In 2011 I was priviledged to be part of a team of UK RAP volunteers going out to Romania to take a group of 34 orphans on a holiday from their orphanage in Bucharest to a beach resort on Romania's Black Sea coast.
To say it was a life changing event is an understatement. My 'normal' work is a whole universe away from the help I was able to give for these 8 days, and I came away with the feeling that I had got more from the trip than I had given to the youngsters I was there to help.
I returned for my second trip in August 2012, this time taking 45 orphans on the holiday. I suppose I was expecting to be more of a seasoned helper this time. In some respects I was, I knew many of the faces, and they knew me. I knew the activities we would be getting up to and where we would be going with these 'youngsters'.
Please carry on reading below..... don't stop here.
However, there were a few things which threw me. The sheer joy on the faces of meeting their 'old RAP friends' and the changes in some of the orphans, some for the better, and some for the worse was overwhelming. Whilst I'd spent the previous 12 months doing all sorts of things and going all sorts of places, the things we take for granted, these guys had spent all their time looking at the same 4 walls day in and day out, with little to look forward to other than the fact that they might get the chance to go on this trip. It struck me just how important some new faces coming in and taking them away for a week is.
Perhaps the biggest impact on me this time was with a group of 4 adults we took from another orphanage who hadn't been on any trip before. I cannot give full details here, but if I can ask you to imagine Ardiana's story you will get some idea of the roller coaster of emotions I felt. Adriana is a forty year old physically disabled lady, mentally she is as sharp as a pin but she finds it difficult to speak (Romanian, never mind English) and, without a wheelchair (which are like hen's teeth in Romania), her only motability is to shuffle round on the floor. She has spent her entire life in the confines of the orphanage and everything she did on the holiday was a new life experience. She had never seen the sea or sand before, not to mention the bus that took us there or the hotel we stayed in. I was priviledged to be one of the RAP volunteers who helped her 'walk' to the beach, touch her toes in the sand and then in the sea. You can imagine how she felt, I can't put into words how it made me feel. I've put a couple of pics of Adriana on here. Look at the one smelling the rose, I was pushing her through a garden and she motioned me towards it. I took the pic not thinking too much about it at the time. When I found out later that she had never done that before, it put an entirely different meaning to the image and I can't look at it without getting a lump in my throat.
The work RAP does is utterly invaluable to helping the well being and quality of life experienced by these children, young (and older) adults, the great majority of them being put in that position through no fault of their own.
I know that every £ I raise here will be put to real use directly on the ground, whether it contributes to this year's holiday trip, or to paying for a filling in a tooth, or nappies for a 30yr old 'child'.
Last year I undertook a cycling challenge to raise funds. This year I thought I'd up the stakes a bit with a collection of 3 events spread across the summer months.
First up is a tandem Skydive from 14000ft. This was a Christmas present and I thought it might make a good start! Weather permitting, this is booked for 2:30pm Saturday 25th May at Grange-over-sands in Cumbria.
If I survive then next I'll be doing the main challenge of the year, with Joe Moon acting as my companion again. On the 21st of June we'll be doing 'Arran-athon'. This my tri-athlon with a difference staged on the beautiful Isle of Arran. It consists of a 57 mile cycle (with around 4000ft of climbs) followed by a 2866ft climb up Goat Fell, followed by a half marathon run (with another 900ft hill in the way). My target time for this is 12 hours. It might be the 'longest day' in more ways than one!
The final event for this year is the Tough Mudder challenge on the 24th of August. This is a 12 mle assault course not aimed at the faint-hearted! You can see the action at www.toughmudder.co.uk
So there you have it, my maddness for RAP. I'd be really really pleased if you went a bit mad raiding your wallets with whatever donation you can afford to give, it will be MUCH appreciated.
If you'd like to find out more about the RAP Foundation please visit their website at www.rapfoundation.com
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