Summer in a gypsy camp

Amanda Stephens with daughter Grace, 12, and son Jack, seven.
Amanda Stephens with daughter Grace, 12, and son Jack, seven.
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A trainee teacher is giving her own children some important lessons – by taking them to spend their summer holidays with some of the world’s poorest youngsters.

Amanda Stephens, 38, from Bramley, Leeds, will travel to Romania with daughter Grace, 12, and son Jack, seven, where they will help run a playscheme and summer camp for children from the Roma gipsy community.

The trio will take a maximum amount of luggage with them on the trip - but none of it will be their own.

Instead, they will take toys, clothes and craft items, many of which have been donated by friends and colleagues, including £500 worth of items bought with money raised at Benton Park High School in Rawdon, Grace’s school.

Miss Stephens, a trainee teacher at Leeds Met University, said she wanted to do something a little different for her placement and so decided to go on the Romania trip.

“These are children living in dire circumstances, they have nothing at all,” she said.

“They are from the ‘cold valley’ area in Romania and are gipsy children.

“I am taking Jack and Grace because I wanted my kids to see a different side of life and that not everybody lives like we do, and worries about iPods, etc. Some of them don’t even have clothes.”

The children, all aged between seven and 12, are part of a programme being provided by Yorkshire-based charity ARC - Aid for Romanian Children - which was set up by married couple Anne and Fraser Brown. She is a teacher and he is a lecturer at Leeds Met, and the pair have been visiting Romania since 1994.

Miss Stephens explained the family will be packing light for themselves, but will be taking with them “loads of things” for the children, including clothes and craft items for the playscheme.

“We will take everything we can,” she said.

“These children don’t have anything. They live in shanty towns, they don’t have education and as gypsies, they are basically shunned.”

The plight of Romania’s children was highlighted when the country’s communist regime fell in 1989.

The appalling conditions of state institutions such as hospitals and orphanages grabbed most of the headlines.

The Stephens family will travel to Romania on Monday, August 8 for 12 days.

To donate items or cash for the family to take with them, call Amanda on (0113) 2909623.

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