Friday, 8 November 2013

Update from Petrosani

I've just had an update from Adina, the Centre Manager at Hope for the Colony Community Centre in Petrosani. There are 2 new clubs just started at the Centre - a Maths club, and a teenage youth club. The youth club in particular is an excellent response by the Centre staff to a real need in the community for activites for young people. Well done Adina and all the staff and volunteers. Christmas activities and plans are well underway - the Angels look great and really festive!
Maths Club
The Youth Club meeting
Razvan -  a little Angel

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Recent visit to Romania

I have just returned from a week in Romania, assessing our projects and looking at future funding possibilities.  I flew from Luton to Timisoara with Dave Bennett (a Trustee of our Romanian partner organisation, REACH), and then drove 5 hours to Petrosani. 
It is good to be able to report that under new management the Centre is running really well.  I am sure you all know the activities there – homework club; craft activities; English, Computer and chess clubs; health and eye screening; an elderly project. Adina (the Manager) is very dynamic and committed to helping the people in the Colony, and the work done there will no doubt have a lasting impact on people’s lives. There is a large group of volunteers, some of whom have been faithfully coming to the centre for years, and it was great to be able to talk to them about the shop volunteers in England and to make a very tangible link between what we do here in the shop and what they are able to do in Romania.
As well as the regular clubs (homework, screening, elderly, chess, handy hands) there have been various new initiatives this year.  Of particular note is an Architect Project, run by Mihai, in collaboration with Timisoara and Petrosani Universities and a funding body in Atlanta USA. This is a project to redesign the Colony,  with our Centre at the heart of it. The children were involved and with Mihai and the students they put together a plan to make the Centre more of a focal point in the area. The Centre was awarded a prize for excellence, and there was lots of good publicity, including local TV.  There are 2 possibilities for 2014 – the architect students may come for their practical experience and carry out the changes to the Centre, and there may be some further funding from the US to implement the suggestions. 

I  then spent a day with Julian, of Providenta Divina.  He has a very small charity which aims to help the very poor people in his local area of Petrila, an old mining town just outside Petrosani.  Together with only around 5 volunteers, he does what he can for poor families and elderly people.  He also organises a Summer camp for young people in the local mountains (we usually provide the funding for this).  We provide all the funding for his work with the elderly.   Julian visits the 10 old ladies each week, and responds to immediate needs within the confines of the funding we send.  E.g. if someone needs medicine and can’t afford it he will help them, or if necessary he will help to pay an electricity bill.  The food parcels are regular, once a month.  We also tried to discuss how best to respond to the needs of the old people, other than just giving food parcels and helping in a reactionary way. We may need to look at the area of advocacy – it seems that our ladies receive no state support other than a meagre pension (varies from £30-£60pcm), but should we be putting pressure on the local council to intervene?  In the case of Maria, who we visited; she has no heating and no electricity, she has just been released from hospital, she is bedridden, lives on the 3rd floor of a truly awful block with no lifts.  Without serious help, there is every possibility she will die this Winter – the question is valid, will the State just allow someone like that to die or do they have a responsibility to intervene?  There are many social workers, who appear to collect data but do nothing. In the meantime what little Julian can do for her, provides a lifeline.
The entrance to Maria’s block of flats.  She has to walk up 3 flights of step, and can only walk with the aid of 2 sticks.

This passageway was so pitch black, only the flash of the camera lights it up. 
Maria’s “home” in this block was so awful, and her plight so distressing that we felt unable to take photos of her. 

The lady you can see in the photo was very sweet and friendly despite her terrible living condition, but at least she had some form of heating and electricity.  She is diabetic and has hypertension – her diabetes medicine is free, but nothing else.  She has a small pension, but after she has paid her rent and bills, she has 45lei (around £8) a month to live on.  The first thing she asked me was whether she would be given wood again like last year (you may remember our Christmas appeal for fuel) – I broke the habit of a lifetime and promised her that she would! 

Whilst it was very hard to see how these old people live, and knowing that our 10 ladies are just the tip of the iceberg, it was really good to meet Julian and I am sure that with the funding from HAH he really provides a lifeline – indeed he is providing the safety net which is really the responsibility of the State.  I hope we can help Julian to look into the area of advocacy, but in the meantime it is a project that we will continue to fund and support as best we can.

