Seeing hundreds of abandoned children in a Romanian hospital when she was only 17-years-old had a profound impact on Katie Goodier.
The 39-year-old Strathblane woman, who now has three children of her own aged seven, five and two, has never forgotten about the Romanian children’s plight, and has continued to raise funds for the charity set up to help the orphans with special educational needs.
Katie first visited a neuropsychiatric hospital in Siret in 1992 to work as a volunteer.
The hospital has now closed, but at its height in 1986 it housed 1,310 children.
She found her experience there so rewarding that she returned the following year.
The School for Life Romania charity and Scoala Pentru Viata foundation were set up in 1994 through a partnership between Romanian teachers and UK volunteers.
Katie returned to Romania during each summer holiday to help while she was at university and has also since visited as a trustee of the charity.
She said: “It was an incredible experience, we lived and worked alongside Romanians and I met some amazing people who became life-long friends.
“Conditions were extremely harsh out there, not just in the institutions, but also in Siret, which was overshadowed by the legacy of the communist era.
“Most houses had no inside bathroom or running water - it had to be collected from wells or stand pipes in the streets, which only worked a few hours a day.
“During Ceausescu’s reign heavy taxes were imposed on families which didn’t have at least five children and this resulted in many children being orphaned, especially those with special needs.
“There was a real stigma attached to children with disabilities - they were seen as ‘incurable’ and ‘subnormal’.
“The attitude then was that they just needed food and shelter and no stimulation or opportunity to learn.
“It was so sad to see 30 children in one room sharing 20 cots, with many of them tied to their cot.
“Children rocked themselves in the corner and there were bars on the windows.
“It smelt terrible as it was so dirty. The experience definitely stayed with me and led me towards my career as a special needs teacher.
“While things have improved there is still a long way to go.”
To donate go to www.justgiving.com/KatieGoodier.
Go to www.schoolforliferomania.org for more info.