Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Better late than never ... Christmas!

Ridiculous as it may seem, we have been so busy that downloading the photos of Christmas and making them smaller to put on the blog just kept getting put off as there is always something more pressing to do! Finally Kenneth helped me out as I'm very limited with technology, get frustrated easily and quite often end up giving up "until tomorow". We chose to celebrate Christmas with the street people on christmas eve as this is traditionally the most important family day in Romania. We had quite a full house, with 26 street children and young people, our whole family and some volunteers helpers from our church here in Arad (Metanoia church)

What's a party without food? Our volounteers helped prepare things on the day. Some folks from church popped in and brought things that had been made at home or bread or juice. One friend from church arrived with 40 small cozonacs, still warm from the oven (cozonac is a type of bread but is semi sweet and contains nuts, dried fruit or turkish delight). Cozonac is traditional fare for special occasions and this dedicated lady wanted to be sure that there was one for each person - we were very touched that she had spent all Christmas eve morning baking for street people when she had all her own family preparations to make. We had bought food as we didn't know how much we would receive, but in the end we had an over-abundance which we were able to distribute to poor families afterwards as well as sending all our visitors home with "doggie bags".

We were joined half way through the afternoon by carol songers from Oaza charity. Oaza used to work with street children some years ago and now has two children's homes which accommodate around 20 children, some of whom were once street children. The children sang carols to our young people which was lovely and much appreciated. Then, not to be outdone, our lot sang several carols back to the children!

After an afternoon of much eating, drinking (juice, of course!) singing and generally having fun our guests were given their Christmas gifts - Christmas shoeboxes which we received from Blythswood Trust in Scotland. Need I add that our entire family was utterly exhausted at the end of the day, having had a lot of running around and various preparations to make, in addition to having spent the previous few weeks in non-stop distribution of shoeboxes. However, I must say that as I looked around at the motely gathering as they were singing Christmas carols I couldn't help thinking that this is what it's all about - Christmas, I mean.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Daily life at the "Secret Garden"

Every day the street children and young people and occasionally a not so young person come to the "Secret Garden" (or as Kenneth now refers to our Drop in centre "SG 1"). In addition to having showers and washing their clothes in the machine (there's always a queue for both) they play "Remi" (a traditional Romanian game with tiles which is similar to Rumikub) and card games or colour in. Most of these young people didn't have much of a childhood so its nice to see them enjoying themselves with such simple pleasures, though it's also sad to think about how deprived they have been. We have a real mix of homeless people coming, from babies and small children who come with their parents to the older 'street kids' like Bin Ladin (obviously not his real name ... though there used to be a street boy in Arad whose real name was Bosnia!) Bin ladin is a lovely boy, or rather I should say young man. He spent part of his life in one of the old State run orphanages and then ended up on the streets. He is quite a character but when he's not high on solvent he's really quite lovable! he has had a lot of contact over the years with various churches, including our own "Metanoia" church in Arad and can sing hymns and songs and Christmas carols in both Romanian and English.

One thing which visitors to the "Secret Garden" are all agreed on is that those who have the misfortune to live on the streets, no matter how rough some of them may look, when you get to know them they are actually pretty decent people with a great
capacity for generosity and kindness.

In the winter months the street kids and other homeless sleep near the huge hot pipes which carry the city's hot water. Many of them used to actually live underground in tunnels (often incorrectly referred to as sewers) through which the hot pipes ran but most of these have now been sealed off. Several of the young people showed me their legs damaged from contact with the pipes, some have quite severe damage to their skin and maybe their circulation (I don't know I'm not a medic). Many of them also have terrible scars from burns which they have received over the years of sleping on or near the pipes.