Diary for Thursday December 13th and Final Thoughts and Reflections
my last day in
The day began with Cipri from People to People charity collecting me to take me to their office to go and visit sponsored pensioners with Monica and Emma. But as soon as Cipri arrived he told me there was a problem as Emma's grandfather had died and so she was not in and Monica was now working at the hospital. So Andrea would take me out to visit the pensioners, but instead of the whole day as I had thought to have with Emma there was only 2-3 hours that Andrea could spare.
In waiting for Andrea I selected the shoeboxes packed by the sponsors for their pensioners and immediately found a problem as at least 4 were missing a further 2 were not there but Cipri was sure he knew where they were. As some of those pensioners were ones I particularly wanted to see it was disappointing not to be able to photograph them with the box the sponsor had packed. Eventually we took additional unnamed boxes to give out when we went to visit. That did end happily as by the middle of the afternoon they had located the missing boxes and were going to take them to the pensioners in the next few days.
I really enjoyed my time with Andrea, who speaks excellent English and has a lovely caring approach to the pensioners. One pensioner was in great need of wood before Christmas that is where it is so good being a small charity, as while I was in the tiny room she lives in, I was able to phone the sponsor in Jersey to explain the situation and ask if they would like to make an immediate donation to purchase wood, then I was able to leave the cash with Andrea for that purpose and so left confident that the old lady would not freeze to death over the Christmas period. Another an old man was very moved at the ongoing help and insisted that he give me a little china figure to give to the sponsor he explained he had got a collection of figures which he built up when his wife was still alive, and now it gave him great pleasure to give some away to people who showed their love for him.
I have some good memories of the short time distributing to the sponsored pensioners: With one I was quite thrilled when the old man opened his box inside was a pair of new slippers as I looked at the size of the slippers he was wearing I was sure that the new pair were too small and offered up a despairing prayer of O Lord I don't think they are going to fit, but to my amazement they fitted exactly it was unbelievable! Another who has a mentally handicapped niece was moved to tears by the contents of her box, especially because some items were ideal for her niece who was just ecstatic at what she received.
Andrea had other commitments for the afternoon so as there was nothing else arranged for me I went to have lunch and decided I would go for a walk in the city before my lift back to the orphanage. As I set off I heard two shouts Rose! Rose! and there were Marinella and Aghi from the apartment for ex-state orphanage girls that we assist two of the girls who came to Jersey on holiday last year. It was brilliant just brilliant they had finished work (they start at 6 am and finish at 2 pm). So we walked together and they showed me round the centre of Oradea then to MacDonalds where they ate a huge amount and I drank a coffee. We went into a shoe shop and I was interested to compare prices and found they are similar to what we would pay at home. They explained more about their finances and how little money they have to live on - they both work in the children's hospital, earning less than the equivalent of £100 GBP a month (if I have calculated correctly I believe it is actually £90 a month), of which three quarters is needed to pay their share of the rent and utilities.
Thoughts and reflections
I hope this does not sound negative; I have been coming here to Romania since 1996 and I see HUGE improvements in a number of areas not just in Romania but also in Hungary. Romania has now been in EU for nearly one year.
● I am hugely encouraged by a number of the projects we run especially our kindergarten and homework clubs, pensioners programmes, at the general improvements in the villages where the different charities are working.
● I am surprised how little the girls (and many others) earn I believe they are legally employed so presumably this is the minimum wage. I understand there has been a recent 40% increase in taxes since the country joined EU. Food and items like shoes cost similar prices to UK.
● I am shocked at the conditions in which so many families and especially pensioners live there are some appalling places near the centre of town. It seems it is only the charities that are assisting these people.
● The visit to the foster home for handicapped young people now run by the government concerned me when I compare it to what we have in Jersey.
● There is no shadow there are signs of prosperity in Romania new factories, supermarkets, some newly surfaced roads, etc. But then there are some well used roads (like the ring road taking traffic from the border on to Cluj and Bucharest) which are in appalling condition. I ask myself where are the priorities.
● We are definitely still needed here in 2008 and beyond.