The Comber Foundation - working to build a better future for children and adults with disabilities in Romania
Our vision is that every person with a disability will have full participation and inclusion in society.
Comber Foundation (formerly Comber Romanian Orphanage Appeal) was established by Irish volunteers in 1990 in response to media coverage of the appalling conditions in orphanages in Romania.
Having initially focussed on aid and renovation work in orphanages, we grew to realise the limits of ‘hands – on’ work in Romania. Over the years, we have sought to bring about long-term change through supporting Romanian people and organisations to develop better disability services at local level.
We hope you enjoy visiting our website and finding out more about our work. Please contact us if you would like more information or to get involved. We look forward to hearing from you!
Letter received from David Costello
Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Ireland - Romania
Dear Friends and Colleagues
Those of you that have I have been in contact with recently or if we are connected through Facebook will know that in just 3 days time (Monday 28 October), I take my position on the starting line for the Dublin City Marathon. It is the culmination of an 18 month personal journey that began over brunch in Bucharest with my good friend Marco Wenzl and our respective families. Marco was speaking about the need to restart his training regime to prepare for a return to ‘active service’ in Germany. With a glass of wine in hand, and loosened tongue, I found myself volunteering to join Marco. The following weekend, I was in the Bucharest’s picturesque Herastrau Park trying to “run” the 6 km track around the lake! I managed one lap, with a lengthy stop every 500-700 metres gasping for air. Week by week we returned to the lake and with plenty of encouragement from Marco, I eventually managed one lap without pausing! In fact, last year culminated on 7 October in my completing the Bucharest International Half Marathon (albeit through a combination of running and walking) in a personally satisfying 2 hours 57 minutes (a nice birthday present!).
This year has seen a step up in our running and the personal “side-effects” in terms of weight loss and fitness gain have been welcome. In training I have managed a 4 hour run, a distance of 30 km and I completed the half-marathon in Bucharest 2 weeks ago in a more respectable time of 2 hours 15 minutes. The fitness gain prompted the need to lose weight and thanks largely to the genius of Mark Tregilgas (http://www.30plusmensfitnessplan.com), I have dropped from 92 kg (14 stone 7) to 75kg (11 stone 11), my jacket size is 40 (down from 44) and trousers are a size 32 (down from 36).
Some of you are familiar with this story having tracked my progress on Facebook. So why write you may ask?
In recent weeks, a number of people have asked me if all this effort was in aid of charity. I have thought long and hard about this and, despite significant self doubt about my ability to tackle the marathon distance on Monday, the charity question keeps recurring to me. In truth, Romania is the sole reason for me taking my place at the starting line of the marathon next Monday. It is the most under-rated country in Europe with the most undeserved negative external perception that could only be matched by the “no blacks, no dogs, no Irish” stigma we ourselves endured in the England of the 1960s. The Romania that I have come to know has a great climate, stunning unspoiled countryside, fantastic history and culture, vibrant cities and truly wonderful people. (For those that keep threatening to visit us email me ... time is running out!!). But most importantly, Romania is a place where anything is possible! So instead of becoming firmly ensconced in middle age, Romania has allowed me apply rediscovered energy in my role here. It is the land of opportunity and I carry the “anything is possible” mantra to the starting line on Monday.
This “anything is possible” spirit is something I closely associate with the Irish Charity endeavour here in Romania. Following the fall of Ceausescu in December 1989, the 1990s was defined by wave after wave of Irish volunteers travelling to alleviate the unspeakable pain and suffering inflicted on children in ‘orphanages’ and people with disabilities in ‘institutions’. Some 23 years on, there is still a legacy of Irish charities ploughing a lonely furrow of promoting care in the community and assisting the now young adults to lead independent lives:
* Some weeks back I was saw, at first hand, the inspiring work of Monica McDaid and the Romania Challenge Appeal team, led by Simon and Adina O’Connor in transforming the lives of many young people in Siret in northern Romania;
* I also visited SCUT’s outreach centre in Brasov recently to see the great work of Ela Dima, Ioana Serb and their team assist young people in orphanages and adults with disabilities to transition to independent or semi-independent living. SCUT’s origins are in a northern Ireland cross-community schools project in the 1990s founded by Richard Holmes and these strong connections continue today;
* Comber is also a charity with cross community origins in Co. Down and Carrie Garavan (along with previously long serving executive Director Fiona Dowling) have given unstinting commitment, with the countless volunteers, in promoting care in the community projects in Giurgiu;
* Through the unwavering commitment of Mairie Cregan, Aurelia Trust continues to bring volunteers to Romania every year to assist local care workers during the annual ‘Tabara’ holiday for residents of the Techirghiol Residential and Community Care Centre. Mairie continues to work closely with the care workers and authorities in Constanta County to promote best practice in caring for people with disabilities as well as dealing with the legacy of the 1990s through post-adoption support services;
* Although one of the ‘newer’ charitable endeavours at 13 years, no less worthy has been the work of Sr Rose Carmel’s ‘Our Lady of Mercy in Romania’ in supporting senior citizens and low income families in Bucharest;
* One of my earliest encounters on my arrival in Romania was with the wonderful Margaret Spencer and the legacy of the her work in the children’s “AIDS” hospital in Bucharest continues today under the banner of the Romanian Children’s Appeal and its AIDS awareness programme;
* While the departure of our good friend Kathleen Biggs from Romania is much lamented, the work of the Health Action Overseas project continues in Constanta and Galati.
During Monday’s race, most runners hit what is commonly referred to as the ‘wall’ where ever fibre in your body tells you that you can’t go on. Typically this will happen at the 18-23 mile stage of the race. To push through this ‘wall’, I will draw inspiration from the determination, courage and perseverance of the wonderful Irish volunteers in Romania. These are people that year after year continue to demonstrate the “marathon” spirit and have already “gone the distance” not just in miles but in some cases up to 23 years of continuous effort, despite many setbacks and obstacles.
So if you wish to support the runners, come out on Monday and cheer the runners along (email me and I will give a rough estimate of my arrival at the various milestones enroute). But if you can, you can find details on how to support the real Irish “marathon” story in Romania on the following links:
* Romanian Challenge Appeal at this link: http://www.romanian-challenge.org/pages/ or on http://www.mycharitypage.com/charity_info.php?cid=639
* SCUT at this link: http://scutbv.ro/doneaza/
* Comber at this link: http://www.comber.ie/donate/
* Aurelia Trust at this link: http://aureliatrust.ie/about-our-charity/
* Our Lady of Mercy at this link: http://www.ourladyofmercy.ro/Finance.html
* Romanian Children’s Appeal at this link: http://www.fundatiarca.ro/2-cu-sufletul-curat-100/
* Health Action Overseas at this link: http://www.hao.org.ro
Alternatively I will ensure that any cash contributions will find its way to a worthy cause.
Many thanks for your support.
Deputy Head of Mission
Embassy of Ireland
50-52 Buzesti St
3rd Floor, Sector 1