Sunday, 29 March 2009

"One minute Romanian"

Wow ... is such a thing possible? Wish someone had told me when i first came here! Eight and a half years later and I'm still struggling ... anyway, here's an email from a friend - anyone planning to come and visit/help, you might want to give it a try!

for a while I've been downloading various free language lessons from iTunes, all produced in Glasgow by i've discovered today that they'd run a romanian basics class in november 2008 at and wondered whether you'd want to let your newletter recipients know - it may help for any who are wanting to come out and see you too. i haven't started yet - and i don't imagine in 10 one-minute podcasts we should expect to become expert orators but even if it just teaches "hello, how are you? would you like a coffee?" it'd be nice for visitors to feel less foreign!
hope all's well. i'm still waiting for house stuff to be sorted out and am yet again house-sitting waiting for my own place. not for much longer, hopefully!
... and in the meantime, here's a photo of our beautiful Romania!

Monday, 23 March 2009

look how hard we work!

During the early part of the day at the Secret Garden children of all ages can come along and join in work and play activities. Many of the children who come should really be in school or gradinitsa (kindergarten) but for many reasons don't attend, often because their parents' lack of education makes it difficult for them to take such a step with their own children. Other factors such as extreme poverty and the transitory lives some of our families lead add to the difficulties of sending a child to school. We are trying to encourage parents to allow us to help prepare children to be integrated into the system this coming Autumn. Some are already too old for normal school so we will have to look at other options, others hopefully will be able to enroll. Sometimes when a child comes to us for the first time they literally cannot even hold a pencil or crayon and to see them make progress is truly amazing.

One wee girl, Vetta who started coming in January this year wouldn't even sit on a chair for five seconds (I'm not exaggerating) and she drove us crazy by her refusal to do anything at all that we asked her to do ... now she sits for as much as an hour colouring in, drawing and trying to write letters and is really sweet and desperate for our approval. For mother's day on 8th March Vetta made a card for her mum and learned a wee poem! Just look at her below on the left in the red top, isn't she a sweetheart?

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Dancing on the streets?

I haven't tried to put a video clip on before so will see if this works! Some of the young folk from the streets having fun and doing a bit of 'gypsy' dancing ...

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Where's Yasmina?

Johanna and Philip looked after Yasmina for us yesterday while we were out all day at the Secret Garden. She ususally has to come with us as we have no other option, but I don't really like it as I have to keep an eye on her all the time as well as trying to deal with all the people who come. It's not ideal for her or for me and it can be quite stressful, but at the moment there's no alternative. In the Autumn Yasmina can start 'Gradinitsa' (Kindegarten) so that will makes things easier.

Anyway, back to yesterday. I think Yasmina had a great day ... Philip lets her watch her favourite children's programme, "Balamory" - for those who have never seen it, you just don't know what you're missing!

At one point during the day Yasmina went into her room and closed the door behind her. Johanna and Philip were sitting in the living room, Philip was working on his laptop, Johanna was enjoying a cup of tea and they weren't paying attention. After a good few minutes had passed Philip asked "what's Yasmina doing all this time?" so Johanna went through to have a look and got a huge fright. No sign of Yasmina ...

Johanna went right into the room and it was empty and quiet ... she was getting quite worried when she suddenly caught sight of Yasmina - she'd taken her 'noo noo' (her name for her dummy) out of the cot and crawled in between her cot, the book shelves and her ball pit and fallen fast asleep!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Winter wonderland

When winter arrived this year, it really arrived! We had snow in January and February ... lot's of it and Arad turned into a wonderland of frost and ice, with icicles hanging off every building and a layer of frost covering everything and sparkling in the winter sun.

Arad is a lovely city with some very beautiful buildings mainly dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Although of course we work in the less attractive areas among the poor and needy, we always like people to see the other side of this city which we now call home.

Our own "Secret Garden" as you can see is really a very pretty house and not only attractive but as all our visitors notice, it has a special atmosphere too. Covered in snow the house looked amazing, the photos don't really do it justice. the air is so cold here in winter that when we have mist, the water vapour crystallises onto the branches of the trees and gives a fairytale appearance to the trees and shrubs.
Vis a vis the Secret Garden and along our street are other lovely buildings, in need of some renovation perhaps, but beautiful nonetheless.

We feel very privileged to have found such a lovely house right in the heart of the city and the many homeless and poor people using our facilities appreciate having a 'pretty' place in which to sit and relax, play and learn.

We are busy every day Monday to Friday and the showers and washing machine are on the go non stop. In the early part of the day mothers (and sometimes fathers) and their children come. Any children who appear take part in activities, at the moment mainly drawing and colouring in, singing and playing simple games - most of the children who come to us have never even held a crayon or pencil before and so for them, basic education means literally that. For the past few months we have had a final year Social Work student volunteering with us. Dana is on maternity leave from her factory job as well as studying and has been a great asset to the project, her endless patience has resulted in several children who previously seemed unable to sit still for even one minute now sitting for half an hour at a time drawing, colouring in or learning to write letters.
During the later part of the day the "street kids" come. We have now 85 completely homeless children and young people on our register, although it's probably a good thing for us that they never all turn up on the same day! I don't know if we would be able to cope. Ususally anything between 12 and 25 young people come on any given day. We also have four older homeless people who have started coming, invited by the street kids with whom they share derelict buildings! All want to have showers when they come, so we have a list every day to keep order and make sure everyone gets a turn. Ususally several bring bags of clothes to wash so we have a rota for that too.
Our newest volunteer is a 17 year old girl, Tilor who has been coming since we first opened the doors. She's pictured here with her partner Georgie and their six month old baby Denisa. A few weeks ago I talked with Tilor about the fact that she can't work as she has no birth certificate and therefore no ID card, therefore cannot be employed. I asked her if she would like to become a volunteer and she was delighted. So far Tilor is doing very well and proving to be a valuable member of our wee 'team'.

Denisa comes every day with mummy and is a wee treasure. We have Yasmina with us anyway to look after and having recently discovered that Irina and others are pregnant, we will soon have a full creche!