Children are the same everywhere; they need to play. Romanian kids do too. However, like all children living in stressful environments,
These children need some additional support in order to preserve their sense of well being and most importantly their belief in a satisfactory future. The Puppet Therapy Institute (NP), a not for profit organization that Dr. Palumbo founded, has provided play material, supplies and staff training to professionals working with children who have special needs.
Our trip this year was particularly successful. As usual we were met at the Otopeini Airport in Bucharest by our friends who had made the long trip over the mountains from Brasov. Luckily this year we were treated to warm weather and clear skies, a welcome contrast to our last trip when we traveled through the mountains in the night during their worst storm in 50 years.
It is a rare pleasure to be able to again meet far-away friends; the reunions seem to create a continuity and a flow to life; and when you again meet friends from another culture, some how the world gets smaller and all of it the same. Being human becomes a simple fact. We were excited about our joint service venture and talked away the long ride back to Brasov. In a strange way, we felt at home.
As usual, we had a dozen boxes of supplies for the teachers and children helped through the Pro Educatione organization that Marianne Lenghel had founded. This year we focused our aide on needed play supplies for children attending a special school. We boxed up personal and group play toys, gym and playground supplies and several boxes of teaching supplies. Everybody enjoys spending an evening opening up the boxes that Lufthansa helps transport through an additional baggage allowance for non-profits.
Our training project this year was to help teachers learn to construct small puppet stages that were designed by Dr. Palumbo, The teachers could then use these inexpensive educational tools to help children with brief attention spans, impulsiveness and hyperactivity learn to focus their attention and develop their imagination. These teaching tools can be made from very cheap materials and consequently we were able to supply over twenty classrooms with them and related play materials.
Like all professionals, the Romanian teachers soon passed news about our projects to others and through the informal, face-to-face information system, we found ourselves beginning a Play-CareÔ project at the Brasov Childrens Hospital. After much negotiation and planning, we were allowed to visit the hospital and work with the Child-life staff. The hospital was a short taxi ride from the apartment we were living in, but in the small car it was a squashed ride with the three of us, the puppets and supplies we had brought. But we managed and that was the joy in it.
The Child-life staff loved playing with the large puppets we had brought them, especially one child who had been in care for several years. The staff told us that for the past several years, more abandoned ill children were placed at their door. They hoped the problem would improve because they were not able adequately care for them. Fortunately, our small contribution was immediately useful.
We were also able to provide a computer printer and some associated soft- ware; this meant that the staff could generate more of their own therapeutic play material and provide computer games for the children.
Mrs. Palumbo, RN, gave nursing lectures to students at the school affiliated with the childrens hospital. Each year she presents information and training that is related to an international health problem like AIDS. And now that some professionals have at least limited access to E-Mail, she is able to maintain contact with interested students.
And just when we thought that our project was finished, an amazing event occurred. We were bumping around the buildings of the University of Transylvania looking for an art department. We had hopes of finding young Romanian artists and graphic designers to create art work for the adapted play toys that Dr. Palumbo has created; however we literally stumbled into the offices of Romanian National Radio;they had been open only one month! Dr. SillyÒ went right to work.
After explaining that I also create my own radio program for children and after sharing our immediate enthusiasm for the media, we planned a mutual project. The next day, I found myself not only being interviewed for national radio, but further flattered that they hoped I would read one of my Christmas stories on the air. They would preface the program with translated key words for the listeners and then follow with the Dr. SillyÒ original story, "Lothar the Reindeer Bandit."
The project was a perfect success.
After these initial radio broadcasts, we were able to record a Christmas play prepared for Dr. SillyÒ by the children from the Brasov
Elementary school for broadcast over the regional national radio. The
Young media professionals we worked with, were eager to create more radio for children. Everybody benefited. Now, additional radio broadcasts are planned, using Dr. SillyÒ stories as a means to promote learning English and international cultural exchange. Our service commitment to Romanian children had immediately deepened.