What to do
More to do
Primary school becomes an asset
Special pedagogic education becomes a reality in Romania.
Adriana du Plessis makes a big step and converts Casa Minunata from a school for disabled children to an inclusive school
Awarded as the best school
The communist regime in Romania collapsed 1989 and the dictator Chauchescu was overthrown and killed on the 22nd of December.
Romanian borders were opened and the misery was uncovered. Media and voluntary aid workers were given free access to the former totalitarian and closed society.
The worst shock was to see all disabled children who were kept in large institutions. They were hidden to be forgotten. The children lived in terrible inhumane circumstances.
The story of Casa Minunata begins with Lions Clubs members standing outside the stores in Sweden collecting money to help the devastated Romanian people. Swedish people were very willing to give and large sums of money were collected.
Project Romania Future.
At the Swedish Lions governor's council meeting 1991 a program called "Romania Future" was accepted with the project leader Roland Nilsson, Lions Club Floby. Future Romania consisted of a main project, but the project also included the commitment to village projects in Urca and Baisoara and financial and material support to the hospital in the city Cimpia Turzii. As well as the accompanying financial assistance for the construction of a laundry at the orphanage Leaganul in Oradea. Swedish Lions would also set aside money funds for a joint Nordic project in the city Brasow, but that project failed to implement.
The issue of the main project Romania Future was that Sweden's Lions Clubs in cooperation with the university of Linköping in Sweden and the university of Oradea in Romanaia would train personnel for rehabilitation and education of children with various handicaps and with a thorough and objective information seek to change attitudes towards these children that prevailed during that time in Romania. Sweden Lions would build a model school to show those skills in practical knowledge and internship training.
15 Romanian students with very good basic education - most with teacher education and some years of professional experience - underwent a 10-week training at the University of Linköping and Östergötland County Council in autumn 1993.
Project Future Romania had a total budget of 7,822,000 SEK and out of that the training in Sweden for the Romanien students was 800,000 SEK and for construction of a preeschool with three yeras of running costs was 3,020,000 SEK.
Benrt Fransén, Lions Club Linköping / Valla was appointed as responsible for training in Sweden and Christer Fält, Lions Club Nätra appointed as responsible for the building work.
Roland Nilsson and Christer Fält make case studies in Romania 1991/1992 and could discover that the situation in the country was very depressing and the lack of essential supplies was a problem. They des visits at institutions vere children were suffering.
During a preliminary study in Romania a contact was made with Lars Hörnberg from Sweden who already had Lestablished himself in Oradea to help abandoned children.Lars Hörnberg´s expireinceses and his local contacts were valuable help and the Lion´s could biuld relationship to the people and the authorities. No one had heard about Lions Clubs International before.
The architectural plans for the pre-school were originally intended to on old folks home in Masungsbyn in Kiruna, Sweden, but became a school in Romania. The building engineer Theodore Bulzan was appointed to be the local expert. Dennis Hutchens, USA, was appointed to lead the executiva group and coordinate the whole project in Oradea.
The school named Casa Minunata, which means wonderful home or house, was inaugurated on UN Day on October 24, 1994 by the Swedish Ambassador Ragnar Ängeby.
Children needed transportation to the school and a Swedish minibus was donated. Romania got the first school bus and was named: "Autobus pentru Scoala".
First report from School Director Adriana du Plessis:
"Fianally able to start the real school 14 November 1994! Exciting day - Monday morning our 30 children arrive for the first time.Everybody is still a little bit nervous, the teachers as well as the children. The parents also.The children are very happy about their first trip in the red & white bus. They are going to love it later more and more. And not just the bus. Diana, says her mother, wakes up at five in the morning and asks to be taken to the school, others cry when they have to go home. Casa Minunata seems to be indeed wonderful to them.People call every day and ask for their children to be received. The waiting list for 1995 is getting long - we need a few more of Casa Minunata".
The Preschool Casa Minunata objective was to mainstream children into the Romanian school system. However this was proved too difficult of different reasons.
A proposal to expand the Casa Minunata project with a primary special school and an college for special education were agreed at the Swedish Lions multiple district convention. Christer Fält became the project manager. The budget was 6170 000 SEK, which includes both the construction and three years of operating costs. Swedish Government's expert Lotta Axare Lindström was engaged to assist with her competence and her network of contacts in Sweden within the field of children with special needs. Jan-Åke Ahlström, Director and owner of Utvecklingspedagogik, a private company in Swedish social wellfare, was involved.
There was no teachers education in Romania within the competence of special pedagogic. Contacts were made with the Teaching Academy in Stockholm, Ministry of Education in Bihor and teacher training college Yosif Vulcan in Oradea.to design a two-year college. Swedish SIDA was a sponsor.
111 students applied to the program and 30 students were selected. The sampling method was written and oral tests, and even interviews to find out the suitability as a teacher for children with special needs.
Adriana du Plessis, Director (citat):
-In September 2006, we opened our gates to welcome children with normal development thus becoming an INCLUSIVE school.
-(september 2007) Inclusion is a great achievement and a model for Romanian school system. One of our teachers, Adela, is doing a research paper for the University on Inclusive Education, and there is a lot of interest in this direction.
-(January 2009) Attitudes have changed dramatically. Casa Minunata has played an important role of changing mentalities and attitudes towards the disabled child. The community is much more friendly and supportive. Important institutions in our town are becoming interested to get involved and support. There was an event by a Hypermarket two weeks ago, when their top clients invited to dinner has an auction for Casa Minunata and have donated 4500 Euro, a local factory called last week to donate 1500 Euro. Mass media was present at our Children Christmas party last night making a very positive report that encourages people to reevaluate their values and attitude.
Adela, teacher (citat):
Integration of Dana Mierlut: It is a great joy and pride for us, however the bigger challenge remains integration of children with mental disability. Dana is an intelligent girl and that makes it easy for her to be accepted and receive compassionate care. I will be more proud when we really integrate a child with autism or mental problem…
I do not mean to belittle the success of Dana, she is an ambassador for Casa Minunata and an encouragement to many.
Adriana du Plessis
A negative impact of EU integration is the fact that many sponsors have lost interest and donations have. And Romanian state do not give any contribution to this children.Financing issues are big challenges to Adriana. Through all years she always succeeds to solve this matter.
How to find a job for youth with disabilities? They need first of all training to get skills. Lions Clubs in Norway, Finland, Denmark and Island with the main sponsor Sweden decided to build a Restaurant school. The cost landed at 7 million SEK plus the kitchen of 800 000 SEK sponsored by Johanitter organization in Germany. The building is 500 m2 at ground floor, 500 m2 at first floor and 500 m2 in attic.In a first progam traing chefs were 11 students. Financed by EU and in collaboration with RUHAMA organization.During the time EU was not satisfied regarding the corruption situation in Romania and frozen the contributions to all NGO´s. However this program was possible to be finished.
Year 2011 Adriana du Plessis received the price for Casa Minunata as Romania's best school in the category of a school without barriers. The award ceremony was held in the Romanian capital Bucharest during a national television broadcast.