Monday December 15th

We started by visiting a small state orphanage for handicapped children and young people it was the same place as I went to last December. Usually foreigners, even Romanian members of the public, are not allowed in, but as we were delivering Christmas shoeboxes we were given permission to visit. We were shown round. There are 14 young people ages ranging between seven and twenty-one handicapped mentally and physically who will always need support. The building was built by business men from UK about 10 years ago and they funded the salaries and running costs. Last year it was taken over by the department for the protection of children, who now fund and run it. The agreement they have with the donors is that the original young people will always be part of the programme, otherwise the young people over the age of eighteen would not be in such good surroundings.

We spent the rest of the day with Nelu of Fundatia Increderea, visiting sponsored pensioners and others Nelu wants to assist with our help. He re-iterated that Mustard Seed Jersey is the only trust who provides material and financial help for the needy people and families they assist. Of course we did not see all the pensioners Nelu had hoped, but we spent some quality time with those we visited.

Again all of us have different memories of what moved us or challenged or thrilled us but I will share what sticks with me. Firstly the difference in provision for handicapped adults at the state orphanage where special provision was made for the original handicapped young adults, there is good provision, ongoing stimulation and care. But for a family with three mentally and physically handicapped adult children there are only the four walls of the house and the devotion of 2 elderly parents so inevitably a very uncertain future as inevitably one day the parents will pass away. That was a sad family to visit and raised challenging questions.

Once again we saw the huge joy when pensioners found soap in their shoeboxes. We visited one lonely little old lady who wept with joy and kissed the bars of soap, so thrilled was she to know she had soap! We saw old friends who I have seen countless times before over the years, got hugged and kissed numerous times.

We went into the basement where one lad lives who attends the youth club Nelu and his wife Cristina run. With no natural light and a ghastly stuffy damp smell in a tiny room one teenage lad lives with his mother who was out at work. The boy has an eye complaint. Their total income is about the equivalent of 90 a month with the mother's earnings a month, but the rent is 40 a month. It was grim there.

It has been a tiring day, we have driven miles around Oradea following Nelu's car going from family to family distributing shoeboxes and food parcels. We have spent time with people and I believe most genuinely appreciated our visit and were pleased we were with Nelu but one man who had suffered a stroke and was partly paralysed was clearly embarrassed that we saw his house. I personally marvel at the courage we have seen in the face of suffering and poverty and loneliness.

Early in the morning Nelu arranged that we would meet a reporter from the local newspaper. I commented to the reporter on the contrasts between the wealth and plenty of the streets near the centre of Oradea and then behind the closed iron gates on the same streets are courtyards full of tiny desperately poor dwellings where there is no water, no electricity and unbelievably bad conditions.



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