We have just got back from an exhausting, at times challenging but also rewarding day with Nelu and Cristina of FI (Fundatia Increderea). We visited 12 different families or individuals on our sponsorship programme, and you will be relieved to hear I am not going to write about each one of them! but just pick out a few points from the visits that struck me the most, in the hopes of giving you an impression and insight into the day:
Our first visit was to a married couple who we have visited a few times before – they were delighted to see us and reminded us of our previous visit when we had distributed scissors and other confiscated sharp items (confiscated by airport security in Jersey but much valued in Romania among the poorest of the poor). This couple’s situation has deteriorated as he has cataracts needing surgery and no money to pay for the operation; her sight too has deteriorated severely and recently she fell over something she could not see and broke both her wrists which are now quite misshapen. Nelu was uncertain how much the cost of cataract surgery would be but promised to find out for us. When she opened her box packed by the sponsor she wept with joy as she worked out what the various items were. She said she prayed for the sponsor and hoped the sponsor prayed for her (knowing the sponsor I said I was sure the sponsor did).
The next pensioner was also a married couple and she was so excited when we arrived telling us she had specifically prayed she would have visitors today – she is stuck in the apartment as her husband is bed-ridden and needs constant care. She chided Nelu and Cristina for not telling her we were coming saying if she had known she would have done some baking – last time she gave us things very similar to Jersey wonders and just as delicious. Again we saw the huge excitement at being able to have a box to open and she asked if we would think her very rude if she opened the box immediately instead of chatting anymore.
At the next pensioner’s we rejoiced to see the frail old lady’s joy on finding a tin of chocolates inside the box the sponsor had packed her, she beamed from ear to ear! I was thankful the confectionery was in a sealed tin as had it been a packet that would have smelt of all the soap etc in the box. Nelu explained that he wanted to help her if funds became available to have a shower in a cupboard where she now has a toilet – to have a shower as well would really improve the quality of life for the old woman and her grandchildren for whom she cares. Phil and Nelu spent ages discussing the logistics of where to put the shower if it became possible financially.
At the next pensioner’s we saw the difference a lick of paint can make! This lonely old woman had been very down and appeared depressed when we visited her in December. The young people from the youth club had painted her walls, cupboards, etc. and the change was incredible – not in the brightness of the room but in the attitude of the woman who is now far more positive. Again Nelu wanted to add a shower once again into the dark cupboard where a curtain screened the toilet, only if funds become available.
We then went to a very poor courtyard in a poor area of town where every family was clearly in need, but Nelu had selected two most in need of help. One was incredibly FAT absolutely huge – I felt so sorry for her. She needed help with the quantity of medication she had to take for glandular problems, diabetes and other problems. The other sponsored pensioners in the same yard were a married couple – the wife was paraylsed and sat in the courtyard with the others around her and the man showed us his treasured possession of a bicycle – that was a sight to behold, he had scavenged parts from at least 4 different bikes – the front tyre was off a mountain bike, the back tyre off a racing bike, the saddle looked the most uncomfortable I have ever seen and was covered with a woolly hat. But he was proud of it and it gave him independence. (Much as we in Mustard Seed loathe sending aid items to Romania that is not in good condition after seeing that bike and seeing the value of it to that man I feel we must stop being so fussy with things like bikes as what we throw out would bring joy and help to someone here).
Then came our saddest visit to an elderly man who was the very first client assisted by FI. Now years later when he realised he had a short time left to live (he has terminal lung cancer) he contacted them, introduced himself as it is now different staff, and asked for friendship not financial support. He is assisted daily by a new hospice charity who change his dressings each day and do all they can to help him. He is completely alone – his only child left over 15 years ago and he has heard no more of her and he has no family or even close friends at all. I would suspect the reason the daughter left was because of his alcohol abuse, but he has come out of that, though sadly cannot trace his daughter. It is clear he has only a few weeks, maybe months, to live and he said he wonders what will happen at the end and he wishes there would be someone to bury him. He lives in a rented room which he shares with a stranger.
After a wonderful lunch with Cristina’s mother we continued visiting and again we heard of a vulnerable illiterate widow being cheated by a business man – who got her to sign papers agreeing to his building which almost imprisons her in her tiny little ramshackle home. We continued distributing boxes packed by sponsors and saw one little woman so thrilled with the washing powder that she rushed to embrace us all in her excitement, we saw one very frail lady who kept apologising for her poor health and the fact that she was shaking as she proudly showed the picture the sponsor had included. We met yet another facing blindness because of lack of money for cataract surgery – looking at us hopefully. To another we delivered a wheelchair for which he was really grateful – that was a very rewarding visit (probably the most rewarding of the day) as we have known this family for years and he has a very good wordless relationship with Phil, it was lovely to see his eyes light up when he saw Phil and he almost jumped out of his broken old wheelchair in joy to greet him.
After that we were exhausted, not just from the emotional strain or the traumas of trying to follow Nelu in his car round in a strange city (we only lost him twice today which was pretty good I reckon) but the heat. Someone said it was 28 degrees and quite “close”. Now back at Cefa it became very windy and then began raining but sadly it has not continued as the rain is desperately needed here.