In the late autumn of 2018, a young man came to us, thin, brunette, poorly dressed, with his eyes fixed and his shoulders brought as if he were carrying something on his back. The attitude was that of a rebel, but still reserved, he seemed insecure, but determined to “stop at the asylum.”
This is how we met Aurelia, a young woman abandoned at birth and raised by State institutions. The face marked by many places in Bucharest and in the country where she had been “moved, accommodated and protected”, accentuated her cold and sharp features. Her shoulders devoid of parental caresses bore the burden of abuse, her eyebrows often shaved as punishment she had lost her feminine expressiveness, becoming threatening.
Aurelia had learned the hard lesson of life well, had been abused, beaten with animal cruelty, abused, starved, neglected and always driven from one place to another. When you talked to her, it was as if you heard a man always on the alert, lest something bad happen to her and he not be prepared. Nothing surprised us anymore at Aurelia’s reactions, desires and dreams, everything was related to protection and the fear of not returning “to the asylums”. “I want to work as a man !, I’m independent, I can handle myself, I don’t need anyone!” These statements were frequently heard in the house where she lived at Pro ACT and formed the basis for the deinstitutionalization and social inclusion of Aurelia.
The beginning was with denials, confrontations, non-acceptances, misunderstandings, connection and communication problems, but as the words of encouragement and support were heard, Aurelia responded to them better and more positively. Her desire to be seen as a “normal” person led Aurelia to succeed in trusting herself and others, finding a job, and falling in love.
On the occasion of the winter holidays, Aurelia was invited to dinner, at home, by the family where she worked, as a reward and recognition of the good, hardworking and responsible person she turned out to be. There he met Dorin, a mature man, with whom Aurelia fell in love. From that moment Aurelia and Dorin started a beautiful love story, which soon translated into Aurelia’s desire to get out of the “system” and to start on her own, as she had long wanted.
Here we are that a year and a half after coming to us, Aurelia managed to transform from a masculine and warrior person, into a young woman eager to have her own life and to have her value respected.
Good luck in the future, dear Aurelia, let’s meet someday and tell us about your life as an independent person and a loving woman, with your new family!
The Power of a Family
A word from the elders says: “The blood doesn`t turn to water!” and who can contradict it? Life shows us every day that miracles exist and are realized through people and created conjunctions. We were telling you at one point about Marian, a client of ours, who was taken from his mother and raised by the State (in various institutions), until he chose to come to Pro ACT. Marian had two big dreams: becoming a medical professional and getting to know his mother. The first dream became a reality when graduating nursing and entering the free labor market, but the second dream seemed unattainable due to the difficulty encountered by the support staff in contacting Marian’s family. It seemed that everything was getting worse and gradually the resignation took place in his soul, until he received a message from a girl. He didn’t know who she was, but he had the feeling that he knew her and contacted her. He was surprised when he found out that she was his younger sister and she was also abandoned at birth. What a strange thing, not even until that moment, he didn`t know he has a sister. Soon, hope began to take the place of resignation and together with his sister they joined forces in search of their mother. It has been less than a year since he first saw his sister and they managed to find and contact their mother, which has been established for many years abroad. Mom, quickly came to the country to hug both children, now adults and fill the void left long in their souls. That was enough, a hug from his mother, in order for Marian to decide that the time had come to be independent and to give up the status of “socially assisted”, a status he began to feel was inappropriate for him. With this thought he signs the request for “exit” from the social assistance system and goes out of it and into his life. One word from the elders says: “The blood doesn`t turn to water!” and who can contradict it?
