Owning a decent house is still a problem in today’s Romania for many categories of people
The most disadvantaged categories are in dire need of a house, as their children don’t have their own room or a proper table where to do their homework.
There are families that live crammed in dormitories for singles or in houses deprived of electricity and heating. Since the authorities are frequently unable to cope with these situations, they turn to community for help. People mobilize to help each other out.
An example in this regard is “Habitat for Humanity – Romania”, an organization based on volunteering. With a 20-year activity, the organization has built houses for families with small incomes or has refurbished the old buildings of poor families.
So far their programs have benefited 64 thousand people as they have built 600 new houses and renovated more than 2,000 buildings spread across Romania in Transylvania, near Cluj and Mediaş, in Moldavia, in Bacău, Comăneşti and Botoşani as well as in Constanţa county, in the southeast. Loredana Modoran is a coordinator with “Habitat for Humanity” and she gives us more details.
Loredana Modoran: “People need to comply with 3 criteria. The first one is the need for a home. The second criterion requires the beneficiary to have a source of income so as to be able to return us the price of the construction materials that we purchased for their houses. Since our programs are meant to make the beneficiaries responsible, we are looking for people who, despite working all day long, obtain too small an income to afford taking out a loan from a bank. These people are trapped in a poverty cycle. We mobilize certain resources, which help them assume responsibility for their lives. The 3rd criterion requires the beneficiaries to work alongside us and our volunteers on building or renovating their houses. Before being selected, the candidates have to volunteer for a number of hours, actually they need to volunteer for about 1 thousand hours or more. We are not giving alms to people, we simply give them an impetus to carry on with their lives afterwards.”
Volunteers work side by side with beneficiaries. They come from all over the world, belong to all social classes and have the most diverse jobs. Veronica Soare is one such volunteer, a radio journalist involved in several charity projects which she describes on her site called “minuni.ro”. She started working on the building sites several years ago and will next share with us her experience.
Veronica Soare: “Working on a building site for several hours gives you a unique feeling. You feel something special when looking at the wall you have just erected, when looking at the people you have just met on the site and you realize that we, the common people, can make a change. It is a great feeling to go to the building site on a Monday morning, where there is nothing but the groundwork or foundation of the house, and then to see with your own eyes how a house emerges with the help of your hands.”
The beneficiaries, in turn, become volunteers and supporters of other beneficiaries. The money which they pay by installments, without interest rate, for the materials used to build their houses will go into a fund. Then, the money will be invested in other construction projects. Veronica Soare could experience the joy people feel when helping their fellows.
Veronica Soare: “This year I have visited one of the families that had a house built last year. And I was impressed by two things: the mother was very happy that she now had a decent place where to raise her children and she expressed her wish to go to work as a volunteer at the building site, to help other people just as other people helped her. I don’t know if these people have ever volunteered before but they have now understood what it means to be helped, and so they want to give a hand in their turn.”
Bacău county, a region with many disadvantaged areas, has benefited from this system of building houses with the help of volunteers for 12 years. Andrei Chirilă, the coordinator of the Comăneşti branch of “Habitat for Humanity” organization talked about the social problems people are facing in this region.
Andrei Chirila: “I could say that the existing houses across Romania are rather old, many need repair works as families have no longer invested in refurbishment. There are many young families with children who still live in the same apartment with their parents or other relatives. These people really need to have their own space. Some families have even asked us to help them purchase central heating systems, to replace their old wooden windows with plastic PVC windows and insulate their walls to save money on heating bills.”
The demand for houses is very high, so new building sites will be set up in Comăneşti and its surroundings where volunteers will work to help their fellows have a decent home.