World Aids Day has a poignant meaning for Llanelli Online as we were involved with the Royal College of Nursing and the Romanian Angel Appeal being amongst the first teams to arrive in Romania after the downfall of the dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu. The scenes were horrific by anyone’s standards. Babies and young children laying in abandoned rooms in their own vomit and excretia. The smell alone was sickening. This was a country, which housed the largest population of HIV positive children in Europe.
We were recruited by the Beatles wives who had raised the money along with some of the worlds most famous pop stars including Bob Dylan, and Sir Elton John. Our task was to try and implement a health, play and education programme but with the authorities not even acknowledging that these children existed and the predjudice surrounding anyone with HIV Aids it was always going to be an uphill struggle.
With the children dehydrated, malnourished and in a lot of cases seriously physically and mentally disabled one of the first tasks was to make sure they had water and food. It would have been foolish to try and do all this alone and ignore the local community and workforce but that is what some organisations did. They created enclosed communities filled with ex pats and with an agenda of religion.
The first response when confronted with these awful scenes was to want to leave for home. The second was to ask WHY? The third was to ask, what can be done?
It did not take long before curious locals and staff began appearing to view these strangely dressed westerners who were hand feeding babies, clothing infants and washing down hospital wards.
We were called the Romanian Angels but in our eyes it was the children who were the angels. Many did not survive and those images of the emmaciated bodies of young children will stay with us for life.
We also knew that we would have to do some serious educating so we set about taking our stalls to schools, colleges, universities and even nightclubs. We had to gain the permission of the authorities, which we did. We used local radio to promote our cause and slowly but surely we recruited local volunteers. We gradually removed ourselves from the process to what it is today, a completely Romanian led project still funded by the Angel Appeal. World Aids Day means a lot to us and we are so pleased that so much good work continues and none more so important than preventative education and the care of those who are still suffering. We wish you all a wonderful day and we hope you wear your ribbon’s with pride and fly the rainbow flag high.