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ANGEL OF MERCY CALLS FOR HELP; IRISH WOMAN'S MISSION GIVES HOPE TO THE POVERTY-STRICKEN ORPHANS Of MOLDOVA; Barbara in a bid to rescue 19 disabled kids from a cellar of hell.

AN Irish angel of mercy who was moved to tears by the suffering of orphans in poverty-stricken Moldova has devoted her life to turning their despair into hope.

And the mother-of-two who recently returned from an aid mission to the eastern European country, has appealed to the people of Ireland to rally behind her cause.

Barbara Tanner from Tamlaght O'Crilly in Co Derry has raised almost pounds 6,000 to improve the lives of these forgotten children with a tireless campaign to raise the profile and exceptional work of charity Romanian Connections.

Lorryloads of aid depart for Moldova several times a year, where, because of the scarcity of supplies, armed guards guard all aid.

The next convoy of food, medical supplies and toys departs in June.

However, when Barbara returns to the Hincesti girls orphanage in the summer to rescue 19 severely handicapped children from a basement where they have known only despair and neglect, she is hoping for volunteers to make the trip to assist with a number of essential projects.

These starving and crippled children, who have never seen sunlight, lie 24 hours a day in a dank, dark basement.

Forgotten by humanity, they waste away in horrible pain without anyone batting so much as an eyelid.

Even in death these children, aged from three years old, who breathe their last breath in urine-stained cots are stripped of all dignity and are denied the right of a decent burial.

Their malnourished, neglected and twisted little bodies, which have never known the loving arms of a caring adult are dumped outside the walls of the village's overflowing graveyard in unmarked graves.

Last year more than 15 of the 200 children in the home died.

Barbara said: "These are the most vulnerable and severely neglected children. They are God's children and it breaks my heart to see them suffering.

"They have been lying in cots, looking at a ceiling for over a year, and that is the reason why their limbs have wasted away.

"There is no hygiene, no medical care and no compassion.

"The only sounds from them are cries of pain when their nappies, which are only strips of cloth, are removed showing raw wounds. It's pitiful."

Barbara, who will be accompanied by her 12-year-old son Ross, will be heading off to Moldova again in July

She said: "We are hoping to send out five lorries filled with supplies on June 14 and collections are already under way.

But we also need donations and volunteers who would be willing to give up their time to help refurbish the orphanage and spend time with the children.

"The aim of the project is to build a self-contained unit in one of the orphanage buildings for the 19 special needs children and 12 not-so-handicapped children."

It is also hoped that a classroom will be constructed, a drying room, a greenhouse, a chicken house and that permission will be granted to build a graveyard in the grounds of the orphanage.

Repairs also need to be carried out to the two buildings that flood when it rains.

Ms Tanner, a Christian, is appealing to general labourers, joiners, plumbers, electricians, builders and kind-hearted women with anything from one week to three months on their hands to consider participating in the project.

But because of seriously limited funds anyone who volunteers for the aid mission will be responsible for raising their own sponsorship for the trip.

Ms Tanner said: "In the last year we have made such a difference to the lives of these children and that has been so rewarding.

"When you see the children's faces when they see toys in the playroom, you know it has all been worthwhile.

"If we can get enough support for this project we will be able to move the children from the basement into a special room equipped with a play area, physiotherapy unit, kitchen and bathrooms.

"We will be able to get them into proper beds, moving and even outside so they know that there's life beyond the ceiling."

Anyone interested in contributing financially or participating in the project should contact Barbara Tanner on 01266 821690 or alternatively on 0870 178999.

Donations can also be made through the Ulster Bank at Carlisle Circus, Belfast, sort code 980020, account number is 72129090.

l A documentary on the work of Romanian Connections in the Hincesti orphanage will be on BBC2 at 7pm on Saturday April 8.
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Author:Fergus, Lindsay
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Apr 2, 2000
Words:738
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