Mosaic International’s Positive Impact in Romania
Last year marked the 20th Anniversary of Mosaic International’s partnership with Motivation Romania, the second country where Mosaic partnered with a local organization to help people with intellectual disabilities. Just like Mosaic International’s alliances with other in-country ministries, Mosaic International’s purpose is to provide start-up funding, resources, technical expertise, and training to enable these in-country nonprofits to build capacity and become sustainable on their own.
After the 1989 Romanian Revolution, which ended decades of totalitarian communist rule, journalists deluged the country to report the momentous event. While there, they unexpectedly came upon innumerable children in institutions who lived in deplorable squalor, suffering from unspeakable malnutrition and other dire maladies. Some were even dying.
The news spotlight veered to the children. Within hours, images of these now-infamous, horrific scenes were shot out around the world, which was a cry to other countries and organizations for help.
According to Mosaic’s former Sr. Vice President of Governmental Affairs and International Development Richard “Rich” Carman, the images deeply struck the hearts of Mosaic board members and Mosaic International’s staff.
“Our pledge for Mosaic International was (and is) never to plant a flag in any country without a partnership with a local organization or mission, but the circumstances of these children were so abhorrent, we felt we had to do something with our international, humanitarian global partners, which was called IMPACT.”
Through a series of events with the American Embassy in Romania, Mosaic International and some of its IMPACT partners eventually met with the head of an in-country nonprofit called Motivation Romania, Cristian Ispas. Motivation’s primary mission at that time was to provide wheelchairs to children and adults who were physically and intellectually disabled. But Cristian wanted to do more. He eventually agreed that Motivation Romania would have a large part of helping children with intellectual and developmental disabilities who were in Romanian institutions.
Motivation Romania invited Mosaic to help gauge the situation for children who lived in a dilapidated institution, Tâncăbești. A member of the early assessment team, Mosaic Mission Support Director Ione Johnson, said ,“When I walked through the institution for the first time, I thought, ‘oh my God, look at what these children’s lives are,’” Ione said. “They weren’t fully clothed, some were nude and they were filthy.”
“One boy whom I’ll never forget was tied to a radiator, laying on his bed, with blood around him because he abused himself.”
Mosaic set up initial housing for the children who were first rescued from the institution before group homes could be built by creating sizable space in a former government building. “We converted it to sleeping areas, dressing areas, eating areas, and toileting areas,” said Barb Carman, Rich’s wife, who was also a volunteer social worker. “We quickly started support services for the children to get therapy, education, and even something as simple as giving them exposure to toys. They had literally nothing beforehand and had no experience in knowing how to use something given to them that looked fun or colorful.”
There are many success stories about the children with intellectual and behavioral disabilities whom Motivation Romania and Mosaic International rescued from Tâncăbești. Here is just one as told by the staff of Motivation Romania:
“One of the children brought out of Tâncăbești, Ionuț, is now 23 years old. When he was younger, he received extensive counseling to overcome his abandonment trauma and improve his language skills. He has successfully completed a life skills program teaching him how to live an independent existence. This young man teaches us how to overcome our limits daily. He’s passionate about sports and has an impressive collection of dinosaurs, which he can talk about for hours. He has become the ‘pillar of the (group) house,’ as he calls it, where he cleans the yard and organizes large objects.
“Importantly, Ionut now works in Motivation Romania’s workshop where they assemble and deliver wheelchairs, and he is proud that he can give others a hand.”
In addition to getting many of the children who had intellectual and behavioral disabilities out of the institutions, Motivation Romania and Mosaic reunited some of the children with their families; most were integrated into society, given an education, and if possible, became independent enough on their own that they could secure a job.
“When we began there, none of us knew what this was going to look like 15 years later,” said Rich. “Now people who grew up with the assistance of Motivation Romania are working at McDonald’s full time, there’s another person thinking about getting married, and the organization is the center of the Special Olympics there. There are so many individual success stories about what’s happened to the children who are now adults.”