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Elisabeth-Norgall-Awardee 2013
Cornelia Fischer

Children’s home in Panatau – A future for abandoned children


Cornelia Fischer, a trained nurse from Switzerland, founded and still runs to this day a home for abandoned children in Romania.

It was over 20 years ago on a trip around the world when Cornelia Fischer came across the international aid organisation Amurtel that cares for homeless children. She started out helping aid transports going to Romania and gained an insight into the devastating effects of the failed family and social policies of the communist dictator Ceausescu. A large number of abandoned children were living on the streets. When Amurtel established a children’s home in 1991 in the village of Panatau, she took charge of the project and has been living there ever since. She describes her care concept as one of a “combination of large family and children’s home”.


Many children are the result of unwanted pregnancies and were abandoned at birth or left behind in hospitals, or they were taken from their parents by social services. They experience (often for the first time) love and the feeling of security and are encouraged in their mental and emotional development as well as their education and training. There are currently 13 children between the ages of 14 and 22 being taken care of in the home.


A Swiss foundation provides the funds that also cover the difficult transition from living in the home to an independent life on the outside for these young adults. Some of the older adolescents can experiment with living on their own in a small house in Panatau and an apartment in Bucharest while still being supported.

Cornelia Fischer’s latest project is the building of a small guesthouse, the “Pensuine Valea Lupului” in the local area that is meant to offer work opportunities to former residents of the home and thereby offer an accompanied transition into a professional life. This is particularly difficult in Romania due to the high unemployment rate among young people.

Cornelia Fischer and her team have regular contact with former residents of the home. When listening to the stories of how their lives have developed, it is clear that Cornelia Fischer’s loving, capable and continued effort for her charges had a great part in turning these former abandoned children into happy young adults who are able to cope with life.

Norgall Committee
Sigrid Volk (Chair), Dr. Hannelore Daubert, Renate Henrich, Tiina Huber, Ulrike Lapper, Claudia de Muro-Kratz

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