Friday, 21 December 2007

Christmas Presents

The past couple of weeks have been taken up with distributing Christmas shoe boxes which were kindly donated by Blythswood Trust in Scotland. Yesterday and today we spent hours and hours finishing off parcels for all those on social security or single parent benefit in Kekech, the largest poor community in Arad with over 4000 people living there. We put all the boxes for a family into a separate bag or box and then took them to the homes.

When we arrived in Kekech the minibus was quickly surrounded by people begging us to give them something. It was so hard, we had to keep explaining that we only had parcels for those on benefits, even though we know many others are also very poor. We will be going back to give other families, but sadly there are more extremely poor than there are shoe boxes. Still, hopefully most of the poorest will receive this year.

One family we were especially glad to have gifts for is the family of this 20 year old mentally handicapped girl who has a baby and lives with her parents. We recently were able to help her mother claim a disability pension for her by paying 6 months back money for her national health contributions.

Kekech in the winter is a bleak place. The poverty is stark, especially in comparison with other areas of Arad. Most of the houses are more like shacks than proper houses although the home made wood burning stoves do make the wee houses lovely and warm inside. Most families have only one small room which serves as living room, kitchen and bedroom all in one. They have no kitchens or bathrooms, walk to the main road, in some cases several hundred metres to the pump for water and have an earth closet toilet behind the house. Life is not easy and yet people retain their humanity and are often surprising in their kindness and generosity to others - a lesson to all of us whose lives are so much easier and yet complain so much!

Monday, 10 December 2007

Secret Garden

At last photos of our new day centre ... is it a strange name? How did we choose it? When I first saw the house all overgrown and mysterious looking, I thought of my favourite childhood story 'The Secret Garden'. When I first took our colleague Helen to see the house, her first words were "Oh darling, how wonderful, just like 'The Secret Garden', I love it!" Since then, so many people's first words on seeing the building have been similar and so we adopted the name. For the uninitiated the story is about an unwanted orphan girl and her newly discovered equally unwanted paralysed cousin finding new life through a hidden garden. Do read the book because it's a lovely story.

As yet we have renovated two activity rooms, put in two shower rooms and a disabled toilet, renewed all the mains drainage and installed central heating. Whenever funds become available we will continue with the renovation which will include kitchen, dining room and office. In the meantime we are delighted with what we have as are the street children and other homeless or semi-homeless people.

As yet we do not have all the necessary authorisations but we are opening on a casual basis for folks to come and have hot showers and a bite to eat, as well as a warm place to sit and chat or play games. At the moment we have a good supply of clothing and so we are also giving clothes to all who come according to their needs. The new washing machine has now been installed (by Jan) and is anticipated to be a big hit!

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Hot soup and showers!

We are opening unofficially around three days a week to offer showers and hot soup and where possible clothes and other needs. Today we had invited three families to come for clothes and groceries but when we arrived some of our friends from the station were waiting at the gate! They all had showers and cup-a-soups (complements of Blythswood Care, Scotland ... thanks!) sang a few Christmas carols and played table football before leaving, sadly back to their 'homes' on the streets.