In search of pristine happiness – by Marco Chan

On the 4th day of our trip to Romania, we first visited a subsidized school in the morning. After lunch, we visited two families and held a brief sharing session with IKEA Switzerland co-workers at the end of the day.

Marco Chan
Marco Chan

The children we met all have different personalities. Some of them are lively, some are quiet and some had this sad look on their faces. Despite that, we still endeavoured to get involved with them and to play with them. We made the lively ones laugh; and for the quiet ones, we used a more sensitive approach to show them that we care about them.  Fortunately, we could always find the key to make them happy and laugh each time.

The high-spirited children...
The high-spirited children…
... and the shy one...
… and a shy one…

What I learned after visiting schools and homes here is that it is important to give these children a quality education and to care for them by spending time with them, helping them improve their self-confidence, so that they have a better chance to improve their lives.

In the afternoon we visited two families. Although their houses are situated inside the city, the living conditions are very poor. I noticed that the exterior wall of one of the houses is made with wood, Styrofoam and concrete. This is because without sufficient money, the wall could not be built solely from concrete. We could only imagine when a storm hits, there will not only be serious leakage, but their lives will also be threatened due to such simple and crude design.

A closer look at the exterior wall
A closer look at the exterior wall
The Roma family who lives there
A family.
They have to sleep in the open - there is no roof!
They have to sleep in the open – there is no roof

In addition, their cooking place is located outside the house. The temperature during wintertime in Romania could fall to as low as -25C since there are no surrounding mountains to act as shelter. On top of that, there is also heavy snowfall. It is hard to imagine how they cook under such intense weather conditions.

These Roma children are still able to survive even when they are faced with poverty and discrimination. In comparison, we city people are much more fragile. In the sharing session, one of our members, Connie, said: “With good education, one day, they will certainly see the sunshine.”

It is true, after the dusk, it’s dawn.

I remember I met a little boy who lives in a remote village. He said, “Marco, you have to come here again!” Maybe it is a farewell and not a goodbye, but I will continue to cheer for him and his classmates from the other side of the world. I hope he can continue to be strong and live to see the better future that these children all strive for.

Good luck, little boy!
Good luck, little boy!

Children, thank you for showing me the most beautiful thing on this earth – your smiles.  When I am weak, I will think of you and that will give me strength and courage to live on!

Beautiful smile!
Beautiful smile!
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