Ajutăm anual peste 2000 de copii și pe familiile lor. Vezi cum facem asta
We help over 2000 children and their families annually. See how we do it

Women of 10 with Marina Almașan

 

…Eu însămi sunt mama unui copil cu paralizie cerebrală și cunosc problema din interior” interviu cu IULIA GABRIELA ONAC, vicepreședinte și co-fondator al Asociației non-guvernamentale “Maria Beatrice”

I bow to people who overcome their condition and perform miracles. Of those who have so much love for fellow human beings in them, that they cannot go through life thinking only of themselves, but always feel the need to do something for those around them. Such people push the world forward and feed our hopes for the better times we all long for. A little before the new year, my friends from “Repatriot” told me about a 10-year-old woman. Researching her life and deeds, I deeply admired her, finding her more than suitable for the column “Women of 10” of our magazine.

 

Together with her life partner, Iulia Onac started the creation of a special medical project dedicated to children with cerebral disorders and motor traumas, which would facilitate their treatment and make life easier for their families.

Thus, the Onac family developed a small “Maria Beatrice” recovery center for children with brain disorders and trauma, like their little girl, and at this moment build exclusively from donations and sponsorships, the Maria Beatrice National Pediatric Center, for long-term treatments of over 2000 children each year – a New Concept in Romania for the therapy of premature, cerebral palsy, post-traumatic and post-operative children.

Soon after I found out about the miracles of Iulia Onac, the people from “Repatriot” offered me the opportunity to have a dialogue.

Therefore, I recommend to you a brilliant man who can become, for each of us, inspirational. Iulia-Gabriela Onac is the Vice-President and co-founder of the Non-Governmental Association Maria Beatrice, Alba Iulia, International Partnerships Coordinator “Maria Beatrice Center” and, in fact, an English teacher at the Horea, Coșca and Crișan National College in Alba Iulia .

Marina Almășan: – I confess that, from the beginning, the Transylvanian in me offered a white ball to the Transylvanian IULIA ONAC! I’d just like to nuance things a bit. Your presence, being a teacher, in the context of a project that combines the medical side of its purpose with the engineering one – of the concrete construction of the proposed objective, makes me think: what is the connection between them? What exactly brought you to this context? Somehow, a subjective element?

 

Iulia Onac : – Yes, from the outside, it looks like a puzzle made of several pieces, but know that it fits together perfectly! Maria Beatrice, our youngest daughter was born 13 years ago and unfortunately, it was a premature birth with problems and at the age of 5 months the first signs of the condition appeared. One year later, she was diagnosed with infantile cerebral palsy, and from here began our odyssey through hospitals in Romania and then abroad, in search of the miraculous treatment. I went through all the states, from shock, to anger, to denial, to acceptance and then to acceptance. We realized that the solution for our little girl was long-term, constant therapy, and the last time we went to Ukraine for treatment with the little girl, on the way back we came up with a plan for a small recovery center for children. We desperately wanted to help our little girl by helping other children like her.

 

Thus in 2012 we opened a recovery center for children, in a space provided by the City Hall and the Local Council of Alba Iulia Municipality. We grew progressively but also explosively, so that now, after 10 years of activity, we have 80 children daily from the municipality and county and 50 children from all over the country, monthly, who come to therapy for 2 weeks, several times a year. Annually, 500 children from all over Romania cross our threshold, in repeated therapy sessions, 5-6 times a year. Meanwhile, the idea of building a new center emerged, from scratch, a new construction with two modules, one for therapy and one for accommodation.

 

Marina Almașan: – I deeply regret the painful experience you went through and I am deeply moved by your decision to come to the aid of families with similar suffering. Specifically, what does this medical project consist of?

 

 

Iulia Onac: – The limitation of the number of children due to the lack of space in the current “Maria Beatrice” Center and the higher demand than the supply made us think about building a pediatric recovery center, which can receive much more many children, in therapy. For children with neuromotor disorders, it is extremely important to act quickly and consistently in the first years of life.

