Bakersfield College student helps Romania

Javier Valdes

Nannette Gonzalez is the president of Father's Care Ministry, a non-profit organization established in 1997.

Elizabeth Castillo, Editor in Chief

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Bakersfield College student Nannette Gonzalez saw a need for a legitimate foster care and adoption program in Romania. With a little extra faith, she turned this social issue into a solution for children across Romania.

“Our non-profit rescues abandoned babies from being institutionalized and places them in a loving, nurturing home,” she said.

Father’s Care Ministry began as an idea in 1994 and came to fruition in 1997. Gonzalez first visited Romania on a two-week outreach but ultimately lived in the country for 17 years. She found the country to be very bleak, but felt an urge to stay because of the children in need.

“I saw enough sadness to last a lifetime,” she said. “In Romania, gray, black and brown were the only colors I saw, but the kids drew me to that country.”

Since its inception, according to Gonzalez, the organization has saved hundreds of children from government-run orphanages and facilities. One of the many things that struck Gonzalez was how malnourished the children were. She said that children were usually three years older than they looked, because of malnutrition. To combat the malnutrition, Gonzalez said she would give them milk that was composed of 26 percent fat.

“The kids were so skinny,” she said.

Gonzalez, 56, said that she began the non-profit with hesitation. She knew it would be a tremendous undertaking but relied on a higher power to propel her forward.

“I knew it would take a lot logistically, to learn the culture and the language,” she said. “God spoke to my heart, and I felt a divine appointment.”

Father’s Care Ministry is based out of the U.S., but Gonzalez also had to register it as a non-government organization overseas. The organization originally helped facilitate adoptions of Romanian children all around the world. Children found homes in the U.S., Ireland, Spain and England. Some children were adopted and grew up in Bakersfield. While the international adoptions were very successful, ultimately they became illegal.

“The European Union found that people were selling kids in the black market,” Gonzalez said. “Now there are no international adoptions.”

Although Gonzalez’s organization can no longer work with international adoptions, she said that Father’s Care Ministry still works with finding foster and adoptive families within Romania. The organization also helps children with disabilities and illnesses receive proper medical treatment. Gonzalez said that children from Romania come to the U.S. on medical visas and are given treatment at the UCLA medical center and Rady Children’s hospital in San Diego.

Gonzalez recounted the story of a Romanian child with Apert syndrome. Her condition became life threatening and she was able to receive surgery at Rady Children’s hospital for free. The surgery typically costs $500,000.

“I love the U.S.,” Gonzalez said. “There are so many resources and we give back. Many of my kids would’ve ended up dead without [help from] California doctors.”

In another instance, a pediatric neurosurgeon also made four trips to Romania with his medical team to continue treatment on children there. Father’s Care Ministry has helped children with Spina Bifida and Cerebral Palsy receive proper treatment.

In Romania, nationals run the organization, which is what Gonzalez ultimately hoped to achieve. Although Gonzalez currently lives in Bakersfield, she still makes trips to Romania. Her organization is currently raising funds to send foster children and their foster parents to a summer camp in the Carpathian Mountains.

She hopes to raise $10,000 and Father’s Care Ministry relies solely on donations. Her last trip to Romania was in October of 2014 and she will return in July. Gonzalez also accepts volunteers and loves involvement from people around the world. She worked with a volunteer from Australia and even brought a CSUB graduate to Romania as well.

Although Gonzalez said it was difficult to return to Bakersfield after 17 years abroad, the move was necessary for her to continue to pursue her dreams. Gonzalez is a nursing major at BC and hopes to eventually work for Doctors without Borders as a missionary nurse. She even started her education while still abroad.

“I was living in Romania and took classes at BC online,” she said. “I did English 1A online while I was in Romania.”

Gonzalez plans to graduate in 2018 and wants to work in Mexico, Ethiopia, and South America to utilize her Spanish-speaking skills. Gonzalez is fluent in Spanish although she now feels that she speaks Romanian better. To keep her verbal skills strong, Gonzalez found Romanian individuals living in Bakersfield. When she visits the yarn store where they work, she loves to speak Romanian.

Gonzalez attends BC full time and works part time in the Office of Student Life. Although attending college is difficult, Gonzalez refuses to give up on her dreams. She said that individuals shouldn’t let fear stop them from achieving success.

“In America, you could follow your dreams,” she said. “It’s our fear that keeps us from doing the extraordinary.”

To learn more about Father’s Care Ministry or to get involved, visit fatherscareministry.com.

 

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