In 2012, The Life Intervention Friendship and Education (LIFE) Foundation was conceived, taking over an already established non-profit organisation which primarily worked in Oltenia in Romania, working with babies, children and adults living in Government institutions.
Our first job was to formalise a volunteer project which had been running over the summer months, with volunteers from the UK travelling to Oltenia to provide entertainment and activities across six family type homes (with 36 children) and two adult institutions (with 70 adults in each). All the individuals living in the institutions had additional physical, medical and/or psychological needs.
We worked alongside the Romanian authorities to make a plan for volunteers to work across the family type homes and adult institutions. This included providing training to volunteers and undertaking DBS checks. We also needed translators to support our volunteers and were lucky enough to find some young Romanian volunteers, who worked hard as translators, acted as helpful guides for our volunteers and learned more about the needs of the beneficiaries and improved their English along the way.
We felt that although our volunteer project had a positive impact on our beneficiaries, it was seasonal and not necessarily focused on individual’s needs and development. It was hard to make a long term impact and ensure sustainability and continuity. We started to develop and fund a Romanian multidisciplinary team made up of professionals who could provide the children with daily input, support staff and provide regular interventions for the adults. Our team has changed over the years, however there has been one constant and that has been our lovely Norica Popa. Norica has been working with in the care system since she was 18 years old and has known a lot of our beneficiaries for many years. We have supported and invested in Norica, for example supporting her to train as a nurse and undertake play therapy courses. Norica has also looked after 100s over volunteers over her many years and many will agree that she is the heart and soul of our project in Romania. She is supported by Mr Piui, the director of our Romanian partner charity William Tyrell. More recently we added a physiotherapist, Nicu to our multi-disciplinary team and hope to add other professionals soon!
We knew that professional input was really valuable for our beneficiaries and that our Romanian multi-disciplinary team appreciated input from UK health workers. In 2012, we embarked on our first specialist trip with a combination of qualified health professionals and professional students, with the aims of developing individual care programs for the beneficiaries ,and training the carers working within the institutions. Our current trustees actually met on this first professional trip! When we started these trips were not very focused, however over time we have been able to become more responsive and plan our teams and training based on the needs identified by the institution staff and the Romanian multi-disciplinary team.
In 2016 registered as a Charity. This has been a fantastic move and allowed us to continue our ideals and aims as an organisation.
So there have been a lot of changes since The LIFE Foundation started and we are proud of all our achievements. In addition to continuing to support our multi-disciplinary team in Romania and continue professional trips, we are now looking to see how we can support children with additional physical, medical and/or psychological needs in the community, to try to keep them living with their families.