In Arad, we stayed with Ken and Katy Cloke who run the charity Vis De Copil. They have day centre called the Secret Garden.  In the morning, they cater for poor families from the local area, and in the afternoon it is open for  street kids and homeless people, mainly Roma. They provide food, showers, first aid, a washing machine.  They run various play and craft activities for the kids/children, as well as counselling and help for the adults.  Many of the older street kids (18+) like to join in with the craft activities as they have had no real childhood!  Talking at length with Ken and Katy, I was struck by what an amazing job they do.  They work with the most marginalised, dispossessed and poverty stricken people. 

At present, we support Vis de Copil by paying the salary of 1 worker, Irina.  She started coming to the centre as a “client”, then progressed to a volunteer, and now she is employed.  She mainly helps out with the children, but also helps with the volunteers, literacy/numeracy support, advocacy, as well as anything else which needs doing!  Her employment has had a hugely positive impact, both in terms of helping the “clients” and taking some of the everyday strain off Ken and Katy.

This is a project which is having a massive impact on the lives of those it helps, and one which I hope HAH will be able to support in a greater way in the future.

In conclusion,  it was really worthwhile to see first hand that the money we raise here in the shop is vital in developing and supporting communities in Romania, as well as providing lifelines for people living in the most extreme poverty.




Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Casa Trandafirilor - House of Roses

Here's a quick update from Linda Barnes of RAKE on the House of Roses in Birlad.

"There isn’t a lot to report from Birlad but things are going well. The “kids” have just got back from 2 weeks in camp. Myosotis runs a camp each year for children from their day centre and also poor families. So our young people have joined them partly as helpers, partly to just have fun. Thankfully last we heard the boys were behaving well and being kept busy collecting water, emptying the toilets etc!

The extension is well under way. The boys were issued with caps and gloves the same as the builders and were given some jobs to do which was good. We were a bit surprised by one photo we received to see that the house appears to have been built of some kind of mud and straw, rather than bricks. But never mind, it seems pretty solid! I am going out in September and hope there will be some wonderful home grown tomatoes – they always taste so good in Romania! Mike has bought the tool box etc with the funds from HAH and we will take it over to Myosotis next week as we are having a meeting together. They take a minibus out to Birlad early next month."

Monday, 12 August 2013

Volunteers' Outing

We had a great afternoon at Sussex Prairie Gardens last week.  After a very interesting talk by Pauline, the owner, we all explored the garden and then met up again for tea and cake.  Everyone enjoyed the day, and it was a great way to say thanks to all our hard-working, dedicated volunteers.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Summer Activities at Hope for the Colony Centre, Petrosani

Adina and her team of staff and volunteers have been having a busy Summer.  They have had a team from the UK who put in a damp proof course, as well as fun and educational activities for the local kids, regular eye testing and health screening, as well as the social club for the elderly.
A promotional poster, advertising the Centre's Summer activities

Planting flowers in the courtyard

Volunteers building the model town

Learning about the World

Fun craft activities

Proudly showing off the results!

Regular eye testing continues over the Summer

Games in the courtyard

Building Team Tim, Nick and Phil, with Adina and volunteers

Our elderly ladies take a break in the shade and have a lovely social time

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Hope for the Colony Centre, Petrosani

The guys at the Centre have been working hard to update their blog.  Rather than duplicate all the info they have there - please take a look at the blog, to get regular updates on what is happening.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Update on Christmas Appeal

Thanks to everyone who contributed to our Christmas Appeal for funds to buy fuel for our group of elderly people in Petrila.  We got a good response, both from our shop customers and regular supporters.  I have just received an update and photos from Julian who runs Providenta Divina.  With the added income from the Christmas appeal Julian was able to pay for the electricity and gas bills for those in flats, and also buy a lorry load of wood for those without central heating. 
Here are some photos of the ladies receiving their shoeboxes just before Christmas.  Providenta Divina received them from our Community Centre in Petrosani.