1. Please tell us about who you are and what you do.
I’m Claire Melinte. I run a charity, ‘Asociatia Bunul Samaritean’ in rural Galați.
2. Share your backstory with us. How did your business or organisation come about and what was it that switched you on to this area in the first place?
Our village, Nicorești, had an awful orphanage that was home to 100’s of abandoned, disabled children so that is how we ended up here. We set up a home to rescue some of those children (now disabled adults) and we now have 15 residents whose lives have transformed under our loving care. In 2007 we set up a Day Centre for children from disadvantaged families, we offer them hot meals, hot showers, extra education, playtime and different works in a safe and loving environment. We also have a number of different projects in the community (building/repairing houses, paying for essential operations, donating food and clothes, sponsoring teenagers to continue schooling etc)
3. What do you think or hope the future has in store for you and your business? Where do you see yourself or your organisation five years from now?
There are lots of things that I’d love to do (a Community Centre, a Day Centre for disabled adults, a shelter for victims of domestic violence etc) but they all depend on finances so I hope that in the next 5 years we get a lot more financial support from the Romanian side (authorities, firms and donors). Since 2003 we have been financed mostly from Irish, Italian and British sponsors but that cannot carry on. If we are to carry on we really need the Romanians (and people living in Romania to be more involved.
4. How has lockdown been for you and for your business and what have you done that has helped you personally and professionally?
Lockdown has been pretty tough for us. Our biggest priority is keeping the residents safe so we immediately put them in isolation and after a couple of weeks our staff started doing 14 day shifts. We have had to shut the Day Centre for the first time since 2007 which has been really tough on the children.Financially, things have been really difficult as our overseas sponsors have been unable to fundraise, we’ve had to cancel all fundraising events plus we’re spending a huge amount every month on PPE equipment.Despite these difficulties, we still managed to deliver over 1000 food and cleaning supplies to the elderly and vulnerable in our community. We also managed to provide tablets for some of our Day Centre children to enable them to connect to their online lessons.Personally, I found lockdown really challenging at first, I was worried about keeping the residents safe , worried about the Day Centre children, worried about money, worried about how we could safely support people in the community plus I suddenly had to homeschool my two youngest children and quickly get used to zoom, google classroom etc. But there have also been a lot of positives, we spent a lot more time together as a family, we worked in the garden together, played games together, cooked together and exercised together (thank you Joe Wicks!) and we are all a lot healthier now. I also got a job as an online English teacher which is really exciting for me!
5. What’s your take on Bucharest and Romania. What are the highs and the lows in your opinion?
There is so much to love about Romania from the beautiful countryside to the friendly people, the weather (I love having 4 very definite seasons) the fresh fruit and veg and the relaxed way of life (especially in the villages). The things I would like to change the most are the social care, healthcare and education systems (which all need a huge amount of investment and a complete overhaul), the poverty, the lack of support for disabled people, the corruption and bribery which are still huge problems and the customer service which is generally pretty bad.
6. What is your must do/must visit/favorite thing to do or show off to visitors here in Bucharest and Romania at large?
There are so many beautiful places but Brasov is one of my favorites, it’s beautiful all year round and has a wonderful atmosphere.
7. What is your number 1 recommendation now for a book/film/series/app/ or gadget?
I’m currently reading The Librarian of Auschwitz, it’s based on a true story and it’s a fascinating insight into people’s resilience.
8. If you could eat in any restaurant in all of Romania and have dinner with anyone in the world (not a husband/wife/relative) which restaurant would that be and with which person?
I don’t have a favourite restaurant but I’d love a night out with Cameron Diaz!
9. Sum up your business in one sentence, what it is and why should people engage with it.
We provide shelter, support and hope for the most vulnerable in rural Romania. Your donation will be used directly on the people that need of the most. (Our PayPal link https://asociatiabunulsamaritean.ro/doneaza/ and bank details, Cont LEI: RO62 RZBR 0000 0600 0499 1770CIF: 16291453
10. Describe your Romania in one word.