Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Tara lui Andrei (Andrew's country)

Albert has just submitted a project proposal to 'Tara lui Andrei' which is a competition run by the Romania oil company Petrom. Tara lui Andrei means literally Andrew's country, after St Andrew who is Romania's patron saint, in addition to being Scotland's! 

The project is for us to have a safe play area for children here at the Secret Garden and the public vote will decide the winner ... so if you can, please vote! Click on the link below to register and vote ... we are not sure yet if people can vote from outside Romania, we are getting Amy to try from Glasgow!


Thursday, 20 June 2013


I hate to complain about the weather ... but ... having had the longest Winter most people in Arad remember, and not much of a Spring at all, we have now entered full scorching hot Summer and are quite literally melting! Days now of a fairly constant 36 degrees is taking it's toll on us all, sapping our energy ... believe me it's hard to concentrate on anything when it's so hot. The office is the hottest room, as it is a new construction added on to the building, the rest is over 100 years old ... they obviously knew more about how to build for the heat in those days! I brought a fan from home to the office but it's pathetic efforts aren't helping a great deal, probably keeping us from passing out though! 

Think of us sweltering away but even more ... think of the families with whom we work who don't even have a fan to help them cope with the heat. Most of our families live in one rented room or a simple one room dwelling and the heat in some of them is unbearable ... but they have no choice but to bear it. Life is hard when you're poor.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

We love our multi-cultural volunteers!

One of the lovely aspects of the Secret Garden is that we have the privilege of working with volunteers from all over Europe and further afield. For our children and families it is a sign to them that people care about them, that they are not forgotten, that they matter to someone. For the volunteers it is an experience which most of them will never forget. For a few days, weeks or months they work alongside our Romanian staff or volunteers and with our children, learning about them, learning to love them. Walls which exist between people from different cultures are gradually being broken down, little by little. When you have spent time with a person, sitting with them while taking part in various activities, when you have learned to see that person as a human being just like you, though maybe poorer, then it is hard to return to your own country and forget them. Over the past few years we have seen volunteers come and go from so many countries and it has been such a positive experience for us all ... and I hope, for them too!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Homelessness in Arad

We have been living in Arad for almost 13 years and we have seen a great deal of change, much of it for the better.  However, homelessness continues to be a big issue here as elsewhere in Romania.  Many of the original street children with whom we first worked are still here though of course after 13 years they are no longer children, they are now ' street adults'.  There are also homeless older people for whom there is very little provision - some of them have heard of our day centre and come along for a meal and a shower and out of compassion for them we cannot refuse.

What are we supposed to do with such people? There is a desperate need for a Work to be set up specifically for homeless adults, leaving us to concentrate on the street children and on prevention strategies.  The State Social Services here in Arad are already overstretched, understaffed and underfunded so there is unlikely to be help coming from that quarter. Clearly we are unable to move in that direction as we too are already overstretched - so my question is, who will do it?

Local food donations

Food donations from local sources are increasing significantly. It's such an encouragement to us to see more and more people from our local community visiting and bearing gifts of food. We've always hoped for more local interest and support because it's vital for the long term future of the work. Recently we've been quite overwhelmed at times by the generosity of people!
Philip making fruit salad - complements of Moise Nicoara high school students

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Welcome to the 'Vis' team!

Last week saw our team grow by two people. One of them, Irina (another Irina, not our former worker) has been working with us as a volunteer already for a few months and our partners in the UK 'Humanity at Heart' have very kindly offered to pay a salary for us to employ her for a year. This is great news for Irina who has been looking for a job for a while... and it's great news for us too. 

Albert, our other new team member has joined us to be responsible for funding issues. We need to find ways to raise the profile of our work and to bring in desperately needed funds if we are to continue. We are very hopeful that Albert is the person to help us in this area and his first week with us has been an extremely positive one ... long may it last! 

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Homework club

During the afternoon when we have our programme for street people, there have always been a few children wanting to come and do their homework. In the past we have not allowed children to come in the afternoons unless they are already on the streets, as we don't want them having contact with street folk. However,  their need is so great that we have recently decided to try running a homework club in one of the activity rooms, separate from the rest of the programme. Some local volunteers, including students from a local high school have offered to help us with this very needed activity - school here is hard and homework is difficult for children to do alone with no help and guidance.