What amazing days we have had and the trip isn’t at its end. Even with these rainy days, and the worst traffic, we checked off all the meetings from the trip’s agenda. After each day we have gathered to summarise where we visited, and what we saw and felt.
Extreme poverty: two harsh words that come to your mind when you see these places and the lack of basic living conditions. “The smell of mould and dampness knocked me over,” Leela, IWitness ambassador, Australia, confessed after the visit to the house of one of the girls who was in the Save the Children programme. Ongoing health issues
from living in these conditions may become another problem for a family who already has little. It was clear to us that these families were unable to treat us, as their guests, with the smallest of offerings. But we witnessed their hospitality—they insisted we did not need to remove our shoes when entering their homes—and even with these daily struggles their hearts are large and eyes warm with gratitude. “We had been briefed on challenges that Roma children and children with mental disabilities are facing in Romania, but nothing can prepare you for emotional shock,” said Maja, IWitness ambassador, Serbia. But apart from everything, their willingness to go to school is amazing, to be a part of everything. If you think about it, they didn’t ask for it. They didn’t ask to be from Roma community or for their families to be poor. They didn’t have the opportunity to choose. “There are a lot of mixed feelings,” said Ruzica, IWitness ambassador, Croatia. “Sadness to see that something that we take for granted—education—is not available for everyone but also excited and happy to see that the programme has enabled positive changes for kids and their families.” What’s more amazing? We met Lonut, 13 years old, who was part of the Second Chance programme, and now he is volunteering in the school helping younger kids. You cannot have a better role model.
“Emotions are running high,” said Tracey, IWitness ambassador, Australia. “I have been moved to tears when witnessing such poverty, but also to laughing and singing with children in schools. What is evident is that children need education to ensure they have the opportunity to live the best life that they can. ”
It’s hard to handle so much information, to accept that these situations are real. The best is to slow down for a while, to understand that life is precious, that sometimes we don’t get to choose, things happen in life without picking the ‘who’ or ‘when’. In the end we see them as children, with dreams, eager to play, eager to learn, to ask why, to be loved, to be accepted, to have their rights accepted.