I’m just back from an exciting weekend miniconference, and indeed from a rather exciting journey : the outbound flight was diverted 3 hours’ drive away, due to fog. The fog was trapped in the valley though, and Misu’s cabins rose above the clouds. The mountains in the snow contrasted nicely with the theme “The Darkness Within”.
It is clear that teenage mental health is a very important topic in Romania (as elsewhere), and the relaxed atmosphere of Brodina was the perfect place to discuss it. We gathered 18 of our students, all but one being our regulars, and I’d asked 3 of them to give an introductory talk. These were just amazingly good, both in terms of content and ideas, and also in terms of the creativity with which they made their presentations.
The bulk of the time was given over to discussion : I gave very short introductions to each of 5 sections (school pressures, social media, gender issues, etc), picking up some ideas from the Summer along the way, and the rest was up to them. Most got stuck right in to group discussion, whilst a few preferred to stay on the edge, but the feedback from every one of them was very positive indeed.
Several wrote that they would bring lessons from the weekend forward with them, in the way they could now better understand other people’s needs. I was very impressed at how vulnerable some of the guys were prepared to be, as they shared their own experiences, and their testimony to the power of friendship through dark times was really beautiful.
Several of this particular group will be going off to University next academic year, so we will need to attract a new cohort. This is always a very sad time for me : typically any particular group tends to stay with us for about 3 years, and it’s always a wrench to see them go. I feel particularly close to these guys though – when they first came, they were a bit of a wild bunch, but it turns out they had hidden depths!
Many of our teenagers have had the opportunity to take part in the Erasmus scheme, which brings students from all over Europe together for an educational exchange. One of our girls had been to Lithuania, and one of her new friends there is very keen to come to our conferences, and so I may ask some of the others to invite folk who they have met through Erasmus too.
Misu and Livia have many exciting new possibilities for next year too. Last month they hosted a school class for a week – the schools in Romania have an option to provide a “Week of Difference” each year, which seems to be able to involve more or less anything, and of course they cover all the costs for whatever they choose to do. So this could happen again next year, but apart from that, they already have a booking for a 2 or 3 day excursion from a school 150 miles away. The “chain of connection” here was very convoluted and serendipitous!
Also this autumn, Misu and Livia had provided the location for a local Catholic charity to hold a Leaders’ Training week. These people do a fantastic work with disadvantaged children in Radauti, and in fact 2 of our students (not Catholics!) had joined in because they have a heart for vulnerable people (having been such themselves). Anyway, this charity now wants to hire the Brodina site next year to run a camp for these children. Misu will offer them a very good rate, and it will provide some income for Hannah – and a great week for the kids. Everybody wins!
Radauti has housed a Refugee Centre for some years, and now another charity, represented locally by an Orthodox priest, has a plan to provide a week’s break in the mountains for some of the refugee children, and again the Orthodox charity would fund this (and provide translators – we’re not sure yet where most of these kids will have come from!)
Then as well as these possibilities, plus the normal run of children’s camps and conferences which Misu and Livia run, there’s also the chance for them to fit in some commercial activities around them. The Brodina site is on AirBnB – book your holiday now!
These developments taken together represent a major step forward in keeping their work financially viable whilst also extending their reach in some exciting directions.
This is the last newsletter for 2018, and the next one will come out in February. Please pray for our own plans, as we work out what we can offer in 2019.