On Saturday 21 November we started the day again with a group breakfast at the hotel before beginning our work at ‘The Way of Joy’ project.
Around 30 children arrived at the centre for a morning of crafts and activities. We began by making Christmas cards, those children that have sponsors made cards for us to take back to England. There was an array of pens, paper, glitter glue and stickers all over the table. Some of which was donated by Swindon based Accord Office supplies.
What struck me was how well behaved the children were, despite them all being different ages they were all engaged in the task and were obviously enjoying themselves. If you asked that many kids in the UK to sit at a table for an hour to make a card, I’m sure there would be several attempts to get down- including requests to play with another toy. It was evident that this was a real treat for these kids and they were going to savour every moment.
After making the cards the kids were treated to pizza, provided by Business against Poverty- a treat given twice a month. It was great to see their faces light up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a child look so excited about a slice of pizza.
At around midday we left the project for Ursita, a rural village tucked away in the Romanian hillside. It was a steep climb by minibus and the road surface was pretty poor. On our way up we saw many kids playing on the side of the road and cows being herded on to the land. It was a bit of an obstacle course for our driver, I’m glad it wasn’t me in the driving seat. Apparently, in the winter the village can be shut off for weeks as the snow drifts are so heavy.
When we arrived at Ursita we went straight to Camelia’s house. Camelia’s a project leader for the village and several mothers’ and their children had come to see what goodies we had for them. We brought with us several food packages, suitcases full of clothes and shoes and lots of footballs, books and care packages.
Camelia’s home was a definite improvement to the places we had visited in Dallas the day before, but still had no running water or toilet facilities- typical of the other homes in the hillside. Val (founder of BaP and People against Poverty) impressed on Camelia that they needed to pray for the kids health as they were all very smelly. I was shocked to discover many of the children hadn’t had a bath for a year.
At Camelia’s we all mucked in doing lots of different things, from playing football with the children to making Christmas cards and trying to find items of donated footwear or clothing that fitted members of the families in need. It was great feeling when we managed to find a match.
Interactive play books were donated by Children’s Readers Digest, written in Romanian. The kids loved them! I’ve never seen a little boy want to play football, but not want to let go of a book a the same time.
One of the men at the house was a father of seven children, all living in the hillside. You could tell he had an edge to him and we soon discovered why. There are no employment opportunities in the hillside and life is very bleak. The problems had driven him to drink and this addiction was plaguing him. He appeared angry at the life he had been dealt. You could entirely empathise with his position, but the PaP/ BaP way is to help people help themselves. They’ve got to show a want to better their situation and work with the project leaders to make their future brighter.
We ended the day visiting a monastery and we had a tour from Father Grigorie, a very intelligent Romanian monk who told us to add him on Facebook! The view from the monastery over Iasi was stunning and the actual buildings themselves were beautiful too- see photos below. The monks produce wine onsite and several of us bought some to take back to our rooms. I must say it was a rather interesting taste, not rose and not red.
In the evening we went out to a traditional Romanian restaurant and celebrated Simon from our group’s birthday. It was a great atmosphere with live traditional music and we really felt like we had soaked up the culture with some dodgy music to boot.
To find out more about the work of Business against Poverty and to register your interest in becoming a member visit: www.businessagainstpoverty.com