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!