After a 24-hour journey from South Australia, I arrived in Bucharest. Flying into the city, I noticed the rural fields and barren landscape, trees were bare and fields empty of crops. Bucharest is emerging from the winter, in fact it was snowing just hours before I arrived and just quietly I was hoping for it to stay a little longer.
Travelling on this IWitness trip is Leela from IKEA Perth, Ruzica from IKEA Croatia, Maja from IKEA Serbia and Simona from IKEA Romania. We come from many different backgrounds, all here to share in this experience.
We are hosted by Save the Children Romania. In the next four days they will show us the great work they are achieving in the field, funded by the IKEA Foundation through the Soft Toys for Education campaign.
The context Save the Children Romania is working in is very challenging, as we heard today from CEO Gabriela Alexandrescu, who leads a small team of dedicated staff. While here in Romania, we are learning more about the situation of the Roma children and children with mental health problems.
The Roma population is estimated to be over two million with only 600,000 being registered. This means that almost three quarters of Roma people are invisible to the system and have no access to basic education, health and social services. In fact, 80% of Roma children will leave school by grade 2 (aged eight years).
Today we had an opportunity to visit a school where Save the Children runs support programmes for the Roma children. These programmes are designed to provide the children with social and emotional skills in a child friendly environment.
We were treated to a warm welcome by the children, who gave us an example of traditional Romanian dancing and singing. Their friendly faces and kind hearts made us feel extremely privileged and encouraged to learn more about the wonderful work being done here.
Mario, our little Michael Jackson, was the star of the performance. His mother Maricica, who cannot read and write herself, told us: ’’I do not want my children to be like me with no education. I want a better life for my children.’’
What an amazing day it has been—I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.