This report was sent by David the driver of our April/May trip 2009:


I have to thank you, Rose, for the privilege of driving the Mustard Seed lorry to Romania and indeed the added pleasure for the opportunity for Angela my wife to accompany me. She has heard me relate my experiences each time that I return but to experience it first hand is something quite different.

Having previously done ten trips to Romania I have seen an enormous change in the country and not having been last year I wondered what changes I would see?

I expected some as each time there are new supermarkets, depots, improvements in cars and a general feeling of betterment, although not necessarily in the villages. But nothing could have prepared me for what I saw; the change has accelerated with many new shopping malls, depots and supermarkets, the old Dacia cars are now well outnumbered by flash cars. There is little evidence of the beaten up old lorries.

Even the pot-holed ring road around Oradea is being replaced with a posh dual carriageway.  The city people have a new look about them, is this Oradea or any other cosmopolitan city? Paradoxically, I was concerned. With all these changes in the city, what has happened to the villages, the old people and the homeless?

The change was only superficial. If I have ever seen an example of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer this was it. Foreign business is pouring into the country and many Romanians see an opportunity to get rich on the back of that money. But there is no evidence of the improvements filtering down to the poorest.

The Mustard Seed development at Cefa continues apace, thankfully it has now become home to the girls that Alex and Rodi Stroie had been supervising. Their flat in Oradea had become so expensive that they had no money left after paying rent and bills for food. They will live in the chalet at Cefa and in the part of upper storey of the new Old People’s Home which is completed and is absolutely fantastic.

The remainder of the field is becoming a vegetable garden, with neat rows of potatoes and corn. Alex plans more vegetables and fruit trees, hoping that they can become largely self sufficient. The considerable labour involved will provide work for the girls should they not have a job, which is the first option.

Old people will soon be moving in and we imagine that for every place there will be dozens even hundreds of needy. The pension paid to the elderly in Romania is paltry and we saw evidence of suffering. There are also some elderly suffering at the hands of some of the get-rich-quick brigade who trick them into signing away their homes.

The boxes supplied by those ‘Adopting a Granny’ were superb and very gratefully received, many a tear was shed! Movingly, in one box a photo had been included and the old lady who received it kissed it tearfully. So clearly the elderly need to be a continuing priority.

The three houses in Voivez village supplied by Mustard Seed are proving that needy families, given a good chance, can work hard and provide for themselves.  They will need monitoring to ensure that they continue to progress and will require help with their construction and maintenance needs. Two of the houses are owned privately and this is an excellent way of helping needy people, with long term benefit to the donor. Perhaps others may wish to help in this way. It is excellent that these small houses have large gardens that can provide enough food for a family.

Back at Cefa the kindergarten school and homework club at the little school house continue to be a success. Marianna and her helpers seem to have boundless energy, love and care for the children attending. Many of the children would not do any homework without this facility and probably give up on school altogether, particularly as many of the parents do not see the need for schooling.

Pleasingly, the kindergarten seems just like any nursery school you might walk into in Jersey, in the sense that it was full of laughter, singing, chatter and play. The children were well disciplined but full of fun , enthusiasm and joy. Considering the challenge of their background, that is a considerable compliment to Mustard Seed and to Marianna.

Despite the changes around the city the villages remain very poor, and still for many the only transport is the pony and cart. A bicycle is a very valuable possession. There is some evidence of houses being improved and the streets are a patchwork of contrasts.

We spent Sunday with Nelu and Christina of F.I. They have a youth club and other activities from the office and Alcohol and Drug rehabilitation centre. They are hoping to install some of the computers that they received from Jersey to give children who have no access to a computer the chance to learn computer literacy. 

We had the opportunity to speak to their Sunday school class and found that the children there were very bright and want to improve their country, feeling that it has a low standing in the order of things. They asked us, in impressive English, what they themselves could do,  we replied ‘Education is most important, maybe one of you can one day become President and make the right changes.’

For the first time in all my trips we had a small amount of time to ‘be tourists’ and saw a little of the beauty of this amazing country. Those children have a lot to be proud of.

The trailer was superbly loaded and was possibly the heaviest that I have driven down there. Very good building materials, boxes of clothing, computers, wheelchairs  and bicycles all came out in a well organised unloading event and two hours later the various organisations had all removed their aid and Alex and his helpers had stored their stuff in the shed.

We noticed that in spite of Romania’s entry into the EU,  there remains a great need for aid and finance to relieve the suffering particularly of the elderly and the homeless.  Continued help for the education of the poorest is essential. Those with health needs need help, as the resources provided by the state often prove inadequate. But above all our support for those out there working on a daily basis with all these needy groups is VITAL.

The simplest teaching is the strongest and we were taught to ‘Love your Neighbour.’  Our neighbour may be the chap over the hedge needing a hand, but he is also the elderly, the homeless, the gypsy, the sick, the child from an impoverished family,  and the social worker struggling against the odds in Romania.



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