Reflections on the trip May-June 2010
Without any shadow of doubt this has been a “good” visit and the difficulties we had at the beginning have been forgotten about. So I asked Phil to select a few outstanding highs and lows or disappointments, challenges and rewards and I have done the same:
Probably one of the most rewarding things about this trip has been the renewed contact with Gonghyi or Doris as she now calls herself and spending time at Agape Foundation. We are thrilled at the change in Doris at her new confidence and ability to relate and to show and accept affection. We are impressed with what Corey, Diana and all the Agape team are doing in offering love, employment, education, life skills to orphans and accommodation to 7 or 8 young women.
But I have lost count of how times different people expressed their great anxiety about the government and the Romanian economy. Of huge concern are the cuts that have come into effect on the first day of this month – the 25% reduction in salaries of all state employees, the resulting discontent and strikes that began immediately. Many people believe the government is corrupt and that the future looks really very grim and serious – the word “revolution” and a comparison with Greece were mentioned by a number of people.
Of deep deep concern to us is the 15% cut in all pensions – this affects the elderly and the medical pensioners; they are the most vulnerable and now they have even less. If they could not manage before how can they hope to manage now on only 85% with prices continuing to rise. It makes me feel that the work of Mustard Seed Jersey is even more vital now in our sponsorship programmes. But knowing there are so many more in dire need is quite over-whelming as I realise most of the new needy pensioners we saw this time cannot be sponsored unless there is a substantial increase in the number of sponsors through the Adopt a Granny scheme.
To me a high–light of the trip but also a challenge was in how the young women earning about £100 a month (the minimum wage) in the sponsored apartment simply could not survive without help for the rent and then needed a little help with food, as well as the more luxurious things like floor covering without holes. I am sure I will long continue to remember the joy in Maria’s eyes over a tube of toothpaste and a tin of tuna fish.
For me another challenge was the time spent at the government department office for repatriating victims of people trafficking – the shock at the lack of resources this government department had – that they had no funding to buy even paper and toner was a shock. Alongside of that was the obvious compassion and dedication of the small team there.
As always visiting those in deep poverty is challenging. Probably the visit I found the most difficult and moving was the first one with FI to the diabetic bed-bound widow who is cared for by her son-in-law since his wife died 4 years ago. It is always hard to be there observing the misery and unable to offer much help especially as we had no waiting list of sponsors, but as this woman was diabetic it touched a chord in me as I had cared for my own mother who was diabetic.
Then on to Phil and his thoughts: Starting with the “lows” Phil highlighted how very difficult he had found those visits to pensioners with FI – in sight of so much misery you can feel an intruder and positively embarrassed, and although the food parcels we took helped it is not the long-term answer to the problem.
Phil also noticed a couple of instances where he was disappointed that a very few things had not been used to their potential – these are few and far between but none the less disappointing in view of the effort involved in Jersey in loading, etc.
Phil also selected the morning spent at the office of the government agency for repatriating victims of people trafficking as being one of the most challenging but rewarding to know what we in Jersey are doing is making a small difference.
Phil had also been really encouraged by the number of people who told us they had heard us on the Oradea radio. In December Alex had arranged an interview for us and obviously a number of people had heard it.
For Phil the other high-lights were the renewal of relationships with individuals and organisations we had not had contact with recently, especially Thursday’s visit to Nicu Gal and the People to People foundation and Friday’s visit to Caminul Felix Farm, the Noble House Hotel and the workshop they run. The progress and change for the good is really incredible at Caminul Felix, especially on the farm.
A number of the orphans who have been to Jersey call Phil Tata or Dad and me Mama – to both of us it was and is a HUGE joy to see the spontaneous welcome in their eyes and their excitement and delight to see us again. It is great for us to see how they have matured and progressed. Our “Romanian daughters” are very special to us and seeing them is always a delight.
Yes Phil and I agree it has been a good trip – as always the welcome and the love of social workers and beneficiaries alike are so very special and make us feel we are privileged to be here representing Mustard Seed Jersey. Yes it has been worth the preparation, the drive down and the drive back, the expense, the time. We are sad to leave and will look forward to our next trip in December, God willing.