The Good Neighbor Awards recognize REALTORSŪ who've made an extraordinary commitment to improving the quality of life in their communities through volunteer work. Five winners will receive $10,000 grants for their cause. The 2009 deadline will be May 22.
2008 Good Neighbor Finalists Announced
Good Neighbor Finalist Helps Romanian Orphans
David Forward, Weichert, REALTORSŪ, Medford, N.J.
Fourteen years ago, Forward founded the International Children’s Aid Foundation, which currently supports about 200 orphans in Romania.
"People often ask me, with 200,000 orphans in Romania and millions around the world, what difference are you making with only 200 children?" says Forward. "Each of these children is a real child, every bit as needy and deserving of love as my own son--a real child with worries and problems, who should be given a chance at life. I can't solve the problems of every abandoned child, but I can change the lives of the children that come into contact with me today."
ICAF built and operates its own orphanage, Casa Emanuel, which the Romanian government has called “the finest childcare facility in the country” and also assists orphans in state-run facilities through early childhood education programs in which child development experts volunteer to train Romanian caregivers.
Forward's mission began in 1990 after he saw a TV documentary on the plight of children in Romanian orphanages. Inspired to help, he led churches and Rotary clubs to donate 2 1/2 tons of goods, then negotiated with airlines for free freight and personally escorted the shipment to Romania.
Once he saw the children warehoused in overcrowded and understaffed orphanages, he knew he had to do more. Since then, Forward has escorted more than 60 volunteer trips to Romania, often bringing doctors, dentists, physical therapists, and teachers to apply their skills to the crushing needs of Romania’s orphans.
He has set up a medical clinic and dental clinic open to the entire town and convinced local doctors and dentists to volunteer their time. He and other volunteers in the U.S. and Europe obtain donated medical equipment--often as it is being replaced by more modern models-- and ship it for free to Romania where the equipment is considered state of the art. In addition, volunteer medical professionals travel to Romania—at their own expense—to teach the latest surgical techniques and to provide hands-on medical care.
ICAF also provides job-training and life skills classes for teenage street kids and orphans who will be released from state care at age 18.
"Since the orphans coming out of the state orphanages have a bad reputation, have few if any marketab skills, and possible employers feel that they will be disorderly thieves, the orphans have a very hard time finding jobs. David decided that the children need to be trained in practical ways to enable them to find jobs when they leave," says Laurence Miller, ICAF board member.
To teach teenagers useful skills and provide jobs, Forward decided to open a T-shirt and sign screen printing business. He learned the skill himself in order to teach it, got equipment donated, bought a building, and negotiated free shipping to bring it to Romania. The business is not only self-sufficient, it is also bringing in a small income stream for the orphans.