As a result, between 2017-2019, the Maria Beatrice Association built a pediatric campus “in red” where several therapy rooms, accommodation facilities and complementary therapies are to be provided. Work is currently underway on the electrical, heating and water treatment installations in the three therapeutic pools and on the finishing touches on all three levels of the therapy building.

 

The accommodation side is also planned, interior finishes and installations are to be completed, after which the therapy building will be fully fitted out, and this will happen at the end of 2022. Maria Beatrice National Pediatric Center will host the treatment for 200 children/day, and the children will be hospitalized with their families, mother, father, by their side. The center offers Diagnosis, Therapy, House and Board. Parents will have the opportunity to participate in the therapies and be with the little ones, as the well-being of the mother, the family, contributes to the well-being of the child, who absorbs the therapy better and thus will have better and faster results.

 

Marina Almășan: – Personally going through the experience of a parent having a child suffering from cerebral palsy, would I dare to ask you to tell us a little about this experience? What impressed you the most?

 

 

Iulia Onac: – I myself am the mother of a child with cerebral palsy and I know the problem from the inside, and in the last 10 years I have met dozens and dozens of families who came for therapy at the current center. I understood everyone’s concerns, sufferings, worries, because we ourselves are going through it with our little girl. Now Beatrice (as we call her at home) is a teenager going through all those physical and emotional changes that all teenagers go through. We face her states, we try to understand her from the way she reacts and how she manifests herself, because she shows us through an expressive mimic-gestural language what she wants, what she likes or doesn’t like. We make connections to understand what she wants, because she doesn’t talk, she doesn’t walk, and she has limited use of her hands. For example, she can tap her tablet screen, but she can’t feed herself.

Marina Almașan: – I am impressed by everything you tell me and I admire your strength to move forward, despite this difficult test that your family was subjected to. How did you propose to help all these families, struck by fate?

 

Iulia Onac: – In order to help all these families, we first need to complete the construction and start the activity, together with over 50 people – qualified staff, doctors, therapists, administrative staff. In the new building, he could provide access to treatment for a number of 2000 children per year in an integrated system of diagnosis, therapy, home and meal. The whole family is put at the center of the therapeutic process, as we care about everyone – the patient being not only the child, but the family as a whole. There will also be a respite program for parents that provides qualified care for the little ones, during a few hours, so that they have time to go out together, socialize, recharge their batteries, strengthen their relationship.

 

Marina Almășan: – I can see that every detail is thought out carefully and surely, my own experience has fully spoken for itself. What is the status of the project now? What’s left to do?

 

Iulia Onac: – At the end of 2022, we can have the therapy building ready, “turnkey”, if the pace and value of the sponsorships is kept at the level of last year. We have the team of specialists, the equipment, we have the expertise and internal organization, the circuit of the patient in therapy, so we can start the new center as soon as the fitting out works are completed.

 

We only need half of the funding, a contribution of approximately 2 million euros so that these families can have a “home” where they learn with specialists and dedicated people to live easier and more beautifully.

 

Marina Almășan – Unfortunately, these complicated times we live in. How can we, those “on the sidelines”, contribute to the success of your project?

 

 

Iulia Onac : – It is an expression in English “spread the word” which means to spread the news that in Alba Iulia it is Maria Beatrice National Pediatric Center, a modern center with a new concept, which puts the whole family in our attention and care, where hundreds and hundreds of children from all over the country will come for rehabilitation therapy for neuromotor disorders, trauma and cerebral palsy.

Otherwise, there are many ways you can support us – for example, send an SMS with the text I WANT to the number 8845 to donate 2 euros per month. Other ways can be seen on our website mariabeatrice.ro. As I said, at least 2 million euros are still needed to completely complete both buildings (therapy and accommodation), the exterior, the outdoor pool, the playground, the sensory garden and assisted therapy with pets.

Marina Almașan: – I understand that your “associate” in this whole fight is your husband.

