Project Romania + Vlog


That testing face.
It was amazing! I wasn't sure what to expect, except of course that we'd be refracting and getting glasses to people who really needed them.

We arrived late and stayed in the airport town of Cluj Napoca - a bit of team bonding, exploring and food - before meeting David, a volunteer that would help ferry us and our hundreds of specs to local villages. 4 hours later we were in Vatra Dornei where we stayed in the village church to begin testing in the morning. We couldn't wait.

Like most of Europe, the days started early in Romania. Breakfast was served by 7:30am most mornings. If we had further to travel, then earlier... but I love fresh morning air, so it was welcomed. The local churches, volunteers, translators and Romanian people treated us so well. Fed and watered we quickly turned our breakfast room into the testing room. No cubicles, one big room with boarded up windows to keep out excess light.

Our team leaders had liaised with an American church with Romanian heritage, they organised the locations, support team & patients. Got them registered and into an orderly queue. Snellens up, rets out and tables set. It was pretty nervy seeing your first patient, especially with the language/culture barrier and with an eye test being pretty invasive of personal space; but as our supervisors advised, the best way to learn is to literally get stuck in. So we did.

Watch in 1080p

The 1st day was awesome, after so much anticipation and excitement it literally flew by! Before we knew it, it was time for lunch. Then an afternoon pit stop, an abundance of watermelon. Then quickly back to it. We wanted to make sure everybody that came and queued, were seen. The bigger cities had developed so much, especially since joining the EU and money being sent back from migrant workers. It was clear the the country was growing and quickly. But those in very rural areas, were yet to see such progress. The contrast between industry and a thriving economy to horse drawn carts and struggling people was huge.

Horse and cart Vs developing houses

Horse & Cart farmer

Meeting the patients was a real shock, their appreciation for what we were trying to do was so heartwarming. The look on their faces when you get the perfect prescription is priceless. It was overwhelming to see a child's face light up, seeing things clearly for the first time. Or even an older patient, who had simply forgotten what clear & sharp vision was. I think for a lot, their vision had slowly degraded over time and they just forgot and had no idea what they were missing anymore! It was insane to think that a lot of them were driving too.


Amazing patient

Sorting specs
One of my patients 'reason for visit' was that his neighbours kept mentioning that they wave to him on his commute to work, but when he drives he doesn't see them! 'I'm like a robot, I just know the route.' Scary to think, hahaha. We got him to British driving standard vision and off he went. There were so many different stories, pathologies and patients. Quite a few presbyopes (patients that need reading glasses) that cried with their new specs because they would be able to help their children with their homework again. It made the whole trip worth it, seriously. 

Along the trip we met some real characters, the people of Romania are hilarious. One of my patients had this hilarious top, I'm not sure if he knew what it said? But judging by his personality, it he was a humorous guy. My translator and I, shared an awkward glance like 'try not to laugh :|'

The comedy.

90% of the British team got injured along the way hahaha. One of our 3rd years lost her voice - completely! We had a sprained ankle after a tumble down the church steps, a broken glass in the mouth, a trip to the hospital from unknown bug bite :| Despite all that we still managed to reach our goal. #DisabledDreamTeam

Massage line
We were constantly on the go, in the van changing location, running through eye tests or grabbing some food. Up by 6am and back in bed by 11pm. You really got to know everyone because we were always together. We learnt so much about their culture and by the end of the week, we made some genuine friends and it was hard to say goodbye. We ended back in Cluj with a celebratory team dinner before hitting the airport. The week flew by and I made so many memories, I just want to do the whole thing all over again.

Team Meal

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