Who we are

Children in Distress is a small UK charity officially founded in the UK in 1990 and registered with the OSCR (Office of Scottish Charity Regulator), number SC039383. We are directly associated to the Romanian charity of the same name, Fundația Copii în Dificultate, which is located in Bucharest, Romania. Prior to 1990 we operated for one year as a volunteer unincorporated association, providing critical urgent response in Romania with a group of dedicated volunteers.

We celebrate 35 years in 2024.

What we do

We raise funds in the UK to help the most vulnerable children in Romania and provide specialist hospice care, educational community outreach and respite care for children, their families, and carers in Romania through our sister charity Copii în Dificultate.

Our purpose

Our work in Romania has grown over the last 34 years. Our initial focus of caring for children with HIV/AIDS has evolved into provision of respite, palliative and end- of-life care, and we have developed some of the best-trained and most experienced pediatric nurses in Romania.
Until 2022, our flagship centre, St Margaret’s Hospice had provided specialist care to infants and children with a range of complex neurological needs, physical disabilities, and those who need a little extra support to overcome discrimination, disadvantage, and an opportunity to change their future.

Our history

A crisis in care

In 1989, Romania’s communist regime was swept from power by the Populist Revolution. The news media showed shocking images of children abandoned in orphanages and hospitals – images so horrific that many in the UK felt moved to take action.

One of these people was the Rev. Dr. John Walmsley from St. Laurence Church Barkingside in Essex. A true visionary and driving force, Dr Walmsley took part in the first aid convoys and had the idea of creating a charity.

The Association for Helping Children in Romania was the result of this idea. For the first few years its sole focus was children with HIV/AIDS – generally shunned by society. In the years that followed, the centres and programmes expanded, setting new standards for children with neurological conditions, severe disability, and autism.

With projects increasingly being initiated in Romania, the charity structure was changed to that of a foundation and was renamed to Fundația Copii în Dificultate (Children in Distress)

St. Margaret’s – Flagship Hospice and Children’s Centre, a beacon of best practice 

Our residential unit in Bucharest offered life, hope and happiness to around 25 children with the most complex developmental, genetic, and neurological conditions or disabilities for several years. Most had a short life expectancy. 

The centre was renowned for its respite, palliative and end-of-life care, and had some of the best-trained and most experienced paediatric nurses in Romania. 

Attached to St. Margaret’s was a Child development Centre. It provided the best in onsite therapy services and delivered mobile services to local and regional communities. 

Over the past 30 years, we have established several other centres. Some of these are now run by government bodies and/or other NGOs. 

As Romania’s economy and social infrastructure has evolved and developed, new rules and systems have come into force in respect of children’s care centres, moving gradually into smaller, family and community style homes, providing the same level of care and services, but in diverse ways


Our Work Today is focussed in three areas:

The good work has evolved and continues in a new family and community style environment. We opened Casa Maria, our new Children’s Family House in Romania that provides care for children living with the most severe disabilities. It builds on the legacy of our flagship St Margaret’s Hospice and Children’s Centre.

Find out more about Casa Maria

Jansen Community Education Outreach, is a community-based holistic education project providing grants for 20 children over a 6-month period, each year 

Find out more about Jansen

PineView Retreat Lodge is our vision for the future – a respite space that will encourage social integration of children and young people of mixed abilities whilst providing rest for the children with complex disabilities, parents and carers. 

Find out more about PineView Retreat Lodge