 

Iulia Onac : – Everything I did for the current center and the design of the new center was with my husband. Sebastian has initiative, he liaises with the general contractor of the site, meets with the architect, with the installation companies, he also took care of the construction permit documentation for the new construction and much more. Together we are building the Maria Beatrice National Pediatric Center – such a Hospital, where the family is the core of the therapy that the child needs. We complement each other, we contradict each other, we agree. It is a challenging process, with sacrifices and especially with many hours spent in brainstorming.

 

At the current center I am international partnerships coordinator and I am in charge of staff specialization and the organization of the activity. We have a partnership with an organization in Italy, Medici per la Pace, on social projects, we have brought specialists from Germany, Great Britain, the United States of America and the country to train our therapists. This year, 10 therapists from the “Maria Beatrice” Center will be trained with an EU certificate, in Sweden, as laser therapists and personal assistants, according to the Swedish model.

 

Marina Almășan : – Who else is with you and how did you form your team?

 

Iulia Onac : – The team of 54 specialists, doctors, therapists, administrative staff has come together over time, during the 10 years of activity. There is a core of colleagues who have been with us since day one and who have helped us a lot to grow and develop. We share common values, passion, dedication, professionalism. Without our team we could not have achieved anything. We have a top 10 team!

 

Marina Almășan : –Well, it’s not for nothing that there is the proverb “How is the holster, and the gun!” Now tell me a few words about IULIA ONAC, the man.

 

 

Iulia Onac : – I am a practical, realistic person who can do a lot of things, I have an innate aesthetic sense and I accept challenges with open arms. I work very well under pressure, I say that my “turbo engines” open up 🙂 and I like to finish things. That’s the only way I get the satisfaction of a job well done.

I graduated from the University of 1 December 1918 in Alba Iulia, Faculty of Orthodox Theology – English Language, with a Master’s degree in Romanian literature in a European context, I am a first degree teacher, head of the English language department, with 30 years of experience in education. I started as an unqualified substitute teacher in the countryside, then I taught at the high school in my hometown. After a few years I went to teach in Alba Iulia, during which time I was also at the university, gradually climbing all the steps of the teaching career. I got my degree in 2002, at the National College of Horea, Cloșca and Crișan, in Alba Iulia, where I teach and am a conductor even now.

The multiple roles are increasingly demanding – in addition to co-ordinating the partnership and specialization work personally at the center and the full-time teaching role, when I return home all my attention goes to Beatrice.

 

Marina Almășan : – Also tell me about your role as a wife and mother, about your passions, preferences, things you don’t like…

 

Iulia Onac : – I am a mother who cooks for the family, I like to bake, Transylvania is famous for homemade cakes, I always try new, healthier and tastier recipes. I would like to have more free time so that we can travel, spend more time together, see friends more often, go to concerts and the theater. I remember with pleasure the last concert I went to, with Andre Rieu’s magical orchestra – I went with my husband and eldest daughter 3 years ago in Cluj.

 

During the holidays we like to gather as a family around the table. I keep alive in my memory the image of my paternal grandmother, who taught me moral values, to respect the truth and honesty of people. Most of all I dislike ingratitude and hypocrisy. They don’t do well with our ideals and the desire to help, to do good.

 

My husband, a graduate of the Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj Napoca, is a professor of computer science at the same college where I am, he dedicated himself fully to the center. The fact that he comes from a family of engineers and accountants, economists, helped him a lot in his formation as a man. We have been married for 16 years, he is a wonderful husband and an extremely loving father, who turned his pain as a parent into a huge constructive force, to come to the aid of thousands of families in Romania, in a similar situation.

 

Marina Almășan : –In closing, I would like to ask you to formulate the thought with which you would like to part with our readers.

 

Iulia Onac : – I want to call all the good people with us. It is more than necessary to complete the work in 2022 to help as many children as possible who are in need today and to be a support to their families. Together we will complete the Maria Beatrice National Pediatric Center And we will make these real miracles. Anyone who wants to join us can go to mariabeatrice.ro, there are several ways to support us. Let’s build a Different Hospital.

 

Marina Almășan : – I wish you all the best!

You can find the published article here.

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