On Saturday 4th February a group of staff and students from St Patrick’s Grammar School, Armagh, set off for Romania on the school’s annual trip to the orphanages, hospitals, schools and other centres in Brasov. The students undertake the distribution of food and clothes in several very poor villages. This year, the group’s priority, is to assist in the process of starting the rebuilding of the girls’ accommodation block in Bradet Special Needs Orphanage which was completely destroyed in a fire last month and 24 teenage girls lost everything.
Students from St Patrick’s have travelled with students from Cookstown High School, on the week-long trip that will bring much-needed aid to many orphans. Work has been underway to raise funds for the trip since before Christmas with many events having been organised by the students and parents.
The trip is being organised under the auspices of School Aid Romania, a charitable, cross-community organisation with two main aims: to bring together sixth form students in Northern Ireland in a non-sectarian context and to relieve poverty and deprivation among children in Romania.
The two groups of students have met on several occasions to get acquainted, to organise fundraising for the purchase of medical supplies, food and other aid, to share good practice and to plan what will be another busy schedule for staff and students when they arrive in the orphanages.
The groups met again recently to finalise arrangements the trip. Students at St Patrick’s have already exceeded their fund raising target and they know that this valuable aid will reach those most in need because they themselves will oversee its distribution. Every afternoon the students shop for the aid required for the following day and then sort and pack the aid ready for distribution.
Mr Dominic Clarke, Principal of St Patrick’s, praised staff and students on this “very worthwhile venture.” “Every year,” said Mr Clarke, “students comment that the experiences gained in Romania have a very profound effect on them. They return from Romania with their characters enhanced and with good memories, having forged lasting friendships with students from other schools whom they meet there”.
Each evening the students meet in small groups and reflect on the day’s events. At these meetings the students decide how the aid money will be spent. They also sort the aid that they have carried out with them. The days are long and busy.
The students will be accompanied by Mr Gerard Devine, Miss Carina Oliver, Miss Cliodhna McDaid and Mr Jim McQuaid. These staff members, along with the SAR team of 2017, wish to thank their families, friends, local businesses, local knitting groups, sports clubs, parishes and schools for again supporting us with our fundraising. Without the help of the local community we would not be able to undertake this worthwhile trip to Romania.