Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Christmas Eve with the "streetkids"

Life was so frantic over Christmas and New year that there just wasn't the time to get photos downloaded and organised to put onto the blog.

After rushing around like headless chickens all morning we finally arrived at the Secret Garden to organise the food for the party. I use the word "we" in it's widest sense ... I didn't make it until about 15 minutes from kick off! I was at the Metro b
uying all the last minute things we'd forgotten to get the day before.

Before the invasion of the street kids the place looked lovely - newly painted, curtains all freshly washed and pretty tablecloths on all the wee tables. Of course the effect was somewhat spoiled when our guests arrived but the looks on their faces were worth more than pretty tables to us.

From the youngest present, baby Denisa, three months old (pictured with uncle Kenneth) to the oldest, everyone had a great time. Three homeless men turned up who are not amongst our normal "clientele" ... but how could we turn them away?
We had a fantastic team of helpers from several local churches and are indebted to them for helping the day to go ahead. We were so busy, tired and stressed that without their help this years Christmas celebration might have been a total flop. I told them all that as I thanked them for coming and helping to make it all possible.
The whole Cloke family was present, the street boys were especially delighted to see Kenny as they don't see much of him these days. The long term street boys have known him since we first came here and always talk about how they've watched Kenny and Amy grow up. Kenny had to pose with several of them as they all wanted a photo with him ... he's pictured here with Bodo, one of the boys who has lived many years on the streets.
There was plenty of food for all, one lady from our church, "Metanoia" in Arad brought a huge pot of traditional chicken soup withhome made noodles which went down very well as it was a good few degrees below zero outside. After the soup there was an array of sandwiches, salads, smoked sausage and other tasty treats. For dessert we had a selection of cakes and biscuits and fresh fruit.

Once everyone had eaten their fill (literally) we had a great time singing carols led by our "choir master" Calman (aka Bin Ladin) pictured here conducting the singing. Calman grew up in one of the former "orphanages" and when he left, ended up on the streets and has been there ever since. He's quite a character, very lovable and always ready to sing or even preach a wee sermon given half a chance! When he's high on solvent he can be a bit of a handful and on the occasions when he arrives high we try to sit him down in a corner until he comes down a little or let him into the shower first to "sober up".
The carol singing went on for a good while, I think our visitors enjoyed listening. We had hoped that we would be joined again this year by some children from the Oaza charity's children's home in another district of Arad but sadly they didn't make it. Also a group of children from the largest Roma area of the city were supposed to be coming along but Ramona who works with them told me afterwards that she couldn't get transport organised. it's a shame because had we known, one of us would have shuttled them in the minibus. Oh well, such is life, there'll be a next time!

As a special treat we put some music on and had some dancing. some of our young people are great dancers and really enjoy themselves. A few of the boys had fun trying some hip hop dancing ... hilarious, couldn't manage to capture it on camera!
... and finally, christmas shoe boxes. Thanks again to Blythswood Trust Scotland who kindly sent us 1000 shoe boxes this year, less than last year but we are happy to know that they sent more boxes to India this year and having lived and worked in India we are delighted to know that needy young people there will receive the boxes.
All in all it was a good albeit very tiring day. Our helpers had all left during the afternoon as christmas eve is the most important family meal of the Christmas period and they had to get home to prepare for it. After the last young person had collected their shoe box and goodie bag we started to tidy up. After doing a quick clean up we finally left at 1900 and headed to my mum's to pick her up.
When we arrived back in the village we went round to our wonderful friends Nelu and Mariana to join them for their Christmas eve meal. As always Mariana had prepared the most amazing spread and although exhausted we had a lovely evening. Amy, either incredibly bravely or just stupidly, offered to take Rosanna, Yasmina and Irina's wee girl Daniela our carol singing! considering that it was several degrees below zero and snowing we were amazed some three hours later when Amy and the girls turned up at Nelu and Mariana's to carol sing for us having trailed all around the village. If I find the photos I'll try to remember to post some of Amy and her wee band of travelling carollers ...

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Kenny's 21st and a few bits and pieces!

I can't believe it - Kenny will be 21 tomorrow. I'm finding it hard to take it in, can it really be that long since I had him? Am I really that old? Here in Romania a person becomes a "major"at 18 and all things become legal at the same time so young people usually have a big party for their "majorat". Partly because we were so busy and partly out of ignorance (we didn't realise that all Kenny's friends would be having big parties) Kenny didn't really have anything special. He would like to have a party for his 21st but at the moment nothing is planned and I'm not sure how we will manage it ... so we'll have to wait and see.

Also can't believe it's almost a month since I updated ... time sure does fly when you're having fun! The weeks leading up to Christmas were so busy that Christmas week was upon us before we realised it. We had builders in right up until the 23rd, but that was good because the electricians came on the last day and it meant we had light in the newly renovated rooms.

On the 23rd we invited all the street people to come for showers and clothes. We had a few helpers that day and as each one merged from the shower they were handed a full set of clothes, starting with underwear.

As we have done for the past couple of years, on Christmas eve we had a celebration at the Secret Garden - 42 came and we had about 10 helpers so it was a busy day. We had plenty of food for all and one lady from our church even brought a huge pot of chicken soup which was especially nice as there was snow outside and the temperature was minus 7 or 8.

When Kenneth gets time to download the photos off the camera I will post photos so you can see everyone having a good time. A couple of people called us on Skype on Christmas eve and we were able to show them the street folks live enjoying themselves (much more entertaining than Big Brother!) More about Christmas eve in the next couple of days hopefully.

Many of you will be aware that the UK pound has been steadily falling in value for some time now, what you probably won't have thought about is how this affects people like ourselves working overseas as volunteers supported from the UK and trying to run charities. Over the past two years we have had an increase in the funding which both we and the charity receive but this increase has been cancelled out several times over by the decrease in value of the pound. Three or four years ago the pound was worth 6.3 new Romanian Lei, today it is worth less than 4.2 ... I'm not good at Maths but even I can see that's a big drop by any standards.