Buckner Romania Becomes Independent NGO

Twelve years after it established an NGO (Non-Govermental Organization) in Romania to help that country’s overburdened orphanage system, Buckner International announced Jan. 1 that it is endingfinancial support from Fundaţia Buckner Romania and setting it on a course of self-sustainability.

Buckner International President Albert L. Reyes said the transition is part of Buckner’s long-term plan for establishing self-sustainability among its international NGOs as time, resources and support allow.

“When we create an NGO,” he explained, “our model is to first establish the organization to help answer the needs of orphans, vulnerable children and families in that country, provide the initial resources to support these efforts, and establish the methodology and model best suited for that context. When they’ve reached a certain measure of maturity support and sustainability, then our goal is to transition these NGOs toward becoming self-sustaining organizations.”

Buckner began work in Romania in 1996 after Romanian officials sought Buckner’s child care and social services expertise to help overcome mounting problems in the country’s orphanages. Buckner established Fundaţia Buckner (Buckner Foundation Romania) in 1998 and began offering mission teams to conduct evangelistic camps in orphanages in the Targu Mures region.

Phil Brinkmeyer, Buckner regional director, said Buckner has provided a variety of ministries over its 12-year tenure in Romania. “We began initially by providing humanitarian aid directly to the remnants of a communist orphanage system – one that was, in essence, providing first aid to those in need but was putting a band-aid on a broken system.”

Since 1998, Buckner has offered large-scale humanitarian aid, orphanage renovations and emergency relief to Romanian orphanages, developed a relationship with Child Protective Services in Targu Mures for emergency relief and aid coordination, a transitional living home for children who have aged out of care, sent hundreds of volunteers to minister to children and, along with CPS, initiated a domestic program to encourage Romanians to report child abuse.

Also instituted were an evangelistic follow-up program using Romanian staff to provide weekly visits to orphans, a “grandmother” program to provide infants with basic nurturing and a foster care program along with Pathway to Joy Ministry in Oradea.

Buckner briefly provided an international adoption program in Romania in 2000, but soon ceased operation due to a moratorium imposed by the Romanian government. Since 2000, Buckner’s Shoes for Orphan Souls drive has shipped almost 84,000 pairs of shoes to children in Romania

But Buckner’s contributions went beyond programs and aid, said Randy Daniels, Buckner vice president for Global Initiatives, and eventually led to changes in the country’s orphanage and social services systems, long regarded as among the poorest-performing in the world.

Daniels said through its NGO, Buckner “modeled foster care at Pathway to Joy in Oradea and we helped Romania in its transition from an orphanage-based child care system to a foster care-based system by helping Romanian officials acknowledge the value of foster care.”

He pointed to the Buckner Child Development Center in Tarneveni as an additional success for Buckner. “We presented the CDC in Tarnaveni as a model of family preservation and education by doing work in Tarnaveni’s gypsy community. Officials predicted it wouldn’t work, that the gypsies would vandalize the facility and steal everything in it, but we said, ‘Why don’t you let us try?’ It’s been a success and a testament to Romania that government, social service agencies and the gypsy population can work together.

“About 90-95 percent of children in Romania’s child welfare system are gypsy children,” he said. “By providing the work of the CDC, gypsy children were able to remain in their homes. The driving factor for Romanian children being placed in foster care is poverty -- things as simple as the inability of families to feed their children leads them to be placed. At the CDC, we fed the children and as a result, they were able to live at home.”

While Buckner has set its Romanian NGO on a course of self-sustainability, it won’t be alone, Brinkmeyer said, noting that Buckner will continue to share its expertise in social services and will receive support from another U.S.-based non-profit.

“We are excited about Tim Oloffson and the Another Child Foundation becoming a support partner for Buckner Romania,” said Brinkmeyer. “Tim was initially a Buckner missions volunteer who took his passion for the children of Romania and giving it hands and feet.”

That passion, said Oloffson, first sparked in 2006 while he was on a Shoes for Orphan Souls mission trip to Romania. “It touched my heart in ways I had never experienced before. To see all the pain and suffering the orphan and at-risk Roma or gypsy children faced on a daily basis overwhelmed me. After seeing the awesome difference a simple pair of shoes can make to a child, I knew these children were searching for something. After a few days I realized it was hope they were looking for.”

“My thoughts then wandered to how the children would feel after we left,” he said. “God had used us to plant seeds in these children’s hearts, but who was going to nurture this newfound hope? That is where my wife Theresa and I stepped out in faith and decided to devote much of our extra time and money to help these children on a daily basis. One thing led to another and Another Child was developed with the help of Buckner International. Today, we have a missions office in Princeton, Ill. and the ACF Headquarters in Lafayette, La.”

Oloffson said Another Child will base its partnership with Fundatia Buckner “on knowing and understanding the mission and vision of each other’s organizations. Buckner Romania is committed to transforming the lives of the children and families God has entrusted to them. While ACF is committed to funding the programs Buckner has created, sending mission teams to help transform these people’s lives and lending our organizational expertise on whatever front we can help with.”

He said anyone in the U.S. wanting to give to support Buckner Romania or go on a mission trip can do it through Another Child. “ACF has seven mission trip opportunities to Romania in 2011 as well as a sponsorship program which gives donors the ability to meet the immediate needs of a specific child.”

For more information about Another child Foundation, go to www.anotherchild.org or contact Oloffson at 815.303.1725.

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