Rosmarie and Andreas Thöni-Chlouda: Bulgaria’s Swiss helpers

Written by on September 11, 2017 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Rosmarie and Andreas Thöni-Chlouda: Bulgaria’s Swiss helpers

In Switzerland, there are many aid projects for Bulgaria and other countries in Eastern Europe. This includes charity programmes sponsored by the state or municipalities. For instance, the city of Basel recently donated 28 green trams to Sofia (“cucumbers”), which take hundreds of passengers through the Bulgarian capital every single day.

The association “Solidarität Schweiz Osteuropa” (“Solidarity Switzerland Eastern Europe”) was founded at the end of the 1990-s, as a project for jobless people. Back then, commodity contributions from Swiss hospitals or fire brigades would be restored by unemployed members, in order to be given to clinics in Bulgaria or Romania.

Later, the project was not supported by the state anymore. In order to receive some funds, it had to be reorganised. This is where Rosmarie und Andreas Thöni-Chlouda came in, in 2011. They had to rebuild the organisation from scratch.

With a lot of determination and energy, the Swiss couple and their helpers make sure hospitals and retirement homes in Bulgaria receive items they need, including proper hospital beds. Soon, the next deliveries will go to Targovishte and Shumen.

Imanuel Marcus spoke to Rosmarie Thöni-Chlouda.

The Sofia Globe (TSG): How did your association decide to help Bulgaria? Why this country?

Rosmarie Thöni: Over the years, we started to love Bulgaria, its people, countryside and customs more and more. At the same time, we gained enough recognition in our home country, in order to be able to get used hospital beds and other items. Those beds are in an excellent state. Instead of being thrown away, they can serve their purpose in Bulgaria, for many years.

This Bulgarian hospital bed needs replacement.

TSG: You have visited many Bulgarian towns and villages, where you took a look at clinics and similar places. What do those institutions need?

Rosmarie Thöni: They mainly need beds, but also the mattresses and bedside tables they have are in a very bad condition. Looking at examination rooms and surgical suites even made us cringe.

TSG: What is the worst place you have seen in Bulgaria?

Rosmarie Thöni: It was a surgical suite. The operating table was rusty and the cushion was torn. In order to use the hydraulical function of that table, the doctors would have to fill cylinders with oil, during surgery. An oil bottle was standing next to the object.

TSG: You have travelled to Vratsa three times so far. What is the situation there?

Rosmarie Thöni: We sent the first delivery to Vratsa in 2014, after the Bulgarian embassy had asked for help. This was right after a bad flooding had hit the region. Vratsa Municipality distributed all the beds we sent, including mattresses and many other items. In 2016, we visited Vratsa personally, for the first time. At the Oncology Center, we saw what we had seen at similar places in the country. The beds and mattresses were terrible. So, in March of this year, we sent a truck full of items to the Oncology Center of Vratsa. A month later, we sent another truck to the local Tuberculosis Clinic.

The Swiss hospital beds for Bulgaria are being guarded by a pro.

TSG: What kind of reactions do you get in Bulgaria?

Rosmarie Thöni: They are all friendly and thankful. From most hospitals we helped, we received very kind thank you letters. They also appreciate our visits to those places, when we check if and how the beds are being used. Those checks are important to our sponsors as well.

TSG: Apart from Bulgaria, which countries do you work in?

Rosmarie Thöni: Since we rely on private donations, we concentrate on Bulgaria. We are volunteers. All of us. Our objective is to deliver good material from Switzerland to as many Bulgarian hospitals and retirement homes as possible.

TSG: What are you planning to accomplish in the next few months?

Rosmarie Thöni: On September 15, we will send a loaded truck to a retirement home in Targovishte. In mid-October, we will do the same for a similar institution in Shumen. We have been there and know our help is badly needed.

The website of the association “Solidarity Switzerland Eastern Europe” is located here. It includes information for individuals who want to donate.

The original German version of this interview can be found here.

Photos by “Solidarität Schweiz Osteuropa”

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About the Author

Imanuel Marcus is Associate Editor of The Sofia Globe. He is German and lives in Sofia. Contact: imanuelmarcus (at) gmail.com