SLATINA – Inter Campus Romania rounded off the 2011/12 season with theMilionae de Zambete (Million Smiles) tournament in Slatina. The perfect end to a successful year that has seen plenty of new activities introduced into what is a constantly developing programme.

The final visit was carried out – like the previous one – in several stages so that the Inter Campus staff could meet all the children involved in the project while assessing the activities and providing training for instructors at the various centres in Ramnicu Valcea, Brasov, Macin and Slatina. It was also an opportunity to welcome kids from the new centre in Bucharest into the Inter Campus family.

The journey began with a technical and educational course for instructors in Macin and Greci, two small villages that lie near the Danube Delta in an area completely immersed in nature. Here Inter Campus work with the so-called ‘white orphans’ – children whose parents have emigrated to other European countries (often Italy) to look for work. The welcome you receive and warmth shown by people in this area remind you of what you get from people in Southern parts of the world: within a minute of meeting somebody, you find yourself sat at a table laid out with all sorts of delicacies. Every day, after crossing the Danube by boat, coaches Lorenzo Forneris and Juri Monzani organised fun training sessions at the day centre in Braila run by Inter Campus partner Inima Pentru Inima Foundation. This all culminated in a fun, final tournament. Thanks to the work put in by the local instructors, around 100 children regularly train in Macin and Greci. A fair number of these are girls: not to be outdone by the boys, they go into every training session with just as much passion, enthusiasm and smiles.

Passion and joy were also to be had at the first meeting with kids in Bucharest, where Inter Campus’s partner is the Parada Foundation. Since it was set up by clown Miloud Oukili in the mid-90s, Parada has run a series of social projects for children who live on the streets, after being abandoned by their families or escaping from orphanages. The project has recently been launched in Bucharest and involves 66 children at this stage. Many of them have hard, distrustful expressions, as they are used to getting by on their own, and helping these children in their development is not an easy task. They are like adults in children’s bodies. But football has a magic touch and children from all over the world always react in the same way when confronted with a ball. That’s why we try – through the game of football – to give Parada and its trainers an extra tool, so that over time they can guarantee children’s basic needs. This has begun with healthcare, thanks to the project at the Clinica Sociale Regina Maria, who have visited and are looking after those children who had no medical cover before being involved with Inter Campus.

In the second part of the trip, the Inter Campus team – comprised of coaches Lorenzo Forneris and Lorenzo Gironi – visited the centres in the districts of Brasov and Slatina.

Almost 200 children train with Inter Campus at Brasov, and the project is coordinated by local foundation Inima Pentru Inima. The first stop was the orphanage in Victoria. Approaching the entrance, a mass of Nerazzurri shirts came gradually into focus. And there they were, 40 smiling kids, excited at the prospect of playing with coaches from Milan. The game continued in the days following with the children from the group homes and the orphanages of Sacele and Tarlungeni as well as those from the Ghimbav Young Offenders Institute.

The visit and season ended with the fourth edition of the Slatina tournament, organised by partners Comunità Nuova and supported by Pirelli Tyres Romania. This year more than 300 children took part who – aside from playing football – got involved in facepainting, karaoke and delighted in the shows put on by the Parada theatre group. Among those taking part – besides the 100 children from Inter Campus Slatina – there was a group of children from the Ramnicu Valcea centre. The event was an important social opportunity for the city of Slatina, a chance for the three groups involved in the Inter Campus programme in Romania (Inima Pentru Inima, Comunità Nuova and Parada) to meet, but above all an unforgettable experience of joy, sharing, fun and friendship for the children who were able to take part.