Fundatia Inocenti is a Romanian-based NGO whose mission is to help at-risk children and their families to reach their maximum potential through prevention and education programs. The organization was founded as a result of the pediatric AIDS epidemic in orphanages and foster homes during Ceausescu’s rule in Romania. 

 This AIDS epidemic drew international attention to the lack of educated specialists, the sudden increase in newborn fatality rates and the plight of the Romanian orphanages in general. 

In a country where socialism was in its prime, AIDS was frowned upon and described as the Illness of the Decadent West; the existence of it was questioned and considered unthinkable. 

Roots of the AIDS Epidemic 

Although the undermining causes of the epidemic are many and varied, there are to two main factors:

Homophobia: The ever growing rumors that AIDS is spread solely due to homosexual contact has plagued the disease since its discovery. The mere idea of an illness such as AIDS existing was dismissed because, at the time, homosexuality was taboo and strictly prohibited. Following this line of flawed thinking, because of its illegal status, there could not possibly have been the spread of such a disease and it was simply not discussed.

Lack of informed staff and professionals: The lack of non-sterilized needles in hospitals was one of the prime reasons for the spread of this disease in Romania in the first place. This was not viewed as wrong or unsafe at the time and was standard practice.

Michael Carroll’s Story

Just a few weeks after the Romanian Revolution, Michael Carroll, a Boston-based photojournalist, traveled to Romania to document the post-communist society and the rapidly spreading pediatric AIDS epidemic.

He saw and photographed malnourished orphans in grave condition living in overcrowded, non-functioning orphanages and foster homes. His photos were published in The Boston Globe and the New York Times, raising awareness about Romania’s lost children throughout the Western world. Shortly after, Carroll founded Romanian Children’s Relief (Fundatia Inocenti), a non-profit organization to support Romanian children and families in need to prevent child abandonment. 

Image courtesy Michael Carroll

AISB has been working with Fundatia Inocenti for 5 years and was honored for Carroll to give a presentation to ninth and tenth graders on the organization and its history, in the hopes of raising awareness and finding more young people who want to get involved with the work they do.

Michael Carroll with Fundatia Inocenti student leaders Alkyoni K. and Luca F.

How you can make a difference

If this cause interests you, new members are always welcome to participate in the service learning group. Ms. Margritha Hofman is the teacher mentor of this activity and is always happy to talk about this group. You can also get in touch with Alkyoni K. or Luca F, the student leaders of the service group.