From Hitchin to Safe Homes, Kasia's story. Tinca, Romania - March 2018

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For me, there are some things that cannot be described with words alone. As a photographer I am much more attuned to descriptions when I see an image to illustrate but even with pictures to a story, I find that personal experience is the only way to really understand in depth how things are. This is exactly what happened last weekend in the Romanian town of Tinca, a small place close to the Hungarian border, the place where the Humanitas Charity started.

When I first found out about Humanitas, myself, my husband and our 2 kids had just moved to Hitchin, Hertfordshire. I soon met  young woman called Donna, who worked at and lived above the Humanitas Shop. At the time it was part selling local giftware and also second hand clothes, books and toys. They had a room at the back that could be used for workshops and meetings so I’d hired the space to run some photography workshops. Through this I read a bit about some of the work the charity do, mostly in Romania at that time. But to be completely honest I really didn’t feel a great connection with the work they were doing. I sort of skimmed over the detail a bit, but I liked Donna and trusted that the work they did was done with integrity and compassion. But it sort of stopped there. I guess life whizzes by and I just don’t have enough of it to invest so much into checking every detail with a fine tooth comb. I like to find the people I trust and take their word for it. When I find those people I just want to know where do you want me to be and what do you want me to do. But I love being involved and to feel needed gives me a great sense of purpose. When I know that my volunteering, fund raising and donating also has a positive outcome then all the better.    

With Humanitas I felt I could relate directly to the people running the charity and they are local which made it all the more personal but still at that point a few years back I still didn’t really get what they were actually doing until last year when I went out to Ghana to help with a school project they started out there. It wasn’t until I was there and could share the air the community breathed, did I really understand. Each child, every family and the whole village became my friends. I could see the daily struggles they face and the changes in their lives that the hard work the Humanitas Charity contribute towards to make their existence better.

So last Saturday when I woke up at 3am to get ready for the flight to Romania I couldn’t wait to see, hear and inhale a small portion of the lives that have benefitted from Humanitas sponsors and the donations given over the years that directly save the childhoods for so many there.

With six of us in total including myself and 2 other volunteers we, the Humanitas Team, arrived at Tinca, Romania. My first impressions of the town as we drove through were pretty much grey and cold and a little bit unnerving but as we arrived at Safe Homes to meet the families looking after a dozen children, some from the Roma Community on the outskirts of the town and those who had mostly been abandoned early on in their lives, I immediately felt the warmth and colour that was missing.

The SafeHomes were set up from scratch by Sarah Wade, founder of Humanitas. 2 houses adjacent to each other on a shared plot of land which gave not just a warm room, food, special treatments and physiotherapy for physical and mental disabilities but also love. So much love from parents and siblings and the children to each other. They have been given a second chance in life. A place to have a childhood. Then another 20 or so children that have been given homes with foster parents are also in and around the area.

The children we met at Safe Homes took a little while to get to know those of us they hadn’t met before but I think because they were in their own safe place, their home, it didn’t take long for the trust to extend to their visitors, us. By the end of the 3 days visit I don’t even know how to describe the affection I felt towards these children. I don’t actually think I’ve ever met a group of kids with so much fun and enthusiasm. Despite their appalling starts in life, abandonment, abuse and neglect, physical and mental disabilities, these kids with the help of their new family at safe homes and the support from Humanitas and all the sponsors and donors, have enable them to exceed all expectations, to overcome challenges and for some of them to start to become independent thinking young adults.

So now, yes, I get it. The work and fundraising that Humanitas does goes way beyond paying for schools in Ghana. It goes further than putting a roof over a child’s head in Romania or feeding  fleeing refugees in Bangladesh and Europe. Humanitas creates life for a life with the one main ingredient that we all need, love. To see the smiles, hear the laughter and to feel the bonds created between foster parents, teachers, therapists, sponsors and volunteers is nothing less than heartwarming.

Sharing this short time with all the carers, social workers, therapists and parents taking good care of the children has left me feeling emotionally elated and thankful that there are people in this world that care so much that they devote and enrich their own lives by caring for others. Let’s make sure all this good work never stops by keeping up the fund raising, volunteering or becoming a sponsor and if like me you need to see it up close to really understand then do it. Get close but be warned extreme laughter is part and parcel. 

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