visit is a real pleasure, and the money they provide by coming allows us to do lots of wonderful things with the children and we are planning many many new things for the years to come.
All of our volunteers and visitors  live with us at our home when they are here, so the second major task is to make sure that our house is ready for them when they arrive.ough after a 
It's a slightly bigger job this year though after having a couple of disasters over winter.
The first was finding that we had two burst pipes under the concrete floor. That meant digging them up to find the exact points of the leaks. It only took three holes though, so we were lucky. However, in doing so we also found a leak in our main water supply pipe too.
Eventually, after some searching, digging, and a lot of DIY plumbing the leaks have been repaired, and those areas have been left for now to dry out before we cover them back up again. They are well hidden away though, so they don't stop anyone living here very comfortably.
It was after fixing the leaks and getting our central heating up and running again that our second little disaster occurred. After filling the system and re-pressurising it, our old central heating pump finally gave up the ghost and stopped working!
So, at the moment, and until we have the funds to replace it with a new pump, we have no central heating.
Thank goodness that, so far at least, it has been a relatively mild winter.
We have a wood-fired stove in our kitchen though, and that does a good job of warming us as well as getting a little warmth into the whole house.
The open fire in the lounge also helps, although it isn't all that efficient, so we only light it when we really need it and when we are willing to put up with the odd puff of smoke coming back into the house (as our last two volunteers of last year discovered at the beginning of December!)
If the worst comes to the worst we also have the dogs to cuddle up to, and they seem to have no problem keeping warm!
There are a few other jobs we would like to do before new visitors arrive, just to make everyone that little bit more comfortable than they already are, but we will have to see how, time, weather and money go before we can decide on which ones.
Thank you to for this fantastic example
of what we have in mind. Ours will be about twice the size of this,
but you can see that it is a wonderful example of true recycling and
doesn't look bad at all!
We do have some great plans for projects when the good weather starts to arrive though. 

The first is to build a greenhouse!
We know exactly where it will go, in the old pig sty along the back of our garage wall where it will get sun all day long. We also know exactly how we are going to build it, as a lean-to re-using the old wooden windows from our house in a simple timber frame.

The greenhouse will help us to start the crops for our kitchen garden earlier, and make an even better job of growing food for ourselves than we did last year, and we didn't do badly at all!
This is the sort of facility we want to provide for our hens, but ours 
will have to be much bigger. Our hens will have to be permanent
residents because of our 
dogs and other pests we have around here. 
Thank you to 

The other job is to build an enclosed run and a hen house so that we can keep chickens!
It is another job that is all fully planned out in my head, and will take us that little step closer to self-sufficiency. We eat a lot of eggs, so it will be easy to recoup the costs of doing it once our hens start laying. 
Along with ensuring that we have our woodshed fully enclosed before next winter and at the same time provide a nice cool enclosure for the dogs it means that we are going to be busy.
It is all so worthwhile though.
Each one of these tasks not only brings the house closer to our ideal, it also make sour lives a little easier, and a little warmer!
I have also noticed that our visitors seem to appreciate the things that we do when we explain them, and it is wonderful to see them so relaxed and smiling when they are here.
I'm really looking forward to getting on with things.
Don't forget though that we can't do it without our volunteers, so take a look at the website at and even if you aren't interested in coming to Romania yourself, you can still help enormously by sharing it with friends and family, after all, it might just be the life-changing experience one of them is looking for!

Volunteer Romania