Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Poverty and Bureaucracy

Life for those on a low income is extremely difficult in Romania. Many families are trying to survive on as little as 60 euros a month and we get tired of people from the West telling us that ' it's all right for them because things are cheaper here'! We need to be clear on something - 'things' are not cheaper here! Luxury 'things' like hotel rooms, meals in restaurants, alcohol, ice cream are cheaper, it's true - of course the very ' things' that foreign visitors can and do buy ... But the basic daily necessities of life are not cheaper here. To give just one example, milk is more expensive in Romania than in the UK! Generally the cost of living is at an EU level while salaries and benefits are not. 

Added to this general hardship faced by the majority of the population, many of the families with whom we work have little or no education. They gave difficulty in finding a job because even most unqualified work requires a basic level of education - how do you stock supermarket shelves if you cant read the labels?
State benefits and pensions for the elderly our disabled exist but they are woefully inadequate and difficult to access due to the bureaucracy left over from the Communist regime. If you have little or no education you simply can't complete all the various forms required. It quite literally is a bureaucratic nightmare!  

One of the many services we offer for our families is help with paperwork. It might only give a family a few extra euros but it makes a difference. There is enough work for a full time member of staff just advising and helping with various applications - help with school requisitions, winter wood assistance, social canteen meals - but of course we don't have a member of staff to do this. Most of it currently falls to our volunteer, Mari as we are foreigners and struggle to understand the complicated forms and are scared of getting it wrong and causing someone to miss out.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

We need more space!

For some time now we have been thinking that we need extra space in order to carry out all our activities at the Secret Garden. We often have two very different programmes (or more) going on at the same time and it's not easy when one of the activity rooms is accessed through the other. The afternoons are the worst though when we have our programme with the young people from the streets and also a homework club with children from 'disadvantaged' families. 

The apartment / house next door has just come on the market, it is fully renovated to a high standard and has 200 square metres of useable space. After an initial discussion with the owner we have been offered the property at 95,000 euros with payment over 12 months or possibly even more.

Our need is obvious in order to extend our educational programmes, but our financial situation is always pressing ... so for now, we are waiting and praying!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Computer time!

Every day the children and young people take turns to use the computers! As young as three years old they're getting a chance they would otherwise never have had - to learn IT skills that will help them in the future. After a little school work and some arts and crafts, there's always a chorus of 'please can I have a go on the computer?' If we had another five computers they'd still all be booked up!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Uncle Bill to the rescue!

Ani will miss Beeeeeell when he leaves!
finally ... the dining room shelves we've wanted for four years!
Maintenance manager / official photographer ... is there no end to his talents?