A Week in Romania
I had the privilege to join Cry in the Dark in Romania once again this Summer and support some of the work the charity does to help local communities in the country. Whilst it’s only a week, it’s quite amazing what impact the team’s work had over such a short period of time. It sounds corny, but a group of ordinary brits really helped change the lives of others by giving up a week of what could have been holiday, to help those less fortunate.
I tagged along with a group of young people from St. John’s Church in Colchester. I always love meeting new people, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of young people to get to know, to laugh with, and to share some incredible moments with. Even after a day in Romania with them, I felt like i’d knew the group for ages; they were a joy to spend a week with, and their vivacity and get-up-and-go attitude was inspiring to see.
A significant portion of the week was spent at the house of a lady called Anna, in Comănești (pronounced comanesht); Anna’s son Adrian is part of Cry in the Dark’s palliative care programme. Anna, and her family’s generosity all week was incredibly humbling, and whilst working on her house, we were offered copious amounts of homemade pancakes, homegrown corn-on-the-cob, the sweetest coffee i’ve ever tasted, and some interesting Romanian homebrew. Despite committing to a year of no alcohol, I simply couldn’t turn down what was such a kind and selfless offer from Anna and her family. I feel like the achievement by the team, and delighted reception from Anna was more than enough to dispel any tiredness or negativity.
The work on Anna’s house aimed to prevent any more damp rising up her walls, and with Romanian Winter’s being quite cold, and damp, it was work that was certainly overdue. We spent the first couple of days removing parts of the original damp proofing around the bottom of the house, and then a hard afternoon digging a trench around the house. It was raining a lot of the time – a blessing in disguise – and this made the work cooler and the ground softer! The next couple of days was spent shuttering up the sides of the house with wooden boards and pegs, and this 3 inch gap directly next to the walls of the house was then filled with cement to damp proof the lower layers of the house.
After removing the wooden shuttering, we filled the remainder of the trenches with cement supported by wire. Anna’s family could use these bits as walkways – ironic that we couldn’t use them (as the cement was drying) and instead had to traipse through inches of mud! As I mentioned before, Anna’s family were incredibly generous to the group, and even though Beth (from CITD) had cooked us a roast dinner back at Casa Albert (which I hasten to add, we ate, and was v. tasty!), the offer of giant sweetcorn, Mici (skinless sausages, pronounce ‘meech’), and homemade vanilla cream filled profiteroles. was too good to miss!. Their generosity was so humbling; they had so little but gave so much.
It was good to return to Casa Lumina this time around and spend some time with the young adults there. It’s always great fun to spend time with the residents in a joyful environment. We got a wonderful tour of the place by one of the residents, Carmen, and were led in some dancing and questionable aerobic exercises. The 3-legged-race was one of the more interesting activities with lots of pairs falling over in balls of laughter, and the egg and spoon race was equally comical. The phrase ‘every one is a winner’ was very apt here… but mainly because we had no idea!
The rain held off later in the week and we had the chance to take the chaps to a local park. Carmen on guitar, and the others in hand (literally) we spent a good couple of hours playing on the swings, roundabout and just chilling in the open air. I loved that everyone seemed so relaxed; not just those from our group, but those from Casa Lumina too. Carmen sat with a guitar on a bench and just sung away whilst everyone else’s happiness could be heard around the park; I witnesses what was quite probably my favourite rendition of My Heart Will Go On in Romanian – Fanstastic!
On the final two days of the week, we visited Negustorului, a gypsy village in the mountains, and Ungureni, a state run care home for adults and young people with special needs. Spending time with the kids in Negustorului is always a highlight of my time in Romania as the kids are always so receptive of the time we spend with them. This year we made kites for the kids to decorate and after the initial scramble for stickers, the kids ran around and around all afternoon – pretty incredible how something so simple can bring so much joy, and shows how fortunate we are in the UK. Forget the new iPhone – a bit of string, paper and a wooden dowel was enough to make these kids happy, so easy to become complacent with all the things we have.
Ungureni, a state run care home was one of the last activities in the week and involved a visit to spend time with some of the residents, and hand out some food. What’s best about this visit is seeing the improvement from when I first visited 4 years ago, workmen were buzzing around the place, the smell was greatly improved and everyone seemed much happier; no doubt Cry in the Dark’s work has helped to influence change in the area.
I always return from Romania with a renewed sense of perspective, and a deeper understanding of mission and how I can apply it back in the UK. As Christians we are called to spread the love of God into parts of the word which are neglected, and Cry in the Dark bring this love and compassion to the sick, poor and marginalised. There are people all around the world worse off than us and we are fortunate enough to be in a position where we can help; what better position to do so. Change starts with you.
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one” – Mother Teresa