Wed | 01.06.2016
Meet Rob Bousie, Business Development Manager at Light into Europe Charity, an NGO that has been changing lives in Romania for over 20 years.
1. Dear Rob, please introduce yourself shortly to all our members.
Hello! My name is Rob Bousie, originally from Derby in the UK and living in Romania since August 2015. I came to Romania after living 4 years in Tanzania where I ran a charity supporting street children, even taking a team to the Street Child World Cup in Brazil where we became World Champions in 2014! I have a passion for supporting people to achieve their full potential, whatever is required to help them get over the barrier (small or large) in their life. I have been working as Development Manager at Light into Europe since October and I’m looking forward to advancing the work of the charity to support more people here in Romania. In my free time, I love playing and watching most sports, particularly football and badminton
2. Light into Europe Charity has been changing lives in Romania for over 20 years. What were the main challenges during all this time? Do you still face them?
Romania is a beautiful country, but not the easiest to work in. Obviously the main challenges have evolved over time, for instance we no longer have problems landing aircraft as we are no longer involved in the Air Ambulance! Beaurocracy hampers many initiatives here, and we are very careful to ensure we never pay bribes. Corruption has long been a problem working in Romania also, but we have come across this less often due to our work with low-income groups.
With regards to Guide Dogs, we face a variety of challenges with access, inexperience and infrastructure. Some of these include: cars parked on pavements not leaving enough room for the beneficiary and dog to get through, food left out for stray dogs which becomes a temptation for our Guide Dogs, unfixed holes in the pavement. There is also a law that allows a blind person with a Guide Dog to have access to any public place, including shops, restaurants, banks and public transport, however the public are often ignorant of this law and so it is clear to see that an overiding challenge is public education.
3. Share with us more details regarding your latest project: Guide dogs for the Blind Romania.
Light into Europe only trained and introduced the 1st Guide Dog for the Blind in Romania, Chloe in June 2010, so this is still a very new concept. Since that time, in order to support more blind people we have been trying to increase the number of Guide Dogs around the country. Currently, we have 8 working Guide Dogs (Mostly labradors) as well as 3 Assistance Dogs for Epilepsy, some of our latest litter of puppies are now starting their training and will be able to add to this number in the near future! As this is a relatively new concept in Romania (as a comparison the Dutch Guide Dog Federation was established in 1935), we are working hard to improve accessibility for our working dogs in public places such as restaurants, supermarkets, taxis and shopping centres as well as educating the general public about the independence a Guide Dog can offer and how to act when they see a Guide Dog or blind person. Having a Guide Dog can offer a blind person new freedom and independence, but requires hard work and responsibility from both the beneficiary and dog working together as a team. We have a long journey ahead, but we are confident with the right support, these incredible dogs will change many lives here in Romania.
4. Around 90% of sight or hearing impaired people are unemployed in Romania, in spite of their potential and aspirations. How can we change that?
We are working hard to change perceptions about how sight and hearing impaired people are viewed in Romania. For too many years, these people have been told to stay at home and be provided for as this is the best thing for them. We are not looking for sympathy, but opportunities for blind and deaf people to be able to use the skills they have, often unique skills that fully sighted or hearing people may not have. A chance to earn a living themselves and contibute to society.
5. Volunteering is becoming more and popular in Romania, especially in the corporate segment. Is hard for you to find reliable volunteers? How would you convince a person to become a volunteer?
It is great news for a charity like ours that volunteering is becoming more popular! We are very thankful to have a volunteering partnership with Ubisoft and Gameloft who allow and encourage their staff to look after a number of our puppies in training. The dogs come with the volunteer to the office in the morning, do training with our instructors in the day, before returning to the volunteer. These companies have realised the benefits in morale of having dogs in the office, and it is a very reliable arrangement for us. However, we always need new volunteers as we grow our programme, including people who can take dogs for just a few days or a week when someone is away.
Dogs are not our only need for volunteers, we also do work with young people in the deaf schools and help is always appreciated when organising events. The best volunteers should realise that their primary reason for work is to support the beneficiary, and not feel good yourself, this is just a by-product! This means hard work and investing yourself in a project, but can produce life changing results.
6. In the end, please a thought for NRCC members.
As a new NRCC member I can’t wait for us to get involved, learn and work together to support blind and deaf people in Romania. I hope we can be an active member of the community and you will be able to meet our beneficiaries, our dogs and join us at our fundraising events, great evenings full of networking opportunities and fun! We are thankful for the companies that currently support and sponsor us, but we have more dogs looking for sponsorship to be able to expand our work, so please get in touch if you feel you can support us. In short, I hope our membership fits well with our motto: What we can’tdo alone we can do together.
Founded in 1986, Light into Europe is the leading charity in Romania developing essential day to day services for children and young people with sight or hearing loss. Our Vision is a world in which sensory impaired children and young people enjoy the same rights, opportunities, responsibilities, fulfilment and quality of life as their able-bodied peers. Our Aim is to support, free of charge, sight and hearing disadvantaged children and young people, through educational support, equipment, information and life skills, in order that they achieve their true potential.
The situation in Romania:
• More than 100,000 people living with sight loss in Romania
• More than 40,000 children and adults affected by hearing impairment
• 60% of families we work with live at or below the poverty line
• Only 5-10% of young people with sensory impairment find jobs
Our Work is concentrated on 5 main areas to meet these essential needs:
1. Guide Dogs for the Blind & Independent Living - This is at the heart of the charity activity, giving independent mobility to Blind and Sight impaired people through the provision of a Guide Dog. Independent Living Skills Sessions encourage basic confidence and independence. We are the only certified Guide Dog providers in Romania.
2. Accessible Education - We produce large print, audio & Braille adapted textbooks to provide partially sighted children with access to essential education resources in schools all over Romania. This is material needed by these children for their education that is not currently provided by the government. 3. Sign Language - Achieved Registered Sign Language Institute status including a DVD on Romanian Sign Language. Taught 700 women around the country and course. This language is vital to allow deaf people to be able to communicate effectively and we would love to see it more widely learned and used.
4. Creative Education - Visiting schools for the Deaf and Blind to enable the children to fulfil their potential by supporting them with creative teaching methods to consolidate curriculum education. This includes regular sewing sessions and daily living skills sessions with these young people to encourage and support them to learn skills that will allow them to thrive and live independently 5. Community Engagement & Advocacy - We run sessions in organisations for staff education on supporting Deaf & Blind customers & colleagues. We also do regular advocacy sessions in different schools to increase knowledge of Guide Dogs and change perceptions of the next generation.