One to One at Casa Lumina

Megan enjoying pushing Monica on the Swing

Monica is my one to one at Casa Lumina. We spent our first one to one together getting to know each other and I got to know what she loved and what she didn’t love so much. This was important because I wanted nothing more than to make her happy. I suppose I didn’t have any goals for my one to one, other than to build a positive relationship with Monica.

I quickly learnt that it wasn’t enough to rely on my own strength to form this relationship because to begin with Monica’s behaviour tested my patience, she often repeats the same phrase or action over and over again and she’s very very cheeky. It became clear to me that I needed to rely on God’s strength because with him anything is possible. Each week I spent with Monica I saw progress in our relationship. Monica loves balloons…I learnt this when she repeatedly stuffed the balloons I had brought with me down her pants! I started to just bring one and despite asking for more Monica quickly settled for one, I started to produce one at the end of each one to one we had together and she would repeatedly kiss me when she received it, the joy written on her face made me so so glad.

My favourite memory of Monica has to be when I was first allowed to take her to the park with the other young people, she was so well behaved and I was so proud of her. When we go to Casa Lumina with the volunteers I am so chuffed to be able to say to them that Monica is my one to one and I will really miss her when I leave Romania.

DSC_0455If you’re reading this and you know the story of Cry in the Dark then you will know that it began with compassion and that compassion is still at the heart of the charity today. What I have for Monica and for everyone else at Casa Lumina is compassion and by spending my summer in Romania I have had the opportunity to express my compassion, in many different ways, to those living at Casa Lumina.

The compassion I feel doesn’t end at Casa Lumina, it extends across the projects I have had the pleasure of being involved in through Cry in the Dark, this includes day centre at Casa Albert, working with those living in Poina Negustroloui and Ungereni. One of my highlights whilst being on the micro gap took place at Ungereni. I was sitting on the ground with a fairly elderly woman, she began to stroke my hair and repeatedly called it beautiful, when she stopped I did the same back to her and as I looked into her eyes she began to giggle and cry happy tears. We continued to spend time together giggling, singing and jiggling, this moment taught me that you don’t need to know anything about someone or speak the same language as someone to love them. It became known to me that in Romania those living in places such as Ungereni, particularly in the past, are seen as the lowest of the low in society. But as followers of Jesus these are the people we are called to love, as Jesus first loved us.

My prayer is that Cry in the Dark is able to continue to put compassion into action and that we can all show compassion wherever we are to whoever we may be with.

Megan Cooper
Gapper Summer 2016

If you want to know more information about Micro Gap please get in touch here.

Catching up with a volunteer

Volunteers Trip Aug 5th – 12th 2016

Matthew 13 : 1-9 Parable of the Sower

The Parable of the Sower is probably a Bible passage that is very familiar to a lot of us. There is a message within the story – indeed the whole idea of Jesus using parables was to spread the Kingdom of God to those who would listen AND hear. The message however can be taken in the context of where we are today and where we find ourselves.

This week has been a remarkable, eventful week, blended deliciously with hard work, fun, education, adventure (and misadventure) and time with God. Negustorului provides its challenges, particularly with baked hard ground to dig out, a lack of ballast for concreting, and heated debates with neighbours about the use of electricity. Contrasting this though is the immense pleasure gained in visiting the likes of Ungereni and Casa Albert where the residents and young people are so delighted to have us come and spend time with and entertain them. I’m writing the day after the microgappers and younger members of our group had erected a trampoline at Casa Lumina. Both the joy and gratitude of the young people we serve touched the hearts of everybody and where we are thinking that we are ministering to them, in reality are they ministering to us?

Prior to our trip it was requested that perhaps Steve could give some kind of time to go over the Cry in the Dark story. Last night was pencilled in to give the testimony of how God’s work is manifesting itself here in Romania through Steve Cooper and Cry in the Dark. However, on the way back from Casa Lumina , the “Wheels on the Bus Stopped Going Round and Round” when the bolts holding the rear, nearside wheel sheared, leaving the wheel dangling precariously under the wheel arch. Many prayers of thanks must be giving to God that the safety of the youngsters on board wasn’t jeopardised and also that the mini-bus grounded to a halt outside the house of a very compassionate and hospitable lady named Maria. She organised a mechanic to come and assess the wheel problem, ferried our gang into her house and fed them on freshly made popcorn whilst watching TV. All this while a shuttle service was organised to get them back to Casa Albert.

