For 15 years, they bring smiles and hope from the „Promised Land” to Constanta
In 2000, they had left the Promised Land for a new challenge: Romania. Since then, 15 beautiful years have passed among Romanians, in hopes of helping those less fortunate. All this time, together with volunteers they have organizedcountless activities meant to bring a smile on the faces of those of us who have endured fate’s hardships. As they like to point out, they are God’s messengers, the messengers of good, those who bring hope and courage in the hearts of those in need. Their greatest satisfaction is when they see that the lives of those they help change for the better, even if only a bit. They are the “United Hands Romania” Association.
“We have found a people whose hospitality and warmth overwhelmed us. We have seen how much they have suffered because of the communist regime and how they are fighting to get back on track. This people needed more, so we have decided to establish our own foundation in order to accomplish everything that was necessary”, told us Renee Crossman, Vice-President of the “United Hands Romania” Association, when we asked her about the association’s connections with our country. We also wanted to know how she became so involved in charitable actions here in Romania, and Renee Crossman traveled down memory lane somewhere 32 years ago, when together with her husband, Tim, they had started working for people.
India and Pakistan, life lessons
“In 1983, me and my husband, Tim, had received a special request, namely to help those less fortunate. This meant we had to leave the United States with our two small children and travel to southern India, where we established our first humanitarian project. For five years our work paid off, we helped the poorest of the poor and taught students how to contribute to changing their society. In 1989, we left for Karachi, Pakistan, where we laid the bases of another project, SOS Children’s Village, a means to help children with autism and Down’s syndrome through music and theatre,” as Renee told us. She also thinks that the time spent in India and Pakistan meant a lot for her family, which had grown, in the meanwhile. “We were lucky to work in India and Pakistan starting so young. This allowed us to learn so many life lessons... We have learned to adapt to every country, to relate to people from every social class, to be modest, to learn from the locals. These life skills cannot be learned from books, but by making daily efforts, from heart to heart, and by being in direct contact with people”, Renee Crossman believes.
The 1999 Earthquake - „That was when we saw the true face of the Turkish people”The year 1995 brought a new challenge for the Crossmans and their family. They were about to start a new project, this time in Istanbul, Turkey. Here they were involved in weekly donations of food for a shelter destined to old people, orphans and a facility for homeless children. Renee continued the weekly lessons for children with autism and Down’s syndrome in Beshiktash, but she also helped patients with cancer at the Cerrahpasha Hospital. The humanitarian projects in Istanbul had an important impact; as a consequence, during an ample fundraising they managed to collect the necessary sum for opening a new department for children at the Cerrahpasha Hospital.
The 1999 earthquake caught Renee and Tim in Turkey. Their mission acquired a whole new purpose: “That was when we saw the true face of the Turkish people. We already knew that they were generous and welcoming, but when we were faced with the emergency situation, they showed care and commitment at a whole different level”, our interlocutor confessed.
Romania in 2000
Thus, our interlocutor continues to tell her story, telling us about year 2000, when they have come across yet another challenge: Romania! Once the “United Hands Romania” Association being established, over 30 humanitarian transports have reached our country, carrying new clothes, footwear, bed covers, toys, educational materials, medical equipment, consumables, dental equipment and accessories, food supplies and many, many other goods. Renee says that more important than the clothes offered to the many poor people in Constanta and in the surrounding rural areas were the free medical examinations, in partnership with the doctors from a private hospital in Constanta. Free Papanicolaou tests were administered, but also free exams for children and seniors. For the cases which needed treatment, the “United Hands Romania” Association identified sponsors for ensuring medicines. The same association led by Renee Crossman managed later on to collect the money needed to build a playground for “Delfinul” Foster Care Center in Agigea. All this happened in 2009.
In Romania as well, Renee managed to motivate the business environment and determine those more fortunate to unite their strengths in order to help those who had less. She likes to say that the success of the Association’s projects is due, mostly, to these kind people called generically sponsors, and who have always answered her calls.
The soldiers in the Black Sea Rotational Force, reliable partnersFor five years, notable partners of the “United Hands Romania” Association are also the American soldiers stationed at “Mihail Kogalniceanu” Base, respectively the marines in the Black Sea Rotational Force. They frequently take part in the activities organized by the association, bringing joy to children’s hearts.
The “United Hands Romania” Association became known among the non-governmental organizations in Dobrogea area, its mission being to offer humanitarian aids and social assistance in the rural area, but also to help the less fortunate children in the foster care centers all around Constanta County. Currently, the representatives of the association coordinate the activities of 12 centers in the city, but also in the surroundings, which were included in programs, together with volunteers.
Looking at the 25 volunteers who activate within the “United Hands Romania” Association, Renee Crossman is extremely pleased to point out that any time she needs them, they are there and they get involved so that the activities have real success. A very important aspect is that the volunteers come from different ethnic and religious environments which, according to Renee Crossman, helps the association reach as many communities as possible and bring together more and more people around a common humanitarian purpose: that of sharing love and friendship with those less fortunate.