After seeing the dire situation of the people living at Pata Rat dump and of those living in the neighbouring camp called Dallas, we went back to hand out the boots, gloves and socks to everybody there.
Distribution Day 1
We returned to Dallas, a camp of 800 people adjacent to the dump, with Bert, the Director of Pro Rroma, our collaborating partner to sort the boots. We had our work cut out with over 1000 pairs of boots to sort – we definitely felt it the following day! Once they were sorted we went to the dump with Bert, his son and Mihai (one of the leaders in Dallas) who knows each of the families well. He had been enlisted to make sure that everyone got boots and there were no ‘bandits’ who would steal or take more than they need. We worked through the group family by family ensuring each of them was given boots, socks and gloves. Several times Mihai had to move the crowds back as they closed in around us and the boots. In a few hours we had given out over 300 pairs of boots and over 200 of those were to children. When they first joined the group many children that were barefoot or wearing shoes that were in tatters so it was good to see
everyone leaving with their feet protected.
That evening we returned to Dallas to distribute the rest of the boots to those that might have been working and not received them in the morning. The boots were laid out within a gated area and as the distribution began the families came in one by one. It got dark quickly and started to rain so we were working by the light of the van’s headlights but the rain soon got heavier. We had enough time to give out another 300 boots before people started to get impatient and pushing to the front so we stopped and assured everyone that they would get their boots the next day. I think Day 1 was quite an experience and a unique birthday for Kirstie, who did an amazing job!
Distribution Day 2
Five friends with new bootsThe next day we went with Margriet, the Co-Director of Pro Rroma, and 6 volunteers to the dump to help deliver the feeding programme that takes place twice a week. Pro Rroma provide food parcels for each of the children which include sandwiches, fruit, biscuits and juice. There were over 150 children who came running up the hill to the van and sat on the hill and joined in with the songs and games that the volunteers played with them. They took turns to use the soap and buckets of water, and they clearly enjoyed washing off the dirt of the dump and the buckets of water were filthy by the end. The food parcels were handed out and the children ran back to the dump in their new boots clutching their food bags with huge smiles on their faces which really does make it all worth while – even if they are still in dirty clothes with the backdrop of a towering rubbish dump. For that hour they were just children, having fun away from the potential dangers of the dump.
Of the children that we spoke to who live on dump, most of them work 2-3 times a week and often alone and they can earn anything between 1-2.5 euros a day. The majority do not go to school but some of the younger ones attend classes at Pro Rroma’s kindergarten. Of the parents that we met, most had left education in their early teens and overwhelmingly most of them want their children to go on to school and university.
Outside Stoica’s family homeWe were privileged to be invited into one family’s home and we spoke to Stoica Laura Lucia, aged 23. Stoica has 3 young children, her last born just 2 months ago. She has been living on the dump with her husband and children since 2000 and moved there when her parents separated. She followed her mother to the dump as they had nowhere else to go. Although their house is in the middle of the dump they have made the best of what they have to decorate the walls with artificial flowers and cover the uneven ground with rugs they have found. She proudly showed us her tiny young baby, Constantine – all the children are much smaller than they should be so you can imagine how tiny he was.
We are told that often the mothers will breastfeed for several months until their milk stops, or until she does not have enough nutrients to feed the baby. Her husband works hard to support the family but she is adamant her children will not work on the dump and will go to school even if they have to walk for hours in the snow. They are a proud family and present a united front, saying that they will fight for their children’s right to an education and independence even if it means they will eat less and work more. I hope that they make it out of the dump, as is their wish, and I hope that in some small way we have shown them compassion, and given them something to alleviate their day to day struggle, if only slightly. I want them to know they have not been forgotten and that we are acknowledging their existence and their plight by sharing their story with you.
Back at the Dallas camp that afternoon there was still a steady trickle of families coming to collect their boots. Everywhere we looked people were wearing their new boots – in the few days we had been there we handed out over 1000 pairs of boots and socks and over 630 pairs of those went to children – and just in time too! In Cluj the temperature drops between October and November and have reportedly reached -25 degrees! So, thank you again to all of our supporters and donors who have made this project possible, we couldn’t do it without you! We’d like to come back to Romania and check on the workers that we have met, and deliver more aid to those living in the other camps. If you would like to donate for our Romania fund please go to our Donate page and donate what you can.