For the past month, we have spent most of our time working out the details of ordering a 40-foot shipping container. A container is like a moving van and contains 20 pallets of goods. Our order is for 5,500 hygiene kits, 2,100 school kits, 480 handmade quilts, and 8 children's wheelchairs. If you have ever donated school supplies or packaged 2 combs, toothpaste, 2 hand towels, 4 toothbrushes, and 2 bars of soap into a zip-loc bag, this is where it goes! As humanitarian missionaries, we are committed to finding trustworthy community organizations that share our values. We network with a variety of organizations and usually, one will lead us to another. Friends trust friend's friends!
With a list of 10 possible recipients from a trusted NGO, we have spent the last 2 weeks finding them (no small feat) and interviewing them. A director of one organization told us where to meet him so he could take us to his headquarters which, he explained, was in a rough part of the city. YOU THINK? We are told that the missionaries are banned from this neighborhood known as the "Ghetto of Bucharest".
On our drive through the neighborhood, our jaws dropped as we saw piles upon piles of garbage. Why the city doesn't take care of this problem is a mystery except for the fact that these "residents" are squatters--they don't pay rent, or taxes. They pirate electricity to watch satellite TV (the dishes are everywhere) but they don't have running water. Thievery is rampant. Young girls become prostitutes at 12, selling themselves for food. It is a different world and we came away sobered and thankful that we could help in some small way.
We're not sure what this girl was up to but when she saw my camera, she ran.
A gypsy wagon in the "hood".
Imagine sending your children out to play in this!
Everywhere, piles of garbage.
We got out of the car to walk closer to this block building but we were turned away by the stench. How can anyone live here? They do!
The satellite dishes!
Meet the hero, Ovidiu Fillipescu in front of a kinder garden and daycare that he organized. He and his wife are teachers and love children. Since they were not blessed with children of their own, they organized this foundation to rescue the children that come from across the street.
The young children come here in the morning where they play on grass and have a hot meal. Unfortunately, they have to go back home in the afternoon.
The teenagers come here also in the morning where they can have a shower and have their clothes washed before going to school. This is a classroom that they come back to in the afternoon to get help with homework.
Since dental care is a luxury here, Ovidiu added this dental office where once a week, a dentist comes to donate his/her time. Next to this, there is a doctors office as well.
Ovidiu told us the story of this 14 year-old girl and then had her join our meeting. When she was about 7, she was noticed living in a stairwell being kept warm by dogs. The dogs would bring her bread, which kept her alive. She has no family and Phillip found her a place to live. Before she goes to school, she comes by the center to help with the children. She is smart and cute and told us she wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up. She loves dogs. They saved her! Really, Ovidiu saved her!
These cute girls were clean and smiling and having a bowl of rice stuff.
As much as I tried, I couldn't get a real smile.
We came away thankful for what we have and what we know. "I am a child of God" rang in our ears. Phillip House will receive 560 hygiene kits and 420 school kits. It's not much but it will make a difference in these lives, as long as we have people like Ovidiu Fillipescu.
After leaving the ghetto, Denny attracted some dust in an eye and after some "doing", we found ourselves headed for a clinic to check it out. Hospitals in Romania are experiences in living in the past. Horror movies are made here!
We found a nice Optometrist and she went through the motions of checking Denny's retina. Here, he is giving the "hand". Touch each finger and say,"You're in Romania now, friend!"