The three I stand for: Ion, Ionica and Independent
An autumn day, Ion and Ionica, in the morning, already packed, are getting ready to meet their new friend, Independent. This is the first time they meet him in reality! They heard before about Independent, and the moment to meet him “in person” arrived. Excited by the new perspective, they shook hands with Independent who came straight into their lives with: luggage, changing places, shopping list, house chores, new rules, concerns, schedule, budget. But also with: joy, self-sufficiency, decision aver its own life and freedom of action. Independent is for now, a little bit stressful, but we know that some time is necessary for things to get right and it will take a while until Independent will become a real friend for Ion and Ionica. Scared and haunted by childhood memories, by life lived with so less, the two I-s share an apartment where each has his own room and for which they demonstrated through hard labor and sincerity, that they deserve it. This friend, Independent is like an open window for Ion and Ionica and time will decide when the moment of the flight will come. Until then, Pro ACT is as always, by their side!
Mister Braileanu celebrates Easter in a “new” home
We introduce you Nicolae Braileanu, Mister Braileanu as we call him, at Pro ACT. Mr. Braileanu has been our client since April 2015. He came to us from the residential social services of General Direction of Social Assistance and Child Protection Sector 1, Bucharest. Born and raised in Bucharest, Mr. Braileanu comes from a numerous family with many sisters and brothers. His parents left this world and the loved ones, who remained, were constantly contacted by Mr. Braileanu. He called them so often that they started to keep him at distance telling him the same message that Pro ACT was transmitting from a long time:
”Mr. Braileanu, you have a job, you earned your own money, you have friends that support you, you are stressed because of the rules you have to obey here at Pro ACT, you don`t want to share a flat, you don`t like to be supervised by Pro ACT team and you always tell us that you decide your own life. You are totally right and we couldn`t agree more: make up your mind and take action, we offer our support!”
Not even living at Pro ACT wasn`t easy, no matter how much we wanted his best, Mr Braileanu was always finding reasons to complain. He was permanently unsatisfied. Having such a behavior, we thought to raise Mr. Barileanu`s awareness towards what was so obvious to happen with a little courage: independence and autonomy. Mr. Braileanu was more than ready to become independent, he wished so, but he didn`t talk about it, most probably he not even realized how much he wanted to “be free”.
So, after many struggles, Mr. Braileanu moves in a new home. He took the big step and it happened so quickly, that impatience got over him. He searched all by himself a house that will satisfy him and he found one, right in the city center. A room for him, with a kitchen and a bathroom that he will share with other 2 colleagues. But that wasn`t enough for Mr. Braileanu, he took a step forward and asked to get out of the public social assistance system. His request was approved!
Before Easter 2017, Mr. Braileanu has moved where he longtime desired- in the middle of the community, deciding alone every step he will take in his life. For us, the client Mister Braileanu, is a success example, that encourage us to persevere when getting the persons with intellectual disabilities (our clients) to live normal, in the community.
Spring of Independence!
She is Simona, the first Pro ACT client who, after almost 5 years spent in our social inclusion services with maximum support, gets to feel the taste of Independence, moving alone in a house.
Everything started in May 2012, in a store, where, Simona, who just went out of institution, goes for the first time to shop for clothes – “You can buy me this dress, but I`m never going to wear it!”. This was Simona at the beginning, she refused everything, she didn`t have any dreams or wishes. You looked at her and you wondered if Simona has any chance in this world…she seemed like a lost cause.
But, with a lot of work, patience and tenacity from Pro ACT team, Simona began to trust herself. Along the way, Simona gets closer to the support person Mari, from who she attaches. From this moment of bound on, the story is different; a walk today near the house, a longer one tomorrow, then in town first accompanied, then alone. Simona learns how to clean the house and to bake cakes, so delicious that she starts to sell them, soon getting to be hired in a bakery.
Simona`s life path winds towards a normal life in the community and with self confidence getting stronger, she starts to earn her own money and to buy her first piece of furniture, golden earrings, new clothes among which, what do you think?, lots of skirts, blouses and elegant dresses.
2015 is the year that brings Simona for the first time at the sea side in her first vacation, she paid with her own money. Then, because of her success, Simona got invited at the European Parliament, in Brussels, to tell people about her new life and to promote persons with disabilities’ right to live in the community.
