Back from her recent trip to Romania to cover the brutal cold and snow that buried much of Eastern Europe, leaving many families struggling to survive, World Vision's Laura Reinhardt shares a story of how World Vision sponsorship in a small community is helping to break the cycle of poverty and social stigma.
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Brightly colored houses dot the tiny Romanian village of Camarasu. The vivid hues are a signature of the Roma people, who are often called gypsies. One home in particular caught my eye. It was painted two of my favorite colors -- green and purple.
Tiberiu Gaspar, a father of five, built this house out of materials cast off by other villagers. Across Europe, the Roma people have been viewed a bit like this -- castoffs, shunned as beggars and thieves.
That’s not how World Vision sees them. World Vision is invested in their present and in their future.
'Sometimes the warmth…means more than the food'
Tiberiu stoked the fire to keep the two-room home warm. It was a critical task because Europe, and especially Romania, was being hit hard with some of the coldest temperatures and worst snows it had seen in decades.
As winter began, the Gaspars' old stove had broken down. World Vision’s economic development program -- one of the components of sponsorship -- provided the family with a new stove, which keeps their home cozy. “Sometimes, the warmth in the house means more than the food in the order of priority," Tiberiu said. "So, it is very important.”
He stressed just how valuable the stove is to the family. “We were really lucky that we received [the stove]. When Natalia (World Vision’s social worker in the community) comes bringing us something, it’s like the president of Romania comes bringing us something," he said.
"Who would have given us 600 lei (about $185) to buy a stove? It’s a fortune.”
World Vision also provided the family with building materials to help insulate their home. Before that, only two thin layers of wood separated them from the elements.
Paving the way for the future
Adriana Soporan (center), 21, herself a former sponsored child, volunteers at the World Vision center for Roma children.
World Vision’s center for Roma children sits just down the road from the family’s home. After school, the children in the community go there for food, help with studies, and to play games. The center is a part of World Vision’s educational work within sponsorship.
Volunteers help children with their homework. Then they play games, which are a fun way of teaching the kids socialization and problem-solving skills.
Three of the Gaspars' five children attend the center. “It’s nice there because they give us food and we play,” said 7-year-old Ronaldo. Food is especially important in this agricultural community, where it’s often in short supply during winter months.
“I like [the center] because I learn things, because I play, I read,” said Cosmin, 12. Their sister, Nina, 11, added: “It’s beautiful there because we read and we write.”
Education: A key to escape poverty
Ronaldo, 7, receives assistance with his homework from a volunteer at the children's center.
Tiberiu and his wife, Cristina, both want their children to be well-educated.
Two years ago, Tiberiu worked in the city of Cluj, Romania, doing construction, but when the economy began to falter, he lost that steady income. Now, he and Cristina work where they can in their village, but the work is agricultural and only available in the summer and fall.
“[Education] means having a future, because we don’t want them to be like us. We don’t them to be like us, because for us, it’s too late now,” Tiberiu said. “Having school means having a job and having opportunities.”
Tiberiu can read and write, but Cristina cannot. For many families in rural Romania, the cost of an education is prohibitive. To continue beyond grade school, children have to relocate to the town where the high school is located. Families must pay for food, lodging, and transportation, which they cannot afford on their minimal income.
So, for most, this means that their education ends after grade school.
World Vision is committed to providing the tools necessary for a brighter future for children like Ronaldo, Nina, and Cosmin. It’s also dedicated to meeting immediate needs, such as clothing, shelter, and heat.
Through sponsorship, the children receive help for today and hope for tomorrow.
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Sponsor a child in Romania today. Your love and support for a boy or girl in need is a priceless investment -- not just in present well-being, but in a future of hope and dignity.