Romania - Early starts, cake and Humanity at it's finest
After a night of no sleep through fear of missing my flight I left the house at 4am to embark on what would turn out to be a three hour journey, negotiating night buses, delayed trains, faulty ticket machines and a shuttle service so packed it should have been a cattle service! After a quick seat swap into a window seat (who doesn't love the extra head room and control over the blind?) it was time for a sleep as we embarked on the flight to Hungary - Yes Hungary! Still amazed as I hadn't even noticed I wasn't flying to Romania until I was in the departure lounge! On arrival it was straight into the new people carrier (brought for transporting the children living in Safe our Homes) and on the road to Oradea. Now in Romania, it was straight into a different car and off to the Humanitas office - a modest space considering the extraordinary work that is delivered from it. As we left the office, myself and Jo (Humanitas' Development Associate) were excited to be given the opportunity to meet some of the families who are fostering children through Humanitas. The first child we met (Maria) was to be one of so many amazing young people I would meet on my journey and the family are everything you would wish them to be. The love for their child was clear and I was blown away by just how amazing you have to be to not only have two children of your own but to then go and actively seek to give a third child a better future.
This was the first family I'd met in Romania and as I don't speak the language or really know what I would ask when there, I thought it was going to be a tough meeting. But true to the Romanian culture the barriers were broken down quickly with cake and smiles. Thanks to some great translation support from Lavinia, the conversation started to flow and I learned just what it takes to foster a child - a home, a heart and a determination to ensure a child has a positive future. Always thinking ahead, with my fundraising hat on, I got onto the topic of Christmas and, as it turns out, Maria knew a Christmas song in really good English so we had great fun singing about Christmas in June! Who knows, maybe you'll see her perform it online later this year during our Christmas campaign.
Seeing the Safe Homes project first hand was awe-inspiring. The fact that the children who live there had been neglected by their own families and would simply have been given up on by the state, because of their disabilities shows a clear need for more projects like these. This project works because it is different to any I have seen before. For the children who live there it is a home and not a hospital, they have a family and not a case worker and they have friends who they can learn with, laugh with and grow up with - just like any family. The rehabilitation and care that is given in our Safe Homes is a true testament to what Humanitas is trying to achieve in all of its projects – a better way of life for anyone it encounters.
The one place we visited that touched me the most was Tinka, a place far removed from many Romanians who seem to reject its existence and the existence of the people within. It’s home to a large population of Roma people and is a place where poverty is an accepted way of life. We visited on a school day so I was surprised to encounter the number of children that we did but we were told by Lavinia that most don’t receive an education. A short walk around to see the living conditions and then we got involved in entertaining the children for a while – football, singing and a few selfies.
I’m shocked to see that in a the 21st century, in a country which is part of the EU, there are people living in these conditions. It’s an accepted black dot in the country and one which nobody seems to want to change. These are people who are being failed by their own country and I feel the only way to change this is with constant support, economic investment and education. As with all problems like this across the world it will take many years to change a way of life, but it is something we should never give up on. I’m so glad to be working for an organisation that has proved it will do its utmost to change the lives of so many and has ambitions to support the lives of so many more.