There aren’t really a lot of ways to describe an A.C.T.O.R. volunteer’s firs experience of the flower Campaign “De Florii pentru Copii”. The first one, although the campaign is on it’s 12th edition.
At the training before the big day, of course, the veterans explain to you everything you need know and how to act throught the whole process. They tell you that the volunteers involve the entire comunity of Bucharest to raise funds to help the children in the hospitals that A.C.T.O.R. works with. They run the numbers of the people who took part in the previous years: hundreds of volunteers from Bucharest, Oltenița, Codlea, the parishioners of 26 churches, youngsters fron 28 high-schools, children from 30 schools and 46 kindergartens. They speak to you in an unsettled tone about the hospitalised kids during the holydays in Grigore Alexandrescu, Budimex, Lacul Bucura, suffering from tuberculosis, cancer, HIV SIDA, burn victims or children with impaired movement. Your knees start trembling on the thought that the money you would raise will be used into purchasing Easter presents to those kids and that you migh just have a real opportunity here to bring a smile to their faces. They tell you where to go to, at one of the following churches: St. Ilie Gorgani, Cașin, Biserica Icoanei, Biserica Rusă, Biserica Colțea. You’re subjected to “simulations” in order to become able to manage any situation you could face. In theory, you should consider yourself more than ready participate in the Flower Campaign. In theory.
Let’s get on to the practical side. When you’re actually in front of the church, with your napkin-folded flower bascket in your arms, everything you’ve learned up until that point sundently and completely dissapeared. In that crowded sea of people and ocean of characters, it’s too little to say that you feel utterly lost for the first 5 or 10 minutes. That is if you’re a newbie in the arts of giving away flowers without people thinking that you’re an extorsionist. It all begins in the simplest way possible, with you: “Would you like to take a rose?” Whatever comes up next is totally out of your control. And you cannot tame the weather either.
It poured from the moment we got there to the time we left. In general, the people were glad to stop by the colorful napkin roses which had to be wildly protected from the rain by all means possible. They did not mind to bump their umbrellas with the others in order to listen to the stories of the children in hospitals. They were especially fascinated by the european volunteers who learned by heart how to say “We are raising money for children in hospitals” in Romanian. They asked all sorts of questions, challanging them to have a conversation in Romanian and even if the rain got heavier, even if we were soaking wet and cold, the smile and laughter wasn’t missing from either side. Some of them seemed to recognize us from the past years, they would come straight at us and put money in the donation box, they would congratulate us on our work and leave in a hurry. Of course, we had someone ready to run and catch up to them and reward them with a simple, colorful rose, the gesture we’ve prepared for the ones who wanted to contribute to the campaign. The skeptical ones were there as well, and they needed a little more convincing. There were also the ones with their nose on the ground while they walked by. You couln’t blame them for their reaction, truth be told, society foredooms most of us to be surrounded by wicked, tricksy, liars and racketeers.
Personally, I tried to offer a rose to the ones avoiding us completely, telling them it doesn’t cost a thing, trying to prove that other types of people exist, apart from the ones on the negative category, explaining what we do and stating the fact that only if they desire, they can make a donation in the box . Either way, the rose is a gesture they can keep. I saw people raising their eyes and starting to look into yours, to discover your honesty and to make the donation. The person who stayed in my mind for a while was a woman from Israel who came to ask me what was happening at the church. Between the lines that were exchanged I discovered that on this flower-name holyday she had to celebrate as well. Whished her a happy name day, she walked past me and encountered our volunteers who kept on repeating «Raising money for children in hospitals! Money for children!» and she couldn’t resist on taking a rose.
We we aproximately 40, 50 volunteers, foreigners or not. From the 5 churches we went to we managed to raise over 4.000 Romanian lei. The next days we did the shopping, we made the presents and we offered them to the children in the following hospitals: Grigore Alexandrescu, Budimex, Lacul Bucura, Centrul de Recuperare Nicolae Robănescu and Brădet. The Special Thanks must go to everyone who contributed: the ones who organized, the ones who volunteered and last but not least, the ones who donated.