I first visited Romania in 2001 as a school teacher assisting with a group of 6th form pupils from the school where I worked. I came because the teacher leading the party wanted someone with craft skills (I was a Design Technology teacher), but I then knew little about the country. However, afterwards I was left with many feelings of concern about, and friendship towards, Romania and its people. Following this, I was privileged to help with the ‘Romanian Project’ each year until I retired. All my work and visits have been to the north-eastern city of Iasi, at first for the England-based charity ‘Link Romania’ (now ‘Link to Hope’) and, more recently for the Iasi-based ‘Fundatia Link Romania- Moldavia’ (F.L.R.M.).
Now, with the freedom brought by retirement from teaching, I am able to visit Romania for a little longer each year and to time my visits to start shortly before the school group arrives. This allows me to do what I can to help prepare materials at the site for their project that year. Also, it means that I am able to carry out some work of my own and on behalf of the Church to which I belong in England.
This year (2016), my visit has been of two week’s duration, from the 1st to the 15th of July. I have been pleased to do a number of things which I hope will be of assistance to F.L.R.M. and the people it exists to help.
The group from The Ashcombe School, during their stay in Iasi, usually help at a Kindergarten, which is in the shanty town known as “Dallas”, and they also work at a building project of some kind outside the city. Usually, the members of the group swap from one place to the other day by day, so that everyone experiences both kinds of work. Much of F.L.R.M.’s work is among poor people in the rural communities around Iasi.
This year, the building project is a house extension in the region of Erbiceni. When finished, it will provide a second room for a family living in a one room, mud brick house. Parts of this house had been damaged by a fire, which, fortunately, did not cause any injuries. The School provided funding for materials for the concrete foundations and building blocks for the walls. They also gave assistance with the physical work involved with the construction of the walls.
My role in this, apart from assisting with the building work, was to see to the purchase of the materials on behalf of the School and try to ensure that they were on site in time for the start of work. One of the essential tricks in this process is to make sure that the industriousness and enthusiasm of the house owners does not result in the work being finished before the students arrive. They need to feel that they have actually helped with the project and not, simply, given the money.
When not involved with the school group this year, I have been able to help with various ‘handyman’-type tasks at the F.L.R.M. headquarters building in Iasi.
The Church to which I belong in England is known as ‘Eastwick Road Church’. It is part of a non-conformist denomination, known as “The United Reformed Church” – ‘U.R.C.’ for shortness. It is situated in the village of Bookham , Surrey. The Folk there are very generous with their financial support and have often contributed towards my costs for visiting Iasi. They also help with other donations towards the meeting of various needs. For example, this year, I was given a sum of money towards a replacement for somebody’s horse that died.
As an aside, I feel I must make a particular point in connection with that donation. English people, familiar with the use of horses for sport and leisure, often do not understand the situation in Romania regarding horses and have been known to question the need for their provision. They, and the carts (“caruţa”) they pull, are basic transport for rural folk who have too little money to buy motor fuel or to buy such vehicles. I sometimes liken the provision of a horse for a Romanian subsistence farmer to the provision of an elderly Ford van for a plumber or similar tradesman in England.
Returning to the subject of donations, people often hand me some money after Sunday worship, or some other meeting, and say “this is to help in Romania”. I save these gifts up during the year and bring them on my summer visit. Sending money costs money, and so it means more is available to be used for F.L.R.M.’s work if I act as a courier and take it with me. The cheapest method of sending money that I have, so far, found costs a little less than £5 to send £50.
One of our Church groups is called ’Meeting Point’. It is a social meeting group aimed at older people who need some company and companionship. They usually assist with providing shoe boxes of useful ‘goodies’ to be sent to Romania and other east European countries at Christmas. I am often asked to talk to this group about Romania and out of this has grown another project.
About three years ago, I was told about a small girl who has a kidney problem and lives in a remote village. She needed to be careful about what she ate, but her parents, who live largely by subsistence farming, did not have the money to buy what was necessary. ‘Meeting Point’ were instrumental in forming a sponsorship group among themselves, members of Eastwick Road Church and others, to provide a monthly food parcel for this little girl. The money is usually sent to F.L.R.M. by a commercial money transfer company, but it is my pleasure to deliver it personally for July and August during my annual visit. This also means that I am able to meet the family and get to know them a little. The girl is doing quite well at the moment and is growing and developing in a very pleasing way. Her parents even say that she can be quite naughty! A short time ago, she had some pains and it was found in a medical examination that the kidney was starting to grow again. Many people had been praying for her healing and the medical staff were most surprised at this development, which I regard as a miraculous answer to prayer.
Looking to the future, I would like to see a time when the economic situation in Romania means that aid work is no longer necessary. Although I have seen quite a lot of improvements over the years, I think that this is unlikely to happen in my lifetime, but you never know! Therefore, I hope to continue my annual visits and support work for as long as I am able, but it is probable that a time will come when I have to stop. Work aside, many of the people in Iasi are now my friends and I like to meet them and enjoy fellowship with them during my visits.
Roger Wakeford July, 2016.