Simona`s kindness, innocence and diligence, which they abused so much back in institution, finally get to be rewarded. Like Cinderella who worked a lot and without expectations, Simona moves in a house where she will leave on her own, happy and independent, like she deserves!
Tudor, Tudor, Tudorel!
If you want an example of optimism, charm and charisma, we invite you to meet Tudor.
Very friendly, communicative, hard working and sociable, Tudor hides many natural fears for an adult that spent his entire life in public institutions, away from wellbeing of the soul.
Physical strength and inner power made a pact that they never leave Tudor and stand by his side in moments when he hesitates. We wrap everything in a big smile and a lot of joy, we add a little non-conformism and we complete the verses that compose Tudor with a stare and agile look. He always has a reply for anything anyone would say to him.
Although we have been around him for a while now, Tudor is still oscillating in his wishes. We suppose that he needs more time to heal older wounds: rejected many times by his mother in an unusual and brutal way.
In 2015, Tudor went for the first time to European Parliament, where he was invited to speak about what does it mean to live into community like everybody else, though he is considered to be a vulnerable person and how good is to have a positive attitude towards people. From Tudor we are learning every day how to “captivate” with your presence and big smiles persons around you. We believe that optimism and charisma are gifts Tudor makes to the world.
Mister Orban Endre
He is almost 50 years old and he is from Cluj. His older brother also lives here. Mister Endre wants what he has not been able to have until this age: family, more precisely a wife. He was in love with Alina, a young Pro ACT client, they had a relationship, they even made a movie in which they presented their love affair, but like many other aspects of his life, it didn’t last. In his youth, he had a studio in Cluj, he also had a stable love relationship. He lost both of them with the onset of mental illness and then the challenges began. As a young man, abandoned by his girlfriend, he is enrolled in the social assistance system and because he likes to carve wood and has talent, the State thought that it would be in Mr. Endre’s best interest to be hosted in a CITO (Care Center and Occupational Therapy), even though the closest such service is tens of kilometers away from his family, in Giurgiu county. That’s how Mr. Endre has been taken away from his poor family from Cluj, and brought in Giurgiu county, where he remains without any contact with his beloved, years in a row. Time passes, and Mr. Endre arrives in Pro ACT services, burdened by his brother’s longing and places in Cluj. He is just talking, resigned to the failures of his life, without perspective, eager to take his medicines as if it was the only way to stay alive. Religious from the threads, with one last hope, he tells the Pro ACT team: to revisit his brother and dear places in Cluj. The effort was not a big one, but the first visit after years left him speechless for a long time, and his emotions turned into phone calls to his brother almost every day. On the second visit for the winter holidays and after spending 4 days with his, Mr. Endre, regains his strength to continue his journey forward with more courage. However, Mr. Endre still seems trapped between two worlds represented by the desire to belong to the family of origin there in Cluj and the one to make his own way here where he is now, in Mihailesti, Giurgiu. Maybe only the wood carved with so much carefulness really delivers the deep feelings experienced by Mr. Endre.
Florin, the inner artist
A flower here, a detail here, a last paint brush in the mural painting made a few days ago in the living room and finished after many comebacks and changes inspired by the moment and the state. A pot with a flowering plant looked like it was in a corner of the yard, not at all there. He is one of the decorative elements that make up Florin’s plan to beautify the environment. The kitchen is invaded by large and small dishes, round, deep, on which the food passionately cooked by Florin dances in colors and tastes carefully suited to it. A mint leaf, a few slices of lemon and juice from many oranges, mix in a bowl, and the liquor obtained is served from a generous glass whose edges are sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Thus we were spoiled for drinking lemonade à Florin. Despite the vicissitudes of life, abandoned at birth, raised through placement centers, abused, incurably ill, Florin learned to fight, to look for the roots that support him in life. After 27 years, he learns that he has 3 brothers and a sister, all stepchildren. He did not hesitate, went immediately to meet them and hug them. In his room, on a corner of the desk is a journal, in which Florin addresses the world in extinct words that reveal a particle of the tired soul of so many medicines, doctors and hospitals. He knows that the time when he will look from above to all that is accomplished here is not far off. An early age with the old spirit, this is Florin, an inner artist!