It would have been totally understandable if Steve had cancelled the Cry in the Dark story night – but he didn’t. Standing true to his word he presented the story. Whilst some of us have given talks to various groups about the history and the works of the charity, nobody delivers them with the passion and emotion that Steve does – after all, it is his witness.

The next couple of hours became very emotional, with many hands reaching for tissues to wipe over moistened eyes. Evidently people’s hearts went out to the youngsters at Casa Lumina when their stories’ of life (if you can call it life) at Dofteana unfolded. But for me the story of Albert, the inspiration behind Casa Albert cries out most.

Albert was a sower of seeds. No doubt he sowed on rocky and thorny ground. But with Steve he sowed on fertile ground. Steve has produced abundant fruits before, but his soil was tilled and prepared for a new harvest, a harvest that produced a hundred fold and more.

Are we prepared to be a sower? Are we fertile ground? Our soil may hold different nutrients that can potentially produce a higher or lower yield but we do nourish the same seed.

Terry Norrington – Tenterden.

Micro Gap 2016


Being back in Romania is like either being in a dream that you don’t want to wake up from or like you’ve woken up from the dream that was the rest of your life. This combination of the very real and the very surreal is why Romania is a magical place to be.

It would be very easy to tell you about all the work we haven’t done. Between badminton tournaments, taskmaster games, the beach, the new Netflix show: Stranger Things and of course lovely, lovely sleep it’s a wonder we’ve done any work at all.

BUT WE HAVE!!!!!!! Fear not people who have generously donated to Cry in the Dark. The daycare centre has been such a blast. My personal highlight was swinging the happy cuddle monster, formally known as Smiley Alex, back an fro in the hammock. With a light lullaby of “In the Jungle” and the occasional tickle I think we could both do it all day.

Casa Lumina has probably always been my greatest challenge. I have good friends there. Marvellous Maria, Cool Cristina, Cardio Carmen, Lovely Lily and of course the King of the Ladies, Royal Radu. My problem has been that I have never really expanded past this group of people. However, my last trip to Casa Lumina showed me that I can’t just make new relationships in my own strength. I shall have to take out a love loan from God.

Negustorului was just…..well……negustorului. So many lovely kids come to our Tarps of Teaching and we sing, dance and learn about God with them. Of course, we lose them in the middle to the odd horse collapsing or local brawl but they keep on coming back. It’s all made possible by Beth’s careful planning and preparation and the translating of a wonderful man, Adrian Cretu.

Back at Casa Albert we were concreting away as usual and cleaning the pool out so it can be enjoyed by kids, orphans, volunteers and the director of Asociatia Lumina’s dog. God has spared no blessings on the team out here. There are 5 other absolutely wonderful gappers including the wonderful Megan Cooper (no nepotism involved) who has extended her stay to the full 2 months. The York Girls of course, Hannah, Chloe and Katie. One organises, one shovels ballast like a boss and one has become a very good friend to some of the more withdrawn children from daycare but all of them are absolutely lovely. Daniel, Daniel, my little pet spaniel, what a lad. I haven’t found a thing he can’t do yet. Furthermore, we have been joined by Davey, traveler extraordinaire, Abie, on her way to being fluent in Romanian and Sean Cooper, the man Steve never was (you know, tall, funny, cool, etc.). Of course, none of it would be the possible without the bedrock that is Beth and Steve, so grateful for them both.

Jack (returning Gapper)

The Calm before the summary storm!

Hi everyone,

Well it’s almost time for our CitD summer teams and activities to start out in Romania, just about two weeks to go!
So I’m off on holiday. Yes just for a week and then the full summer madness will begin!

Beth and I fly out to Romania on the 26th May and the next day our first of two school mission teams from Manor C of E academy York will arrive along with some old friends to lead them Lawrence Rab and Karen Forrester with Lawrence staying on for both groups spread over two weeks.
Both Beth and I love having the young people there and more often than not they behave better than some of our adult groups. Of course they work very hard and bring a lot of energy and fun to our projects but most of all continue to make a difference to the people and families who we serve through Cry in the Dark and our Romanian arm Asociatia Lumina.

