Saturday, 31 July 2010

Roma (Gypsy) slavery

As a people the Roma (Romanies, Gypsies) have been devalued for centuries. Most likely originally from northern India they migrated across Europe or were brought as slaves, possibly slave soldiers. Slavery already existed in Europe when the Roma came, non-Christian groups including Muslims and Jews were enslaved and according to the customs of the times it was considered normal to have Roma slaves. Roma slavery was finally abolished in Romania in the mid 19th century.

Discrimination against Roma is widespread - Ian Hancock, a Roma university professor from the US cites several modern examples of shameless racism against Roma: A Romanian woman when asked about murders of Roma in Hidareni said that killing Gypsies wasn't murder because murder is when human beings are killed! Hancock quickly adds that such opinions are by no means confined to Romania, quoting a member of the British government who declared publicly that Roma were "not human beings in the normal sense" and an Illinois detective who stated on television that American Gypsies had not yet developed genetically "like other people" to know right from wrong. Unbelievable!

In our work at "Vis de Copil" (A Child's Dream) we work with many Roma families and we also work at building bridges between the Roma community and the wider population. Our experience is that people are people, no matter what their nationality or ethnic background - most Roma are just honest, decent people trying "to make ends meet" and bring up their children.

Monday, 19 July 2010

The Secret Garden - a safe place

Dina usually comes to the Secret Garden once or twice a week and stays for two or three hours. She is in her twenties and has mental health issues and is a very timid young woman, easily scared and very wary of us getting too close. We don't know so much about Dina's past but the scars she bears tell a sad story of abuse and neglect. There are so many Dinas in this world - unloved and unwanted, passed around children's homes and finally ending up homeless on the streets of one of the world's many cities. What can we offer this young woman and others like her? Sadly, not a home, nor a family ... but we can offer her a safe refuge and a place to which to come and not be judged or ridiculed or worse.

Friday, 9 July 2010

daily activities in the midst of renovations

The renovation work on the basement medical room is almost completed - we are just waiting for the plasterwork to all dry out before the final finishings can be done. It's taken much longer than planned because of the unbelievable weather - May and June have had more rain than ever for the time of year since records began and their have ben incredible storms and severe flooding in parts of the country. During the course of the work in the basement the workers were flooded out several times.

But as they say, the show must go on ... and we have continued the daily programme almost as normal, without the use of the courtyard for the children to play outside. Children who come daily to the Secret Garden are enjoying the more leisurely programme during the school holidays. We still put them to do a little school work to keep them up to date because the holidays are long and children forget but we do more games and leisure activities each day. Yesterday we completed the lovely forest scene pictured above - isn't it great.
As well as various activities some of the children have showers and all of them have a meal (we try to feed everyone who walks through the door!) Recently we received another generous donation of frozen food from a local company - we have had several donations of frozen fish and profiteroles, this time we received lots ... and I mean LOTS of traditional dumplings stuffed with a mixture of fillings - chocolate, sweet cheese and apricot! We couldn't store them all so we spent a whole afternoon and evening driving around delivering them to other charities in Arad and some very poor families in our own community. For two weeks now all our clients have been eating soup and dessert.We try to get the mums and other carers involved in our activities and they often take part, but sometimes they just want to sit and watch and relax a bit ... can't blame them, they have such hard lives.

Below is a tableau of paper flowers made over the past couple of weeks by Dana, Angelica and the children. It's painstaking but the finished effect looks beautiful on the wall of our entrance hall.

Friday, 2 July 2010

homes for the homeless!

After weeks of queues and form filling and anxious moments waiting for home visits to check current living conditions Irina (friend, colleague and former street girl) was one of the fortunate ones who finally received the keys to her new "social housing" apartment today! It has been a stressful few months for Irina (and us) and many others of our "clients" but today was truly a sight to behold.

Irina was so overcome with emotion that after signing and receiving her keys she threw her arms around Erica Stark the Director of social Services for Arad city! Erica used to be the manager of the emergency section of the Arad County Child Protection and we have had many years of fruitful collaboration with her.
Irina has known Erica since she was a young child living on the streets of Arad and has many fond memories of "Doamna Erica", so it was particularly special for Irina to receive the keys from her.

Argentina (yes, her real name) is one of our regulars at the "Secret Garden" day centre. This young woman and her husband and two young children have been living in a makeshift hut in one of the poorest communities of Arad for several years. If you met her, Argentina would impress you with her quiet faith and attitude of thankfulness for what she has ... which has never been much.

Argentina and family, overjoyed with their first ever proper stable home. One room, a kitchen, bathroom and store room might not sound much to some of you, but for this family it's a palace!

This wee darling also comes to our centre, her family one of the many who have come to us for showers ... now they have a real bathroom with a bath and running water!

After receiving their keys some of the disabled young men from our dear friend's Linda and Harold's foundation asked for a lift back into town ... then two of our street folks who have been given an apartment joined them ... then one of our poor families ... but will they all fit in, wheelchairs and all?

Yes of course they will ... and as my father used to say "a good day was had by all"