Friday, 30 May 2008

Sofi and Silvia

Sofi and Silvia live with Helen Evans in our village Sanleani. Helen is from Fife in Scotland and has lived in Romania for the past 9 years, working with young people who grew up in the old 'orphanages'. For the past few years Helen has worked 'under' Vis de Copil and has had a variety of young people live with her, some so disturbed that they have made her life a misery at times. However, Sofi (his proper name is Sorin) who grew up in the most awful conditions somehow managed to remain a kind, caring young man who loves Helen as a mother. When he was very young, Sofi was sent to the residential school for slow learners in Ineu, an hour and a half north of Arad. The infamous 'orphanages' of Romania were never really orphanages, they were either residential schools for children with special needs or children's homes for those whose parents were unable to care for them. However often due to the difficulties of poor families inability to travel to visit their children and various other factors most of the children ended up to all practical purposes as 'orphans'.

Three years ago we were looking for a home for Silvia who had grown up in a different 'orphanage' (school for children with learning difficulties), then at 16 been re-integrated with her natural mother only to then be sent by her mother to the centre for young delinquents. Poor Silvia ... after a year at the centre the staff had only good to say of her and pleaded with her to find her a place after she turned 18. We tried several options without success, and then Helen sad she would give her a trial even though up to that point she had taken in only boys. The rest is a fairytale come true ... Sofi and Silvia fell in love and in October 2006 got married.

Both managed to find a job cleaning apartment blocks and then a better job in a textile factory - Silvia on a sewing machine and Sofi cleaning. They have their ups and downs but we are all proud of them for the amazing progress they have made.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Kenneth in Scotland ... Kathryn extra busy!

Kenneth has been away in Scotland for the past couple of weeks attending meetings, discussing the work and speaking at a couple of groups. He did also hope to get some days teaching work as we desperately need the money .. but by the time he was able to get away, exam time had come to Scotland and so the demand for supply teachers to cover for classes was lower. In the past he has managed to get a few days here and there, but this time, nothing at all.

However, it's still been good for him to be in Scotland spending time with family and friends, though as is always the case he is limited and can't see everyone he would like to. The photo shows him and Lauri (Vis de Copil Scotland) in a meeting (note the co-ordinated sitting position!) Actually the photo was taken the last time we were over together while we were making a Business Plan, but I don't have any photos of this trip!

Much has happened over these last couple of weeks including the addition of several new volunteers at the "Secret Garden". There is a project for young people in Arad called the "Millennium Project" which has volunteers from all over Europe and even as far afield as Turkey. I have been privileged to meet people from a wide range of countries including Germany, France, Holland, Georgia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and UK. Some of them want to come on a regular basis for the rest of their time in Arad. They are a lovely crowd of young people and I think it's a great initiative to bring together young folk from so many countries to work together on projects. As well as social and community projects they participate in environmental projects such as planting trees.

We also have two young Romanian volunteers coming to the centre although at the moment they are in the middle of exams. Finally we have two girls, one from Poland and the other from Spain based in Arad with another youth initiative who also want to be involved in our work. It's exciting for us and very encouraging that so many people want to help us and be involved in our work with the poor and needy. Of course this doesn't decrease our need for long term volunteers but it means we can do more activities in the day centre. If Irina and I are alone it takes all our time to supervise and maintain discipline while making sandwiches, soup, teas and coffees ... at the same time loading and unloading the washing machine, and answering everyone's questions. Having an extra volunteer or two (or more) is a great help and really benefits both us and our clients. On Wednesday 5 volunteers came and played games and helped young people with drawing and basic literacy and yesterday a German volunteer came to do musical activities with the homeless young people.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Life on the streets isn't easy

While some of the young people have showers, chat or play table football, this tired street boy sleeps. He has had a hard life and is only too aware of the mistakes he has made. It isn't his fault that he grew up on the streets but he has had a few chances in the past to get off the streets and is aware of the fact that he "messed up". He is a very sad young man who struggles daily to come to terms with his regrets. It's hard at times working with these young people, at times I feel like my heart will break - there is so much we would like to be able to do for them, to help them to have better lives. However, the reality is that there is often very little we can do other than give them some love and attention. Our hope is that the "Secret Garden" can become at least a place of refuge where for a few short hours people can escape the harsh reality of their lives and feel like "normal" people.