Marian’s story is simple with the classic elements of the story of the child abandoned at birth, taken over by the public system of social protection and walked with his age from institution to institution. He came to Pro ACT in 2015, thinking he wants to get out of the system. In the meantime, he realized that he was not ready and set himself to learn. He learned to cook and found that he liked it. He wanted to become a nurse, he took the courses he graduated with grade 9. He wanted to learn English and he started looking for free courses. He thought he would like to have his own source of income and asked to be supported in finding a job. Of course, being a serious and involved person when it comes to his purpose, he got a cashier at Mega Image.
Last summer Marian receives a sign on Facebook from a girl and the story of his life takes an unexpected turn. After accepting his request for friendship, Marian saw that the girl has the same name like his. He looked at her profile pictures and found that he looks a lot like him. With each “search” hoping to find a close relative, it quickly seeped into Marian’s soul. He contacted her and found out her story, having the same elements as his story. It was clear, this girl was his sister! The first meeting … muttering … no word was needed, the souls spoke through the looks they met. It was enough, they recognized each other, though they had never been seen before. Thus, after 19 years, the two brothers met, both with the same fate, to be abandoned at birth with one year the difference between them and raised in two different systems of social assistance. Marian and his sister celebrate that moment with each of their phone calls and conversations. The universe worked together and the wings opened!
Ioana or The Ugly Duckling Story
Once upon a time there was a young girl who was constantly sad and seemed like nothing was pleasing her…this is how Ioana`s story begins. Without family, far and away from her relatives, loneliness, others` ignorance, environment from the public institution, all these left deep marks on Ioana`s face. Imagine a very shy, apathetic, grumpy, uninterested young woman that suddenly is the center of everybody`s attention, asked about wishes and dreams…her reaction was according to her amazement. “I want to see my family! I haven`t seen them for years!”.
And here it is how in spring 2014, Ioana with her heart bursting with emotions and her voice thicken by family sake, is on the train to Cluj, to see her mother, father and brother, after 14 years.
You could make a movie about how the reunion went and the impact it had on everybody present, but especially on Ioana, which is undeniable. Returned home from Cluj, Ioana continued to fulfill her long list of wishes – going to the dentist for new teeth and new look. Said and done! In the picture above, you can see the new, improved Ioana after many visits to the dentist. She was travelling from Mihailesti, where is the house she lives in, 16 kilometers to Bucharest, taking 3 buses. Slowly, the traces of sadness started to fade out and leave place for the beautiful swan to appear and talents to reveal – knitting and reading.
Aurel Simion known as Mamaela
Not long ago, we introduced you Aurel, one of the young people who accessed our services in 2014. His story sounds like this: after he was abandoned at the hospital at birth by his family to poor to take care of him, it was often transferred from one public institution to another, until the family could not keep up and lost track of him. Coming to Pro ACT, after 17 years since they were never seen before, on his birthday, he receives the surprise gift as a result of the team’s efforts: a visit from his mother and extended family. Since then, nothing has been the same for Mamaela.
The next two years meant for Aurel, repeated visits and holidays with his family and especially with his dear nephews, finding a stable job, but also the medical challenge: discovering the acute hearing impairment and the need to get a hearing aid.
Now, Mamaela, with his self-confidence given by the hearing his own voice and of the others, responds to the voice of the family, who calls and gives him the courage to reach that new heaven. Aurel is about to leave the social assistance system and to fully integrate into the family and society. Aurel is close to… success!
