Tuesday, 27 October 2009

our newest volunteer

Petre (pictured here with his neice) is one of our street boys who we have known since first coming to Romania. Petre, his brother Cipri and their three sisters all ended up on the streets. Petre has been coming to help for a few weeks now and he is proving to be a good help. He is keen to make a better life for himself, but as with all the young people from the streets the temptations are many and hard to resist. We're pleased that some of the young people want to help others like themselves and in the long term we want to encourage it as a form of peer education - after all, who knows better than a street kid what life on the streets is like and what the dangers are?

Monday, 26 October 2009

winter's hardships begin

We had a very cold spell which caught us all by surprise, but the weather is milder again. The mornings are often misty and quite chilly and in the evenings the temperature drops considerably, but the days are mainly warm and sunny, around 20 degrees which is pleasant, especially for October. The cold mornings and evenings remind everyone of the cold weather to come and as we go about our work we hear people talking about the winter and wondering how they are going to manage. At this time of year there is always unspoken fear in people's voices "what if ... ?" Many women like this one pictured here come during the day for a while to do their washing or have showers or just to chat while the children play or do school work. Living in such poor conditions as most of our families live, life is hard all year round, but in the winter washing clothes or dishes becomes a major task.

Our work becomes harder too in the winter. Firstly because it's hard to see children and families and work with them knowing the conditions to which they return each day. At the end of the day it's so difficult seeing the street folks all leave, knowing that they have no proper homes to go to. In addition to that they bring with them more dirty clothes to wash and generally make a lot more mess in the day centre ... more cleaning for us when everyone leaves at 1900.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

human trafficking

Trafficking in human beings has been around for centuries and the effects of the slave trade in Africa devastated a continent. In recent years trafficking is again on the increase, according to some sources being more profitable than drug trafficking. One of our street girls was recently taken to France and sold to some older man and another girl, only 11 years old has also been sold. Obviously we are well aware that these things happen every day, but even so, when it comes to girls we have known personally for a years it's painful to hear about it. Our street girls and also those from very poor families who are not adequately supervised are greatly at risk of being trafficked, but finding out the names and nationalities of the trafficants is not easy. Getting victims or friends of victims to speak out so that we can contact the police and Interpol is not easy because there are huge sums of money involved and people are threatened with physical violence if they dare to say anything.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

a little about the roma (gypsies)

“We pass like the wind on the lake of the world without leaving a mark. And yet, without us nothing would be the same. Always thrown out, always hunted. Despised and envied. And always unknown … “
from Tchalai’s Zigane Tarot (1984)

Many of the children and families with whom we work are Roma (Gypsy) and as such, live on the edge of society, often in squatter communities on the margins of Arad and surrounding towns and villages. Pictured are two of our Roma girls who come daily to the centre. They are lovely, warm, kind hearted people who have become friends. Here they had just dressed one of our volunteers in traditional skirt and the red ribbons usually seen in the hair of little girls (just as I used to see when I lived in India!) Roma have been the victims of discrimination and mistrust for centuries. Linguistic and anthropological evidence indicates that the Roma people originally came from northen India and migrated across Asia and Europe between the 10th and 13th centuries.

Throughout their history the Roma have repeatedly suffered forced assimilation, persecution, banishment and deportation. Few people realise that the Roma were also victims of slavery in Europe, the Americas and elsewhere until 150 years ago. During the Third Reich in Germany the Roma were targeted for extermination by Hitler but I am not aware of any special memorials or days of remembrance for them and if such things exist then they are not well enough publicised.

The Roma are one of the most persecuted ethnic minories in Europe. Racial stereotypes and myths developed over the centuries in order to justify the persecution of Roma – they were accused of being lazy, thieves, witches and child abductors “The Gypsies are coming, the old people say. To buy little children and take them away …”

Any study of history shows us that a people who are marginalized and rejected have to find alternative ways to survive in society and often such people become the victims of social problems such as alcoholism and unemployment. Discrimination in all it's forms is an evil to be fought against and we at Vis de Copil (A Child's Dream) constantly look for ways in which we can help break down the barriers which exist between the Roma and their neighbours.