Then starting on 17th of June our intrepid bike riders arrive – Pete Ling, Stan Harrison, Martin Lisle, Bernie Andrew aka the a Dark Destroyer and Dr Lucy Slocum as well as myself aka The Pale rider! We will be cycling 600 miles right across Romania to spread the word of our paediatric palliative and hospice care services.
At one point on the ride we will be climbing 2500 meters on the famous Transfagrasian road over the Carpathian mountains which took me around 3.5 hours on my mountain bike two years ago, so it will be interesting to see what happens this year! Especially as this year we are doing it on road bikes! Watch the blog and Facebook for updates.  The ride this year is being sponsored by BCR Bank Romania the start of a long friendship we hope.
This year Beth and I return to the U.K. for a week on the 1st July returning to Romania on the 9th of July just in time for our Micro Gappers to arrive.
Chloe, Katie, Hannah, Daniel and a returning Gapper Jack!!!!!!!! No it’s true Jacks back.
But honestly, it’s a great blessing to us to have him back he is a good lad with a great heart for what we do. Megan Cooper will be also be joining us for the first month of the Gap. I’m hoping the Micro Gappers this year will write blogs too, so again watch out for their updates!

In August we have some individuals flying out Abi, Davey (both previous Micro Gappers) and my son Sean will be joining us for two weeks,  personally I can’t wait for my son to join me it’s a highlight for me to have Sean working with me and the teams!
In August we have our mission teams which include a mixed group organised by our friend Terry Norrington seeing a few old friends returning and a couple new ones too!
We have a youth group from Comberton Baptist Church which we are looking forward to as this is a new group.
Also, this year we have a mixed youth & adults group from Zion Baptist Church.
So it’s all good!
Maybe we will get some of these guys to write blogs too? That’s if they have enough time of course.
We like to work our volunteers hard!! Well not too hard we try to leave time for a quick dip in our pool….did I say pool I meant fire reserve water tank lol!

At the end of August we are all going to a wedding as we have Rozi and Danys big day on the 27th of August. Rozi and Dani a couple on our community Hospice programme.
Dani & Rozi have a Prieten Sponsor who is turning into their very own wedding photographer – Helen Burt and her assistant are flying out to take the snaps of the special day completely free of charge! Thanks guys.
Already some of our brilliant friends and supporters have helped us to make this day truly wonderful for Rozi and Dany by donating on our special wedding gift page.
All proceeds will go towards the wedding to help these guys have their dream come true.
This is especially important as Rozi can often be very sick, so we wanted to help them both have their dream wedding this year as we don’t know what the future holds.
I’m sure that the pictures will be up on Facebook and you will actually be able to see their dream wedding day unfold!
If you think you would like to help make their dream come true please click here and share with your friends.

Well that’s about it, time to get back to some serious sun bathing before all this stuff begins.

I hope you all have a great summer whatever you choose to do. Maybe next year see you in Romania?
With blessings and thanks

Last words of 2015

Well as we draw near to the end of another year it’s always good to reflect on the year gone by.
For the world we have seen many bad and terrible things and personally too we may have been touched by tragedy and grief, so as I reflect on the last year at CitD I’m trying to see the good, the joy, and the positive from the negative and celebrate what has been achieved over the past 12 months, so to start with I say thank you because we are still here 18 years later doing what we feel we are called to do and we must remember as a Christian based organisation to thank God for all we have and that includes you our supporters!
We have had many great experiences along the way, old friends have moved on or gone and we celebrate their lives remembering them with love and happiness but all this is tinged with sadness too!
Because of the work we do and the lives we touch there is very often sadness but there is also a joy and a happiness that comes when we reach out and touch lives that may have otherwise gone unnoticed or untouched.
For instance last year we saw our first summer holiday (Voliday) by the Black Sea with many of our young people going to the beach and into the sea for the first time. I know Beth was moved by this experience, on the first day we got there she took a moment to compose herself as the children and young people played in the waves and on the beach for the first time ever on their first evening there was an excitement and joy in the air…for one young man it was to be his only week by the sea! Unfortunately, Raymond died two weeks after this holiday but he died having had one of the best weeks of his life spent with his friends, some that will go on to have lives limited by their illness and some that may join Raymond in the coming years!
Yes it’s a roller coaster ministry or job but we continue to serve these children and their families because that is what we are called to do!

This year too we had a really successful Christmas shoebox campaign which I said I would write about on my blog but as it was so busy I never got time to do it.
Every year I say it and this year was no different. It is simply brilliant to see the joy and happiness that the shoeboxes bring from Casa Lumina to Poiana Negustorululi and every person in between its a real time of Christmas giving and made very special by the volunteers that come out each year and this year was just great. Thanks Guys.

Well next year many things are already planned. In February we have our first Ski Holiday the older guys on our hospice programme along with a member of staff and three brilliant volunteers, one of which Rob Mansell is travelling all the way from Canada to help teach the young people to ski! We also have Steve Higgs a local (Colchester) ex army ski instructor coming too plus Jack Davies one of our ex Micro Gappers making a swift return to help with the young people and now with all the young people sponsored it’s time to sharpen my own skiing skills as I spend some time here in Canada with my friends Rob, Ann and Luke Mansell Ward who share their home and hospitality with me over the next few weeks.