Gabriela, a girl with a rough life did not give up the emotions, continued to hope that she will succeed. When she came to us, in 2012, at 20 years old, he looked rather like Gabriel, starring in your eyes and always “on guard” as if something bad might happen. This attitude wasn`t her fault, but that `s what life had been tought her, to be careful. The attempts to smile ended in a grimace that revealed the full and white menacing teeth. You didn’t even understand what she was talking about, because she was rushing and not wanting to pay too much attention to herself, her words were bulging, and Gabriela’s anger was growing misunderstood. Many episodes of anger manifested more or less by gestures followed and we tried to “translate” each one separately. Each time the result was the same: Gabi was unstoppable – she didn’t give anyone’s account, she didn’t want to depend on anyone, she wanted independence and she cried with all her being, to be allowed to live as she likes. She fell in love, she suffered, she get cured, then she fell in love again, she suffered again and so on. Gabi experienced in 2 years as for others in 10 years, without fear of failure, with a lot of courage and selflessness, ruthlessly close to real, until, she decided: “I want to get out of the system!”. And then, all the evaluation reports, which drew attention that she is not yet ready for this step yet, made no sense. Gabi was clear for the last time to us and to the system, that she wants a new life and she has left!
Today, Gabriela and her husband, live in a village in Ialomita County, they both work in Bucharest, and life goes on, Gabriela being closer to … success.
Nicu Stan or one of a kind personality
Thoughts, discussions, yes-no, top-down, yes-no, right-left, decisions-indecision, safety-insecurity, certainties-uncertainties, laughter hiccups – crying hiccups, sweet words- ugly words, justice, altruism-pride, dynamic-static, this is Nicu Stan. The lack of parents, the uprooting of the maternal family where he stayed until he was 14 and the freedom from services at Pro ACT misunderstood at that time, marked his life and behavior. Although it was difficult for everyone, Nicu’s turmoil but also the acquisitions gained in the last 2 years, led to his radical decision to exit the social assistance system and to enter the world. He did this in his own style, without sufficient preparation, with many words and gestures, in full personal rebellion, suffocated by “rules” and by his own ignorance. Surrounded by his perplexities yet, Nicu has now become conscientious and responsible for his life, living with rent, going to work and maintaining himself financially. With moral and material support from us, Nicu is looking forward to the documents from the public authorities to confirm that he is exactly where he wants, officially leaving the system and closer to … success.
Simona the Brave Heart
“You can buy me this dress, but I will not wear it ever!”…this is how Simona`s epic story started.
At the beginning she was refusing everything, she didn`t have any wishes or dreams. You looked at Simona and you couldn`t believe she would make it; she was like a…lost cause.
We invested a lot of work, patience and tenacity in Simona before she began trusting herself for instance. Along the bumpy ride, in her life started to get an important role, Mari, one of the caregiver. Mary, became step by step, Simona`s support person and from this moment on, the story writes itself in other words. A short ride today near the house, a longer one tomorrow, the day after tomorrow a visit to Bucharest, with Mari at first, then Simona alone. She learnt to clean around the house and to bake cakes, so delicious that she started to receive orders and then she got hired at a local bakery. From here, the story goes on to Simona`s independent life: she bought her own closet, golden earrings, new clothes amongst which there are what do you think, many skirts, dresses and elegant blouses. More, last year she went for the first time in her first holiday at the sea side. She paid it from her own money that she earned by working at that local bakery. Also she flew for the first time to Brussels, where she was invited at the European Parliament to talk about herself and her new independent life in the community. These are real facts that happened in Simona`s new life. Today, Simona has a beautiful smile, wishes and dreams, but above all, she has…COURAGE!
Geta at home
Year 2012, January, Geta is at CRRN Carpenis, Giurgiu county looking like a young boy left in a corner, hungry and with battered clothes, feasting some fresh made donuts as they were her first and last food she saw.
