VALU LUI TRAIAN, Romania- Children at Project Romania Rescue laughed as they climbed on the shoulders and ran around the feet of visiting service members. The kids greeted their visitors with raised arms, asking to be lifted up, and sent footballs and soccer balls flying through the air in anticipation of a day of play.
About a dozen service members stationed at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romania visited the orphanage in Valu Lui Traian, Romania May 18, 2019 to spend time with the children.
"They want to feel accepted by others," said Marian Nicusor Serban, the executive director of Project Romania Rescue. "When people come to visit, they feel that others are caring and thinking about them and that they have value."
Service members played sports and ate lunch with the children, and even set up a zip line in a nearby park.
While it was the first trip to Project Romania Rescue for some of the volunteers, Serban said the center has had a partnership with MKAB for around 10 years.
An American missionary founded Project Romania Rescue over 20 years ago. Serban said the center has cultivated and maintained a strong relationship with the base, visiting Americans and other local community service organizations.
Project Romania Rescue is comprised of Casa Anna and Casa Benjamin, residential centers for girls and boys, respectively, under the age of 18.
Hiriczko Mihaela Florentina, a volunteer nurse and mother figure for the children at Project Romania Rescue, said she wants the center to feel like a family home for the children who live there.
"These children come to us with stories that are not all happy," Florentina said. "It is harder than a normal family, but we don't want this place to feel like an orphanage. This is their home, and we are their family."
In addition to the two residential houses, Project Romania Rescue offers a transition assistance program once the children reach the age of 18, as well as an after school program for children in the community and summer camps for low-income families.
Major Peter Burfeind, the chaplain for MKAB, said both the children and the service members enjoy the time spent together.
"It's good for service members to take a break from their routines and spend time with the kids, and it's good for community," Burfeind said.