On our first day in Iasi Arpi gave us a huge insight into the lives of its residents. He led us into some of the most beautiful, bustling parts of the city, which completely shifted my prejudices towards life in Romania.
After this we were collectively introduced to some of the many homeless people that the charity is trying to help. Once we were informed by our guide of each homeless individual’s story and name, we sat with them and drank Cola in the King’s Park. One of the men offered us a look at the place where he had slept for eight years. Some of our group were stunned into silence: the squat was comprised of a derelict shed in the city centre, overlooked by an abandoned communist block, which happened to be home to about a hundred people just like this man. We said our goodbyes and returned through Romania’s largest shopping mall. This contrast of homelessness and concentrated wealth stunned me.
Iasi is a city of polar opposites, unlike anything I have ever experienced before, but people like Arpi and his family are working incredibly hard to support and protect the vulnerable on the streets, many of whom are much more welcoming than the average Briton.