Cliodhna Denvir Symington is a student at the Friends School High school in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. The other day, Clio, as her friends call her, came to Ploiești, on the Habitat for Humanity Romania construction site, together with 11 schoolmates and 4 teachers, and she worked hard as a volunteer, to build houses for 4 families in need. However, Clio and her schoolmates have done some amazing things, to get to Romania. Besides working for free on the interior and exterior insulation of the house, the volunteers paid for their own transportation, accommodation, food and logistics, also making a donation for the construction of the homes. The students collected all these funds by themselves, turning to extracurricular activities created and organized by them. The first fundraising event in Northern Ireland was a “colour run” race, in which the participants were sprinkled with coloured dust and which gathered approximately 1,000 students from the Friends School High school. Their event collected donations of 10,000 pounds.
The Marathon of Records. Six months ago, Clio organized a true 7-day marathon, during which she tried to break the same number of world records. The high school student tried the highest quantity of garlic in one minute, the highest quantity of jelly possible using chop sticks, to put on the largest number of T-shirts in one minute, to eat the highest quantity of Jaffa cakes, to stick the largest number of sticky notes on the face of a school mate, to tape a schoolmate to the wall, with scotch tape and to execute the highest number of jumps on the backs of her schoolmates’ backs, a game called “hip frog”. All the records she tried to break were “the most in a minute” kind of records.
“I didn’t manage to break any of the records I went for, but my initiative attracted many of my schoolmates and friends”. The hardest challenge was the garlic challenge and the schoolmate I tried to stick to the wall fell off it. Still, we had fun and, what’s more important, we collected over 500 pounds, which makes me really happy”, said Clio.
With a huge smile on her face and a ton of optimism, the high school girl worked in Ploiești for a week, cutting insulation boards, fixing them with the electrical screwdriver and nailing them to the wall. Everything takes place with the help and under the supervision of specialized construction workers from Habitat for humanity. Their boots were almost constantly covered in mud, since their week in Ploiești was a rainy one, but that did not keep the teenagers from Northern Ireland from singing and laughing.
Mutual impressions. One of the future homeowners, Nicoleta Irimia, a woman from Ploiești who works hard to feed her children, worked side by side with the teenagers. “I think it is incredible that these 16 or 17-year olds left their schools, families and parents aside to come and work as volunteers. They put in 8 hours of work every day, without complaining of anything. I was impressed”, said Nicoleta Irimia. The woman prepared cookies for the volunteers who were impressed with the taste and with the entire experience in Ploiești. “We will definitely return. This has been the best experience of my life, so far”, said Clio.
During the week spent in Romania, the students from Northern Ireland visited the Peleş and Bran castles, ate Romanian food and tried to get the feel of Romanian life. “Romanians are very kind and the places I visited are wonderful. I tried Romanian food and I loved it,” told us Owen Gray.
The Habitat for Humanity Project. The project to build houses for low-income families from Ploiești is part of a larger project developed in several cities in Romania, by the Habitat for Humanity organization. Last year, 8 families with social problems and low incomes from Ploiești received houses in quadruplex system, built by the organization, with the support of Romanian and foreign volunteers, of the beneficiaries, as well as of numerous companies which donated construction materials. Almost 300 volunteers from abroad and from Romanian companies have worked on building homes, so far.
The construction of the houses in quadruplex system, on which Clio and her schoolmates worked, began last spring and it will be finalized next spring. These houses are not offered for free and, once the work is done, the rehabilitation or construction costs are covered by the beneficiaries, in monthly instalments, for a period of up to 20 years, profit-free. For example, a monthly instalment is lower than any rent in Ploiești. The amounts collected are added to a fund, which subsequently serves to help other families. In addition, the selection of the beneficiaries is very serious and they are effectively involved in the construction of their own homes, as was Nicoleta Irimia, who worked with the students from Ireland for a week.
Habitat for Humanity has been active in Prahova County since 2009 and in Romania, for 20 years, period in which it helped over 64,000 people have a better place to live.