March 2012, she moves in Mihailesti town, together with other 5 colleagues, in a house with a garden and a greenhouse. But the hard times really begin from this moment on, when everything is newto Geta: the faces, the colors, the room, the pillow, the blanket, the clothes, the smell, the food, the neighbors, the colleagues…too much for a frail person like her who has been through a lot of discrimination, scams and lies that she always heard about her: “Geta, you`re agitated, let`s change your clothes to calm you down! Geta stay calm! Geta stop doing that!”.
Geta reacted, continuing to “do that” and even more, as form of adaptation to new conditions of life in community. Six unquiet months followed, filled with screams and lots of scratches on her face standing as confessions of words spoken that nobody understood. In time, by securing her space, respecting her as a whole person and by rendering her the value she deserves, a new Geta arouse. Wit, attention to details, liveliness, diligence, joy and inner child that were asleep until then, came to light. Today, the blue of the sky from Geta`s eyes is more intense, the words are more clear and the longing for the family fading with the new contact and relation re-established.
Aurel and his Family
Aurel`s story begins with multiples transfers from a public institution to another, until his family lost track of him.
After 17 years, Aurel, new resident in Mihail house, talks to Pro ACT`s team about his mother, his sister and his missing family. It was enough for the social worker to try to reconnect him with family…dream came true on 20 September 2014, right on his birthday, Aurel receives as a gift his mother, nephews and sisters `visit.
Even though life was sometimes cruel to Aurel, his is always patient and understanding, seeming like accepting silently his faith. Hard working and joyful, although he is sometimes tired, he is offering smiles and cheerfulness to every persons he interacts with. From this moment on, Aurel`s story is simple: he goes to visit his family as often as he desires his mother`s open arms and he lives hoping that soon his story will have a happy end – to remain forever with his family.
Ion Ionica, the family man
At around 4 years old, Ionica remembers that he was thrown out of train.
That`s all! The rest, we know from the social file from the institution: name – invented, age – established by a doctor so neither of them real and no other piece of information about his past. So, Ion Ionica found when people celebrated St. John`s day (the reason for his name) is put in an “orphanage”. Then, he grew up moving from a public institution to another until we came to Pro ACT services, before he was 32 years old. Having a certain restlessness in his voice, a slightly sense of humor and lot of will to help, Ionica is loved by his friends. More, his courage to express and the sincerity of autocrotocism determine 2 of our colleagues to baptize him. Yes, Ionica wanted to be baptized at 32 years old and the religious service was held in the Novaci church. His godfather and godmother were a neighbor from the house Ionica lives in and and a colleague from Pro ACT. Who do you believe was the happiest after this event?… With his soul free, Ionica does a good deed – he calls an old friend known from an institution, mother of a 2 years boy, to come and live with him in Novaci. With compassion he insisted that the young mother is helped to find a job in Bucharest and now, he is taking care of the little boy while the mother is at work. Somewhere, deep inside his soul, Ionica remained suspended in that moment when he was thrown out the train and now, it seems he wishes to prevent such thing happen to anybody else. Thinking of Ionica, we see a family man and sometimes we feel he misses his unknown mother and father.
Florin, between past and future
Florin, is now in another stage of his life, being between two names Iliescu, given by those who found him, in institution and Surdoaia, his real name. A runaway child from the special school at 10 years old, Florin is found in the forest near Gradinari village, Giurgiu county, declared missing by the family from the first moment and yet unidentified by the police, he receives a fictive name (Iliescu) and he spends his entire childhood wandering from institution to institution. At age 34, Florin gets into Pro ACT Suport`s services where gets encouraged by the psychologist to talk about his childhood memories and his family. After many discussions on the subject, Pro ACT team decides to call the police – Department for Missing Persons and the story continues…they compared his DNA with the supposed mother`s DNA, and the result was confirmed: Florin was the one and the same with the person missing in 1990. The meeting after 24 years was very emotional, leaving everyone present speechless.
From this moment on the story continues different…more beautiful! Now, at more than one year from the reunion, Florin talks about his family which he is frequently visiting and by gaining his long lost identity, Florin feels again…