A CARING trio has been handed cash to fund their work with orphans in Eastern Europe.
Leanne Brymer and pals Philippa and Samantha Cowper are among a group of students who make regular trips to an orphanage in Bulgaria.
Twenty-year-old Leanne, of Hall Lane, Houghton, first heard about the volunteer scheme while studying at Northumbria University.
Now in the final year of a joint honours in care, education and childhood studies, she has made three trips to the care home, whose name in English is The Home for Mothers and Children – although no mothers stay there.
Rotarians at Houghton Rotary Club have given the group £200 towards vital resources for future trips.
The group, which works with the charity The Bulgarian Abandoned Children’s Trust, funds its own travel and accommodation costs.
Members also take supplies of essentials, including toys and nappies for the children, to avoid using up the orphanage’s limited supplies.
Leanne spent four weeks there over July and August.
She said: “There are children there from birth to five years old, who have mainly been abandoned by their parents.
“Some keep their parental rights so the children can’t be adopted.
“It was quite shocking when we got there. There were so many children, about 300 in all.
“It’s one of the biggest baby orphanage in Bulgaria.
“A lot of the children had disabilities and chronic illnesses and were basically left in their cots.”
Leanne goes to university with Philippa, 20, from Penshaw, who took along sister Samantha, 23.
She said they worked hard to win over staff at the home.
“The nurses were more there for care, rather than education, so we were trying to interact with the children,” she said.
“At times we felt a bit unwanted by the nurses. There was a communication barrier because not many of them spoke English, so it was a case of trying to communicate that we were trying to help and we learnt a few Bulgarian phrases.”
But dedicated Leanne and her friends hope to return to the orphanage, after she completes her studies.
“I’d like to go back in the summer again, but it will probably be after I graduate.
“Bulgaria has helped me think about working in nursing or maybe education.”
Anyone interested in volunteering or supporting the project can email Leanne’s lecturer at firstname.lastname@example.org