Thursday, 11 December 2008

100kg of pastries ...

How exciting can our lives get? At the close of play today we received a phone call to offer us 100kg of uncooked pastries, but the catch was we had to collect them right away. There are two flavours - bolognese and plum with pumpkin seeds on the outside. Unfortunately some had defrosted and needed cooked imediately, so guess what we've been doing all evening ... and guess what we had for dinner? The ones we had to cook will go out tomorrow to one of Arad's poor communities, the rest will wait a while in our freezer.

I talked to Kenny on the phone, He's all right though he must still be in some pain. Somehow yesterday I didn't catch the fact that he had two broken knuckles as well as bruises all over.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

shoe boxes (photo from a previous year)

We had 5 visitors from Fife in Scotland today, they have a charity and work with young people who grew up in an huge "orphanage" north of Arad. Kevin, one of their number was at Bible college with us and played the piano at our wedding, so we go back a long way! They are interested in our work, particularly the day centre, and of course there is some overlap between their work and ours as some of the young people from the "orphanage" have also spent time on the streets or in very poor conditions in Arad.

During the afternoon I had a text message from Kenny in Timisoara to say that he and a friend were beaten up last night and taken to hospital - fortunately he is only badly bruised, nothing broken. His friend's glasses were smashed, so we told Kenny to tell his friend we'll get him some new ones. This news coming right after Amy's being in hospital for an operation on Monday came as a bit of a shock as you can imagine, but it could have been much worse.

As we were preparing to say our goodbyes at around 18.00 I had a phone call from the driver of the truck with the shoe boxes to say they were waiting at the gate of our house! What a shock that was - we had no idea at all they would be arriving today and in fact did not want them delivered here as we have no space for them! However, as we learned long ago, it doesn't seem to matter what we want, what will be will be as they say!!!

We have only a third of the boxes we had last year as Blythswood Trust have sent many to India - for this we are delighted as we left part of our hearts in India when we worked there 20 years ago. We received a lot less than we had originally been told so will have to be extra careful to make sure they go to the most needy families.

At present the boxes are all sitting in our courtyard waiting until we can take them to the day centre. I Hope it doesn't rain, although it's so cold that if anything falls it will be snow!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Secret Garden renovation photos

I had to be at home today because Amy just got out of hospital after having her tonsils out yesterday (under local anaesthetic ... ouch!) so at least I had time to check emails and to update my blog. I thought it was about time I showed you some of the photos of the renovation work or you might think I'm imagining it all ... Our initial phase of renovation involved the room next to the street and the one beside it. We decided to renovate two activity rooms and put in the bathrooms and put in new mains drainage and central heating throughout the building so that the centre would at least be useable. The plan worked and for the last year we have used just the two rooms, with an improvised "kitchen" area in the first which we used for making instant soup and sandwiches as well as teas and coffees.

This second phase of renovation is to transform the remaining two rooms on the ground floor to make a kitchen and dining room and also a staff toilet and small changing room for the cook (when we have one) Future work will be to renovate the basement and convert it into a medical room for basic health care, vaccination programmes and first aid, and to turn the old solarium into an office - the only factor determining when this will take place is money!

Firstly the builders knocked down several walls, blocked off dorrways and made new ones - there were several small storage rooms and what we think was a room used for smoking meat tucked in behind the two rooms. We needed a vegetable preparation area and a storage cupboard as well as the toilet and changing room so walls were demolished (of course leaving all support walls and pillars!) and rebuilt in different places.

In the dining room we are trying to preserve the original parchet flooring as we did in the first of the activity rooms (we lost the other due to putting in the new drainage), once the work is done we will have it professionally sanded down and varnished. The health regulations stipulate that the kitchen and bathrooms all have to be tiled, so in those areas and the hall areas they builders laid a new concrete floor which will provide the solid base for tiles.