May I take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to you all for either volunteering, donating or sponsoring us on a regular basis because without this support we cannot continue to carry out our much needed and growing work with the children, young people and families that we as ministry reach out to in Jesus glorious name.
Happy and blessed New Year to you all.
Steve. CEO/ Founder Cry on the Dark.

Christmas Begins in Romania


Well here we are again winging our way to Romania Beth, Steve & Phil the dynamic trio!

If you’re anything like me your wondering where the year has gone, it seems like we just finished our summer mission team visits and boom the Christmas Shoebox trip is here! Not without a lot of hard work by our very own Beth Daisy Johnson who works tirelessly to get the boxes in, sorted and out again, ready for the truck to Romania. So flying out just seven days before the volunteers arrive may seem a long time but hey this is Romania remember and any thing can happen and normally does!

Already we have been told that the truck which was supposed to arrive today may not be at our project until Monday ouch! That hurts! Especially as over 1000 Christmas shoeboxes need to be unpacked and sorted into the various patient groups family members, and school groups, it’s a big job! But I know Beth Daisy is up to it she always is… Already she has offered to work through the night if she has to! And being the good CEO that I am offered to help her if needed…

But there is a kitchen to upgrade and a trustee board meeting to go to and the distribution of the family lists for Poiana Negustorului to be given out to each family, Plus the the grocery shopping ready for the volunteers, all that coupled with anything else that may come up whilst we are there! Oh and I nearly forgot the 1000 shoeboxes have to be unloaded when the truck finally comes!

Well that’s  our life for the next week or so and to be honest WE CAN’t WAIT.

I’m signing off for now and will try to update once the volunteers arrive on Thursday ready to deliver the beautiful shoeboxes that you guys have so lovingly provided for the children and young people that we reach out to in Jesus name. Being able to share his love at this time of year is so special, lets not forget who’s birthday it really will be on the 25th December! No matter what you believe, who you follow, if you have given a box this year I pray that the God I love will bless you and your families through your wonderful giving this Christmas!

Ps if you would still like to be able to give this Christmas you can through our Naked Christmas tree appeal.

Thank you guys a happy and peaceful Christmas to you all.


A Headteachers visit

I have just returned from a week staying at Casa Albert with our Cry in the Dark hosts Steve Cooper and Beth Johnson. It was a superb week and one which has undoubtedly had a profound impact on all of us.

We are a Catholic and Church of England 3-16 through school in Barnsley. Our Christian foundation guides and influences our actions and we try really hard to ensure that our pupils not only do well in their tests and exams but also develop into rounded and thoughtful citizens of the future. We enthusiastically run the Archbishop of York Young Leader’s award throughout the school and love their motto “Be the change you want to see”. The philosophy that instead of complaining about injustice you should try to do something about it, to be the change, is really important and we do all sorts of work for charities and other organisations with that in mind.

We found out about Cry in the Dark through the Archbishop’s Youth Trust and have organised two week long projects with them now. It wasn’t easy for me to join in this year. As headteacher my diary is very busy, but I decided that if I was encouraging everyone else to go out and Be the Change then I should be leading by example. I decided to go in May and had 5 months to ensure my diary could accommodate the week away. I am so glad I did.

Nothing can really prepare you for what you find in Romania. The first surprise is what a beautiful country it is. The landscape is very rural with plentiful rolling hills, forests and lakes. But you soon start noticing differences, there are hundreds of horse and carts on the roads full of picked crops, families travelling to town or men travelling to work. There are hundreds of wells too, most houses don’t have mains water and wells are their main source.

The visit was split between spending time with different groups of people and a building project. The groups we visited included Casa Lumina which houses the children (now young adults) Steve found in state run orphanages in 1998, the day care hospice centre at Casa Albert where young people are driven in to visit, trips out to see young people in their homes that can’t make it to the hospice, Ungereni which is a state run institution for physically and mentally disabled adults and Negustorului which is a village for the Roma community and where people live in real poverty. Each of these visits was special in its own right, we loved them all.

