Initially I came here in 1990; the purpose was to work in an orphanage, and I quote ?orphanage? for children with disabilities ? ?handicapaţi?. So I?ve worked for one month hand on with a group of about 30 children aged about 7 to 8, maybe 9 in an ?orphanage? in a place called Plătăreşti, which is about 40 minutes drive outside of Bucureşti. It was an institution for children with disabilities, physical and handicapped and mental disabilities, who, very fast we learned to know as the ?irecuperabili? as they were known in Romania. Far from being ?irecuperabili?, we actually managed to recuperate a vast number of them and that was even in one month work. So we worked with children who were 7 to 9 who have never ever left the sanctuary of their cots, who were still being bottle fed, who were the size of maybe 4-5 year old with the extended stomachs which is typical for malnutrition so is like the films you see in Africa nowadays with children with big standing stomachs stand for malnutrition and we lost I think 5 children in the first month that we worked there.
Nappies didn?t exist, they were pieces of rag; all the children had diarrhea so they were changed once a day before we arrived, then we tried to change them because they mess their nappies; they were very regular because always occurred after the milk round, so 7 ? years they were fed with one bottle of milk with a bit of crushed maize in it. And because the cots were so close together, the stronger children who were able to drink that milk faster just got into the cot and just pulled the bottle away and drank that bottle as well, so the weak children got weaker so it was Darwin?s theory of evolution in the stronger got stronger and the weaker died off.
They were about almost 400 children in this institution; the children we were with and we worked with for one month had never actually left their cots in their entire life. 7 years living in a cot; and we broke all the rules. We started giving them baby-food, to try to get them on to solid, we took them outside into the sun light for the first time in their lives. They were hysterical the first time we got them out the cot so we did it gradually, we got them out the cots and on a floor were there was no protection, they had nothing, so they were forced to interact. And that was an extraordinary experience and then one we managed to get the first one walking, Ionuţ. The end the others we just took out into the sunlight and I can remember the 1, 2, 3, 4 carers / caretakers, us, foreigners, with maybe, I don?t know, probably about 30 children. So they were so frightened about being outside that I must have had at least 10 children laying on top of me, holding on to every inch of my clothing and everything else ?cause they were so, so frightened. And so it took few hours to them to realize that there was a whole new world. And you could see them looking around and seeing trees, houses, and, not houses, there weren?t houses, trees, bushes, grass, each other in another context, environment, to touch a leaf; it was an experience that they never ever had ! It was just so extraordinary! It was incredible! And the really, really important thing that came out of it was - cause the foreigners we came along with toys and all sorts of things and we think why are the children not playing with the toys, I mean this toy in the U.K. would have cost 70 pounds or whatever. And it took a long time... I don?t think I actually discovered this on my first trip but it took me a long time to understand that the reason they would not playing with toys was that they do not how to play with toys and it hit me so powerfully that when we were children of course we learned to play with toys, our parents teaches us to play with toys so mom is got a doll and she?s going ah, what a wonderful baby, that?s my baby and the daughter copies and of course this kids they never had anything. They haven?t had that sort of interaction so they had no idea what a car was, a toy car, or a doll was, or a fluffy toy was. It was an innate object which they couldn?t relate to. And there was an extraordinarily wonderful experience and very frustrating looking to the authorities. Can you imagine walking in as a foreigner, you don?t even know the culture, you don?t even know the country, you know nothing and you?re just presented with a word, a room, a 30 children who?s cots are side to side to side to side, with malnutrition, children who are dying, who lack any stimulation, and you suddenly arrive and you go ?Hi, my name is Ian? and what the fuck do I do? It was just an immensely experience; you roll your sleeves up and just do what comes naturally which was to change shitty nappies, and feed starving children and to try and ... so it was after time that we managed actually to develop something, but at the beginning it was, we were totally out of context. I mean this is like being dropped into another planet. I mean is just unbelievable. It?s totally unbelievable.