Nicolae Ceausescu's brutal dictatorship in Romania ended in chaos and economic collapse in 1989. The rest of Europe and the world were moved to help when appalling scenes from over-crowded orphanages emerged. Today, Romania is a member of the EU and there have been huge changes.
Comber Foundation (formerly Comber Romanian Orphanage Appeal) was established by Eric & Elizabeth Carson in Comber, Co. Down in 1991 in response to the appalling conditions in orphanages in Romania.
Nicolae Ceausescu was a Communist dictator who was General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party from 1965 to 1989, and President of Romania from 1967 to 1989. He banned contraception during his regime and encouraged women to have 5 or more children, in a bid to increase Romania’s population. His legacy included hundreds of overcrowded orphanages across Romania where the children, many of whom had disabilities, lived an appalling existence. Comber began working in Romania in 1991, after its founders had seen the coverage of conditions in orphanages on television.
Between 1991-2005 over 500 Irish volunteers travelled to Romania with the charity to help alleviate suffering in the orphanages, focussing on Gradinari (Giurgiu County) and Videle (Teleorman County) orphanages.
Media reporting in the early 1990s of Romania was intense and the images that emerged in the Irish and western media were truly heart-rending. The Irish response was overwhelmingly generous and Comber completely renovated 4 orphanages, trained staff and provided large quantities of badly needed equipment and humanitarian aid thanks to the support of the Irish people.
Romania was under huge pressure internationally to reform its childcare system before joining the EU in 2007, and huge improvements were made. Most of the large scale children's orphanages were closed. Unfortunately, the same is not true for the adult institutions, and many of the children Comber worked with in the 1990s were transferred to state-run institutions when they turned 18.
In 2005-06 Comber began to look at ways to achieve sustainable change and a permanent improvement in the quality of life of individuals with disabilities in State care. Together with Giurgiu County Council, a strategy was agreed to support the de-institutionisation of the adult disability services in the county, by providing community based homes. You can find out more about our current work here: Homes, Inclusion, Families, Partnership, Dreams.
For more information on Romania's orphanages and history, please see the following articles.