Nevadans open their hearts to Romanians
This time of year, when talk turns to family and friends, Shirley Bierman of Carson City never fails to bring up the residents of a tiny village in Romania who have been adopted by Northern Nevadans touched by their desperate needs.
In the three years since Bierman’s daughter Sara Bierman Blattler created Second Chance Romania, Bierman has come to rely on the generosity of donors from Reno to Wellington who have opened their hearts and their pocketbooks.
The first year, $20,000 was raised in just a few weeks along with hundreds of pounds of clothing and school supplies.
In subsequent years, Bierman has coordinated donation efforts locally while Blattler took charge of distribution. Blattler, 35, is a graduate of Carson High School.
Second Chance Romania, now with an international board of directors, encourages financial donations because goods could be purchased in Romania and shipping costs were too high from the United States.
In an e-mail from her home in Geneva, Switzerland, Blattler said the ripple started by Nevada generosity has continued to make gentle waves.
“Second Chance is now very well known in the area,” Blattler said. “Many multinational companies are supporting us in very specific ways – Connex, Metro, Coca Cola and many others.
“They understand that all monies go directly back to the community. They’ve experienced it first hand and they continue to support us,” she said.
That support has manifested itself in working toward basic necessities, like toilets and playgrounds, that most people take for granted, but are improvements for the 7,000 residents of Berceni, near Bucharest.
Blattler became acquainted with the area and its poverty while she and husband Christophe lived near Bucharest. Christophe Blattler works for British American Tobacco.
The Blattlers have returned to Switzerland with their two children, but Sara continues to stay involved with the organization.
The day-to-day administration of Second Chance is in the hands of Cosmina Pandele, a native of the village who was Blattler’s nanny.
Pandele said she’s noticed over the last years the willingness of the villagers to participate in Second Chance.
“In the beginning, we had many people who were suspicious of our efforts,” Pandele said. “Now people understand everything we do is to their advantage and we have no hidden agendas.
“It is so wonderful to see my people doing something where they expect nothing in return and have fun doing it,” she said. “This goes against all our long-held ideas of Communist ‘forced volunteering.'”
Projects include the installation of new bathrooms in five schools and a new playground.
Residents are recycling and making crafts that are sold in regional fairs across the country.
Second Chance has upgraded schools with new computers and provided medical care, making it possible for one young girl to travel to Amsterdam where she had surgery and was fitted for a prosthetic device for her leg.
The organization has turned its attention to the senior population and hopes to create a center where elderly residents can spend their days in warmth and comfort.
“This is the great achievement of Second Chance right now, helping people understand that receiving help is just the beginning of a new life and a hope for a better future,” she said.
“The fact that Second Chance introduced my village to a different culture where people help each other better their lives is a real miracle.”
SECOND CHANCE ROMANIA
n Installed indoor plumbing in a school
n Renovated school roof
n Built a home for a family of four
n Distributed clothes and household items to more than 160 families
n Distributed “gently used” toys to more than 80 children
n Distributed school supplies for two kindergartens
n Provided a workshop for unemployed women to make handicrafts
For information about Second Chance or to contribute, contact Shirley Bierman, 882-2507.
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