I'll finish here with the words of Indira ghandi, the former Indian Prima Minister in her opening speech at the International Romani festival in Chandigarh in 1983:

“There are some 15 million Roms dispersed across the world. Their history is one of suffering and misery, but it is also one of the victories of human spirit over the blows of fate. Today the Roms revive their culture and are looking for their identity. On the other hand, they integrate into the societies in which they live. If they are understood by their fellow citizens in their new homelands, their culture will enrich the society’s atmosphere with the colour and charm of spontaneity.”

Thursday, 15 October 2009

crisis in the government

The following is from the BBC news website:

The government of Romania has fallen after losing a vote of no confidence, the first such measure since the end of Communist rule in 1989.
Parliament voted 254-176 to oust Prime Minister Emil Boc's government, which lost its majority when its coalition allies pulled out earlier this month.
Romania has been hard-hit by the global economic recession and is dependant on an IMF loan to pay state salaries.
The vote followed the collapse of the ruling coalition 10 days ago.
Mr Boc has been struggling to pass economic and social reforms which were a condition of the IMF loan.
Speaking after the parliamentary vote, he said it was "an honour for a government to fall for pitching reforms aimed at suppressing privileges" and that he was convinced the reforms would be passed.
Under the Romanian constitution, President Traian Basescu, a close ally of Mr Boc, will appoint a replacement prime minister to run an interim government until presidential elections on 22 November.
Mr Basescu, who is favourite to win the vote, said he intended "to keep this period of crisis as short as possible".

Please pray for the Romanian people ... they deserve a better deal than they get.

that's a lot of washing!

I love this photo with all the washing hanging to dry, and just imagine, those of you reading this from the comfort of your modern home complete with washing machine ... all this was washed by hand with water carried from the pump several hundred metres away from the houses! These are homes to some of our Roma (Gypsy) families on the edges of Arad - people who live on the margins of society wherever they live, all over Europe.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

winter ... with a vengeance!

After an early warm Spring, a very long hot Summer and an extremely pleasant warm and sunny Autumn, Winter arrived yesterday with a vengeance. The day was cold and windy with driving rain and the weather forecast said we could even have snow soon ... All who found their way to the Secret Garden were soaked through to the skin and pleading for dry clothes. We managed to give children and adults alike some warm clothes and socks, but I found myself thinking how good it would be if we could provide everyone with waterproof jackets (the cheap plastic kind that look awful but don't let any water in at all) and wellies (for the non-Brits that means rubber or plastic 'wellington boots'.

At the end of the day it was so hard seeing the street folks head back out into the wind and rain, knowing that they have no proper homes to go to. Some stay in derelict builings like the one above, others (the fortunate ones) have managed to built shelters around the hot water pipes that feed the city.

Poor families usually have home made stoves which run on sawdust, like the one below.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

our first time at the n.g.o fair

Yesterday and today the annual NGO fair (for the uninitiated, non-governmental organisations)in front of the Primaria (Town hall) took place. For the first time we participated, even though we had little time to prepare and were afraid of not doing a good job of it ... imagine taking place in an event which is meant to raise the profile of your charity and making it a laughing stock instead!
... In the end after a couple of anxious weeks and a lot of hard work and stress it all went well, including my presentation of our work - in Romanian so I was very nervous! while I was away at a conference a couple of weeks ago, Kenneth and Dana attended the planning meeting for the fair and volunteered me to present our work ... how very kind of them! On both days there was quite a lot of interest from the public. Dana, our new Social Worker did a great job of talking to all the interested people, telling them about our work and outlining volunteer opportunities. We offered sweets and face painting to all the kids and Shaneka our new Peace Corps Volunteer braided hair - it was a big hit!