All the walls have now been plastered and doors put into place. Kenneth chose simple wooden doors with a window to let as much light pass from one area to another and keep an open feel to the place. The photo on the left is of the dining room - the indented part is where there used to be a large walk in cupboard. The room seems so much larger now and will make a very pleasant dining room. We don't as yet know how many people we are allowed into the centre at one time - the health inspection authority will check the place over when it's finished and then calculate based on cubic metres of air space per person ... sounds very complicated to me, but there you go!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Vali's funeral

We are just back from Vali's funeral. Only Kenneth, Philip and I were able to go - Johanna is in Scotland visiting a close friend who is ill, Kenny is in Timisoara, as he has classes on a Satuday and amy is staying at Granny's. We first went to the market to buy a wreath, and then on to the cemetary. It was raining heavily and few of the street folks had turned up for the service. We wondered about that and were quite surprised - usually they are very united when something happens to one of their number. The service was held outside at the cemetery, under cover from the rain but without protection against the cold. After the service we walked in procession to the graveside where we witnessed what had to be the quickest burial of all time. I think the combination of the continual rain and the fact that it was a street boy speeded things up.

Just at the very end as the men were hastily shovelling the soil back over the grave, a whole troop of street folks turned up. It was awful. We felt so sorry for them that they had missed the funeral. If the actual burial had been the normal 20 minutes to half an hour they would have caught at least that. They all spent a few minutes at the graveside saying their goodbyes before leaving. They were all asking us when the day centre will re-open and telling us how desperately they need showers and a warm place to come in the cold weather. Vali's death will hit them hard, reminding them of their own vulnerability and of the shortness of life.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Death of a street boy

A phone call from another of the young men from the streets confirmed yesterday evening's call, Vali was found dead by one of the street boys with whom he lived. As yet we have no further details but we have offered to help with funeral expenses. Vali leaves behind a young child with his former girlfriend and somewhere, his natural family, though whether they have been contacted yet or not we don't know. We loved Vali, a very gentle young man and to see his young life wasted like this is heart-breaking.

winter is here

Winter brings with it hardships for everyone, most of all the poor and homeless. Every year as winter approaches we find ourselves worrying for those who have no proper homes. The poor and the homeless are most vulnerable in winter as their inadequate housing and poor sanitation make them more open to all kinds of infections.
We had hoped that we would be able to help a couple of people to repair their roofs before winter set in but as yet we have done nothing for them. This poor man lives here with his family, including a couple of children and every time I am in the area he just looks wistfully at me without saying anything.
Likewise the old lady who lives in this tumbledown wee hovel could do with a few roof repairs fairly urgently. Again, we would love to be able to help her but finances are so tight that so far we haven't been able to do anything for her.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

stop press ...

Having just arrived home and started cooking dinner Kate dropped a heavy jar on her foot, Johanna said the bruising and swelling indicated a possible break .. then just at that point one of the young men from the streets phoned to say that one of the street boys, Vali has been found dead. We are now heading off to the hospital - to the casualty for Kate's foot and to the morgue to try and find out more about Vali.

Wolverhampton and Liverpool team ... photos at last!

Back in September we had a team made up of folks from two churches in Perton in Wolverhampton and some lovely Liverpool lads! They came to help us turn the courtyard into a play area for ball games and other activities. They levelled out the concrete, dug lots of deep holes, shovelled huge quantities of rocks and soil and in places put down new concrete.

The team slept at the day centre, a first for us (and probably last) because it was literally just before Johanna's wedding and we were trying to get rooms cleared at the house for the wedding guests. Just before the team arrived we had a large donation which was completely filling one of the guest bedrooms (and still is ...)
Although it was such hard work I think the team enjoyed themselves and had a lot of laughs along the way! The "Liverpool lads" are a lively bunch from one of the large inner city housing estates and kept us all well entertained as they worked.

At the same time as the team were here we had a friend from West Glasgow New Church, our home church in Glasgow (obviously!). Linda represents us at church and passes on all our news so she wanted to come out and see first hand what we're up to. She stayed with us at the house and was a great help, willing to do anything and good company for us too.
I don't think the team quite expected it to be as much heavy work but they struggled bravely on and when they left we had a level play area and two rockeries, complete with plants. Now when you enter the courtyard from the street the first impression is lovely, instead of the uneven concrete with holes just waiting to trip you up, your eyes are drawn to the beautiful rockery!