The young people of Casa Lumina were particularly special and we bonded with them very strongly, even preferring to go back there on our day off to see them again and throw an impromptu party. Great fun! Earlier in the week Steve had told us in much more detail about how and why he set up the project. He showed us a film of the state run orphanage where he found the children in 1998 and we could recognise the children in Casa Lumina. It suddenly became real for us. We weren’t watching a remote group from abroad any more we were watching the past lives of young people who we knew. Flori being poked with a stick, Maria left unattended wearing a dirty vest and nothing else. There wasn’t a dry eye let me tell you. In fact I cried loads of times during the week.

The building project was in Negustorului.  A family had been identified by Steve and Beth who needed a new drive to be built to enable their horse and cart to access their property and to allow them to walk outside their door without stepping in mud. The build required the area to be dug out then filled with concrete and took 4 days. The family were so grateful when we finished, they cried and thanked God and hugged and kissed us. It was so easy for us to do yet they were so grateful that we had done it.

So it was an incredible visit for us. To take young people to see how awful life can be for others in our own continent (only 3 hours away) and then to enable them the opportunity to do something concrete that can leave a lasting legacy is so powerful.

I hear talk sometimes that what young people need is national service to whip them into shape. I disagree. I think everyone at some time in their life should be sent out to a place like Bacau to serve the poor. It would change attitudes immeasurably and make us all more grateful for what we have.

I think the work Cry in the Dark do is amazing and I feel really privileged to have helped in a small way. If you are reading this and considering a visit of your own, do it! It has been the most amazing school visit I have ever been a part of and has had a profound effect me and the pupils we took with us.

Simon Barber
Head Teacher Holy Trinity School, Barnsley


When a Miracle comes in the form of concrete….

The 15th of August is not my birthday, nor is it Christmas or Easter as I’m sure you are aware. However, it is a day I shall celebrate because it is the day I met the loveliest family in Romania, potentially the world. We’d finished for the week after working at Casa Lumina so Steve and I popped 2 minutes down the road and walked up a long windy path with many an angry dog, rickety gates and fields of sweet corn. We ventured through all to find ourselves in the midst of a party. A party that very quickly and guiltily dispersed when our arrival was noted. Of course I was suspicious but I soon realised it wasn’t that they were trying to hide anything, they just wanted to be polite. The mother showed us the house, a beautifully looked after but absolutely ancient construction that had the ongoing threat of collapse hanging over it and Steve and I said “Vadem” (we’ll see what we can do) and made our plans.

We returned with a fresh team and a fresh plan Monday afternoon armed with pickaxe and spade ready to begin work on stabilising the circumference of the house. We were raring to go, just before we started we were invited for a quick black coffee and an introduction to her three sons: the clever one, the beardy one and the cheeky one (who is, against all expectations, still alive despite numerous diseases). Quite some considerable time, several good conversations, black coffees and snacks later we remembered we’d come to work. When we tried to thank her she would always reply by saying “it is I who is thanking you.” And she would always apologise that there weren’t enough chairs to sit us all down. She made us so welcome we forgot to do any work that day.

As the week went on we were stricter with ourselves so we got more work done, brought milk so our coffee was whiter and brought chairs so she could host the way she dreamed she could. I was also introduced to a liquid substance called Viscinata. This is a killer, 90% alcohol, 10% cherry with a kick like an enraged donkey. They offered me more and more as the week went on……of course the quality of my work was in no way affected. Also, I remember it very clearly, when one of the brothers first saw Nat carrying a bucket of water. What on earth was wrong with these English people that they let a fragile, little women carry anything. She was immediately relieved of her bucket as was every other girl from any task harder than cleaning until one day they’d had enough of wheelbarrows and buckets and spades being grabbed of them so they refused the gallant yet incredibly misogynistic help of the brothers prompting them to come up to me and say “Jack, these English girls, they are very strong da! It is very attractive.” Well guys, it’s a start.

I don’t mean to do the brothers an injustice. The whole family are fantastic, one day the mother told me how proud she was of her sons, she said “They help me, they respect me and they love me” which is good going for sons really. However, one afternoon, my bubble was burst when I heard what they weren’t telling me. Behind a woman who loves to host and boys who love to help is actually struggling with bankruptcy. The social worker told us after the first group had finished the concreting around the circumference that Anna thought this was an absolute miracle as she’d have had to take a loan that she couldn’t afford otherwise. The brothers old enough to work have been messed around and scammed by several employers but one has recently heard of an offer of a job in England (another dream come true) so I will pray with all my heart that this comes through for him. Having learnt this every coffee, every Viscinata, every sweetcorn didn’t taste the same. It showed just how much love they all had for us to still be offering when they had nothing. From then on every shovel of balast, raking of concrete and digging of ditches didn’t feel the same because love is infectious and I now love this family with more love than I can sensibly afford.



