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Raluca Bragarea

Head of Communications, Bucharest

Part of UK in Romania

22nd February 2012 Bucharest, Romania

Great Britons in Romania: Shajjad and Katie Rizvi and The Little People

Second in our series of blogs about Great Britons in Romania are Shajjad and Katie Rizvi, founders of The Little People – a charity dedicated to providing psycho-social and educational services to children suffering from cancer.

Shajjad came to Romania in early 1990 to deliver a shipment of humanitarian aid. He planned to stay for two weeks but he fell in love with the country and ended up staying in late 1992. He then relocated to the Hungarian-Yugoslav border (now Croatian) to help with the influx of Bosnian refugees, where he met his wife Katie. They returned to Cluj-Napoca, where they are still based, in 1996 and set up The Little People to meet the overwhelming need for psycho support services in Romania’s children’s hospitals. They started at the children’s oncology section of the main hospital in Cluj Napoca.

Due to huge demand and their tireless dedication their services now reach 85% of all children, teenagers and young adults suffering from cancer in Romania. They have the largest patient outreach in Romania. They have permanent centres in Bucharest, Iasi, Timisoara and Cluj-Napoca. 2012 will bring their overseas expansion, starting with the Republic of Moldova and then to Bulgaria and Serbia.

Messages from children involved in the Little People project
Messages from children supported by the Little People project

They rely on dedicated staff and many volunteers to carry out specialised programmes based on therapy, art and drama which allow the children to get used to medical procedures and surroundings, conquer their fear and improve their self-esteem. Most importantly they help children to feel like children.

I visited their centre at the Marie Curie Hospital in Bucharest last week, where I was struck by the bravery of the 26 children, some just babies, currently undergoing serious treatment, like chemotherapy. The Little People team, coordinating by the personable and selfless Alina, worked tirelessly to make the children feel like children. The ward looked like a dedicated teacher’s class room with collages, pictures and educational toys everywhere. The only difference was reading what the children hoped for, instead of the latest toy or gadget read no more surgery, a new prosthetic leg or to spend time with my brother. Heart breaking, and left me thinking life is unfair but without The Little People it would be a lot worse.

One of the children from the Little People project promoting the message of the campaign "You can do it too"
One of the children supported by the Little People project promotes the message of the campaign “You can do it too”

The personal care and attention offered to each patient is a tribute to the tireless efforts of Shajjad and Katie. When they are not spending time with their little patients, they work tirelessly to attract sponsorship. Their work has been endorsed by Lance Armstrong, Oana Pellea and Beyoncé. Visiting British football stars like Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard have also given their time generously. And I for one will be running part of the Bucharest marathon for them.

Guest blog by Peter Thomas,
Deputy Head of Political Section
British Embassy Bucharest

About Raluca Bragarea

I joined the British Embassy in 2004, and have ever since enjoyed one of the most diverse and challenging jobs as a professional communicator, from partnering up with MTV Romania…

I joined the British Embassy in 2004, and have ever since
enjoyed one of the most diverse and challenging jobs as a professional
communicator, from partnering up with MTV Romania to promote the UN
anti-poverty agenda to handling Prince Charles’ press conference on a
hill top in picturesque Transylvania. One of the highlights working for
the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been the introduction of an
internship scheme in the Embassy; we bring along students from various
backgrounds to help us deliver our objectives while they get a unique
opportunity to learn hands-on about diplomacy.
I am a former TV journalist, specialising in foreign affairs, and a
Fulbright scholar. I hold a Master of Arts in Information and
Communication Studies with California State University at Chico.
I am a major cafe latte fan and like to collect hand-painted icons.
My other hobbies include travelling and watching movies with friends,
particularly Quentin Tarantino’s. The latest memorable film I watched
was District 9, a superb science fiction with a social twist – anybody
seen it?

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