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Prince of Wales’s Foundation Romania at 3-year milestone: A look at countryside support efforts, 1 ml GBP investment

In the past three years The Prince of Wales’s Foundation Romania has raised or invested about one million pounds, with funding coming from donors from the United Kingdom, Romania, the Czech Republic or the US, the charity’s Executive Director Aura Woodward told AGERPRES in an interview.

Woodward detailed the programs Prince Charles’s foundation carries out to support small Romanian village producers, as well as efforts to recover the built heritage, along with engaging in solving Romania’s profound social problems.

Our mission, as a foundation, is to support communities, rural communities in particular, try to bring skills and abilities to these communities in an attempt to support the development of a local economy. Heritage preservation can play a very important role in this local economy, traditional crafts can play an important role, Woodward said.

The program for farmers is a quite large-scale program. As a background, Romania has 2.9 million farms, which account for almost half the number of EU farms. Thus, Romania’s rural landscape is very fragmented, very crumbled. We have so far met around 100 – 120 producers and some make sensational products. We are especially interested in dairy products, various kinds of cheese, meat products, jams, pickles, honey. Romania has many sorts of organic honey. There are also some cold-pressed natural oils of very good quality. We want to have this firsthand information to see what is being produced, in what amount and quality, how it is sold, what the business value for the producer is, and then design our program in a form much more applied to reality, Woodward said.

Together with Slow Food, our partner in this project, and the Romania 100 Platform, we are trying to put together the Cooks Alliance, that will provide the link between producers and the market. By doing so, we aim to connect the producers with restaurants, cafes, places where these products can sell and sell otherwise, the Executive Director explained.

The program for the built heritage rescue is the first program launched via the Prince of Wales’s Foundation and we thereby pursue two goals – on the one hand, training the craftsmen and, on the other hand, concrete programs to save historic buildings, the foundation’s official said.

The charity is currently funded exclusively from private sources, but we would also like to explore the possibility to apply for public funds, Woodward said. In the last three years, the Prince of Wales’s Foundation has raised or invested about one million pounds in Romania. The money comes from various sources, there are two Romania-based corporate donors, but also donors from the UK, Romania, the Czech Republic and the United States.

The Prince of Wales’s Foundation launched in 2017 a new program to support Romanian troops and it all started from a letter Woodward received from the wife of a wounded soldier, an officer in the Romanian army who had lost a leg while serving in the frontline in Afghanistan. This serviceman Laurentiu Serban, has made a full recovery and is an inspiration not only for his military colleagues but, I think for all of us. Last year he was selected to participate in the Invictus Games – created by Prince Harry, the younger son of Prince Charles – and needed financial support for a prosthetic leg to participate in the running competition, Aura Woodward said, recalling Prince of Wales answering her letter in less than 24 hours, saying he was of course willing to help and that he would donate all the necessary funds for all three servicemen selected to participate in the event, for the equipment they needed; yet in the long term he stressed that more had to be done because it was very clear that Romanian soldiers need support.

At that time, I began discussing with several organizations in the UK that have a very long history of supporting British soldiers who have a completely different history and have participated in much more conflicts than the Romanian troops, and this is how I also contacted Prince Harry’s foundation, which has a dedicated program for wounded soldiers, Woodward explained.

She also talked about a social project kicked off in the village of Daia, near Sighisoara, which has a church dating from 1500 with a bell tower that is the highest such tower in all Transylvania villages. Woodward recalled her first visit there 12-13 years ago on a very rainy day and the feeling of sadness, of looming end of the world welling up in her, people walking in rubber boots, no paved road, everything telling of an obvious lack of jobs in a poor village.

I believe that everyone wants to overcome their condition. Poverty is a big issue which I think we need to address in all honesty. Almost four million Romanians live on the brink of poverty, and children dropping out of school because their parents do not have the bus money for them commuting to school to the neighboring village tells a lot, I think, Woodward said.

Our mission as a foundation is to support communities, especially rural communities, to try to infuse skills, abilities into these communities in an effort to support the development of a local economy. Preserving local heritage and traditional crafts can play a major role in this economy. Our aspiration is to create as many jobs as possible, as many rural small businesses to support as many families as possible in the country and for that we need a certain infrastructure, a certain plan, financing, and community involvement, Aura Woodward concluded.

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