A Gappers thoughts

Whenever you go somewhere or do something new, you always learn new things. This summer in Romania has been no exception.

For example, during our week in Constanta with the kids, I very quickly learnt that a black stretch cotton T shirt does absolutely nothing to prevent sunburn. I also found that I am useless at fielding in cricket, rounders, and ‘crounders’ (some bizarre mash-up of the two the kids ended up playing), particularly when the games are played on sun-baked sand. We as volunteers learnt that when you take a group of children and young people to the beach, kids who have never been to the beach before in their lives, it takes around two minutes of time after arriving to want to go to the sand, and around the same amount of time for them to be splashing you with seawater (which was invariably accompanied with sand, seaweed, and mischievous giggling).

Going to Casa Lumina week after week, I learnt a lot about the kids over there. I learnt that Carmen will happily strum open strings of a guitar for two hours straight – which in turn made me want to learn how to tune to open chords. I learnt that Radu, somehow, remembers me from last year, and has clung to my hand just as faithfully as the week I was here in 2014. I learnt that once you’ve gained Maria’s attention – an achievement in itself, it has to be said – her favourite thing to do is to place a hand either side of your head and beam at you while blowing at your face, shaking your head around, touching foreheads, or some combination of the three. I learnt that the language barrier is not something to worry too much about at Casa Lumina – the majority of those who are verbal simply ask you the same three things multiple times. Which does, admittedly, make replying somewhat easier.

Ungureni, the state run adult institution with close links to Casa Lumina, teaches something very different. It gives more of a glimpse as to how things were before CitD, although Ungureni is far, far better than it and similar places were ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. Again, just over the few weeks I’ve been here, bonds have formed with patients there, and you can begin to get to know them better than you could ever hope to in one short morning of a week-long visit.

Negustorului teaches you very quickly how to deal with swarms of excited children – ones who adopt the stereotypical British way of making themselves understood by speaking louder and slower to you. The Roma village teaches you how to distribute your time and attention between multiple kids, many of whom may just want to show you their colouring in – which is always, of course, absolutely beautiful. I know I sound sarcastic there, but these kids and crafts? Getting to be a perfect match there.

During day centre at the hospice, you have no choice but to learn quickly. The Romanian words for ‘let go’, ‘stop’, ‘later’, ‘now’, and ‘I’m serious – stop playing music on your phone while the volunteers are telling you bible stories’ are needed from the first week. The harsh reality that as much planning as you put into activities for day centre, the kids know that they are by no means obligated to complete any of the crafts set out for them – a lesson that group after group of volunteers has been forced into learning. You also learn from the kids, and I don’t just mean in terms of card games: seeing the kids being kids, playing and colouring and making a mess everywhere, it brings a jolt when you suddenly remember why Casa Albert, Casa Lumina, and Cry in the Dark are even necessary.

When I was here for a week last year, I had a glimpse of what CitD does around Bacau, of the lives it changes and the people they help. Being here for two months has given me the chance to see everything in more detail, to bond with the kids over at Casa Lumina in a way slightly beyond handholding, to help with the day centre and be able to hold a conversation with the kids. Seeing not just the kids themselves, but how they interact with each other – Octav and Madalina arguing over a small doll (one wanted to cuddle it, one wanted to throw it across the garden); Andreea, Laura, and Sera wearing identical outfits at the beach (Mickey Mouse tops, of course); learning and playing (and losing dramatically) a Romanian card game that I can’t spell but is very similar to Uno! with a few of the young people.

This week, a group from my home church is out here with us. One of the leaders asked me earlier how the micro-gap had changed my life, and at the time I couldn’t find the words to explain it. I told her that I wasn’t very good at looking at myself objectively and seeing how I’ve changed, but I guess the truth of it is that I genuinely hadn’t thought about it. This summer has taught me a lot about myself – I’m pretty good at picking up pronunciation of Romanian words and I can mix decent concrete, for a start – so I feel like I’ll go home in a couple of weeks not just knowing CitD and those the charity works with better, but myself too.

I started writing this post intending it to be far less diary-esque than it has turned out to be, but hey, what’s a gapper to do. Unfortunately, in just a couple of weeks, I’ll be seeing flat Suffolk fields once more rather than the tree-coated mountains I’ve grown accustomed to recently. I can honestly say that this summer has been the best I’ve had, and I can say with just as much truthfulness that I don’t want to be flying home any time soon.

Wren Coolbear