We are so excited to tell you about our trip to the SOS Children’s Village in Hemeius, Romania, to donate Liberty quilts, each made with love.
We have had a fantastic response to our Quilt SOS project. Launched in July this year, the overwhelming enthusiasm for the project has ensured that we will be running it again in 2017.
By November we received 47 unique, beautiful quilts, each one stitched by a wonderful and warm-hearted lady.
Seeing the quilts stack up in our office, the anticipation for our trip grew. We’re excited to show each quilt in forthcoming blogs and we’ll share some of the stories from our makers.
Our three day trip to deliver the quilts was a mission! At 3am on Monday morning we set off to the airport with a loaded car. We flew to Bucharest with Ryanair, who very kindly donated the baggage allowance for our enormous cargo. Having collected our hire car, we packed it up to begin the 200 mile drive north to Bacau County, where Hemeius is situated. Along the way, we couldn’t resist stopping to photograph some of the quilts against the Romanian landscape.
As soon as we got out of Bucharest, our journey took us through farmland almost all of the way. Wine, onions and potatoes were for sale on the roadside, and when we stopped over for dinner and some sleep, we talked to our waiter Andrei about the extraordinarily delicious flavour of the fruit and vegetables – he was passionately proud of the local produce, and in a mad moment we pondered how we could take sacks of potatoes home with us (the moment passed).
We saw many beautiful domed churches along the way, but also witnessed the tough conditions in that part of the world; the Hemeius SOS Village is in one of the poorest areas of Romania. The children cared for within the village face the challenges of trauma and abandonment, but also the realities of an economically deprived environment. The love and care offered by the village’s SOS mothers offers hope and support against this backdrop. With this project our aim was, in whatever way we could, to show our own support with the warmth and brightness of a quilt for each child.
We received a very warm welcome from Rodica, an amazing social worker, who explained the setup of the village. Rather than a big impersonal orphanage, the model of the charity is to build a village where 6-7 children live in each house, as a family with an SOS mother. She also told us about the kinds of issues the children face and about the SOS mothers, whose work it is to raise the children every day with enormous love and compassion.
We visited the village in the late afternoon, when all of the children were back from school and their varied after-school activities. We were really honoured to be invited into the children’s homes, taking a bag of quilts to each of the seven houses.
Welcomed with biscuits and sweets, we sat with each family as Rodica explained the story of why two English ladies had appeared in their living room with a massive mystery bag! Unknown to us, we had arrived on Sfântul Nicolae, the day when children wake up to find out whether Saint Nicholas (Father Christmas) has left a gift in their shoe placed by the front door.
Eyes widened as the bags were opened up and we spread the quilts out for the children to choose. I’m not sure we will ever forget the children’s faces; some were very shy, hanging back before choosing; some knew straight away which was the one for them; one girl spent a long time deliberating, stroking the fabrics, saying ‘they’re too beautiful, how can I decide?!’. Quilts were hugged into chests, or held out delightedly; examined for the hidden messages from some quilters; pored over for details in the fabrics or in the designs. One boy, who had run up to us when we first entered the village clutching a tiny, fluffy puppy, wrapped his quilt around his shoulders and danced around, the traditional ‘my team’s scored a goal’ dance. Whether young or teenaged, we were moved by the many expressions of pleasure and happiness brought by their new quilts, to be kept forever.
The children pictured here were happy to be photographed, but we took few photographs at the village. We felt privileged to be meeting them in the private surroundings of their family home and took the decision to prioritise their privacy over our wish for images. Thank you to Rodica, the mothers and all of the children, it was a delight to meet all of you.
Partnering with SOS Children’s Villages has been a brilliant experience. They are a fantastic charity at the forefront of supporting children in need around the world. Their work over the past 67 years has focused on caring for orphaned and abandoned children, and children whose parents can no longer care for them. They also work in communities to support families at risk of breaking apart. Creating a stable, loving environment for a child is their priority, so that they flourish and reach their full potential; we were very lucky to see this in action during our trip.
Love, Alice & Katherine x