Raising a child is not easy at all. Raising someone else’s child is even harder. But raising six children who are not your own, giving up your life, sounds crazy to most of us.

Cati was 19 years old and was in Timisoara, Romania, visiting her friend, a medical student. She was out on a terrace when two skinny, dirty boys approached her table to ask for something to eat. Out of a desire to help them, she started talking to them. Then she went to their house, where she found five other children, along with their mother and father. She also found out that those who brought money home were the children. The entire family’s income came from social grants and begging.

When she offered to take the two children she had met in the city home, the parents agreed only after a negotiation after which Cati paid 75 RON for each of the children. This is how the two brothers, 9 and 11 years old, respectively, entered the life of Ecaterina Guguianu: Rafael and Elvis.

At home, everyone met her with disapproval. What was she going to do, at just 19, with two children she hadn’t even legally adopted? She could have even been prosecuted for this.

However, Cati refused to give up on the boys and applied for foster care. Although she struggled at first to show that she could support Elvis and Raphael, three months later the two became her children. Due to disagreements at home, she moved into an unfurnished apartment. She managed to arrange something with the help of her friends and took on full responsibility for the children.

“I did not have time to see if I was afraid or if it was difficult. At home, two children were waiting for me, whom I had to feed three times a day,” Cati would later confess.

Just eight months after Elvis and Raphael, Teresa joined their family. She had just turned one when she was found by Cati in an orphanage, and had an unnatural sadness for such a small child. Cati adopted her.

With three children at just 20 years old, the future definitely seemed compromised for Cati. Nevertheless, what she accomplished seems unreal: she graduated from two faculties, law and psychology, completed translation and mediation courses, continued her volunteer work in hospitals, and organized camps for children. When Elvis and Rafael were old enough to support themselves, Cati took three more children into foster care: Oana, Roxy, and Ionuţ. Observing how they play together, you can easily see how much they love each other. They lack a father, but Cati has found that it is too hard for any potential husband to accept such a large family from the start.

Since 2003, Cati has been the director of a foster care centre near Brașov, in Ghimbav. She uses half of her salary to pay for the rent, so in order to earn something extra, she holds Romanian language courses with foreigners from Brașov or helps them to obtain various documents. At the “Money Channel” gala in 2013, on the list of projects generously funded, was also Ecaterina Guguianu, for her personal involvement in humanitarian projects.

Asked if she would do it all over again, she did not hesitate to say yes. “If you sit and put things on paper, if you think about personal comfort, peace of mind after work, the expenses that are due, you will surely not go ahead with it. It was hard, but beautiful. When it’s both beautiful and hard, it’s the beautiful part that stands out.”