Today I went on a humanitarian project as a family we know just had a new baby and we had collected a baby bed and some cloths for them. This is a Romani (Gypsy) family but has started their own village to kind of break away from the dead-end cycle that most Romani fall into of falling to the bottom of society with filth, squalor and lawlessness. I’d meet some of them before and had provided them with some foldout couches and a school table but I had not been able to go on the projects to their village till today.
On the outside it was very reminiscent of gypsy settlements in these parts as they build small brick houses without bathrooms (out house in the back) and dirt pathways in-between where they pile up old junk they collect to sort and sell to recyclers. On the surface this looked like no exception.
What surprised me was the kids were every well behaved and almost clean despite the visibly obvious age and wear of their cloths. This young woman we had the stuff for was extremely thankful for the things we had and we were also able to give some of the girl baby cloths to another woman there who had recently had a girl as well. Renata had just had the baby boy the week earlier but you’d hardly tell as she kept an immaculately clean room (what amounted to a converted garage shed) and was a very generous host. I could not have been more at home sitting there then I would at any other low income family I’ve ever visited.
It just shows that race, background or social standing means nothing if you do not let it. This family could easily sit around off the government dole and pimp their kids but they do not. Their 17 year old daughter is finishing high school and hoping to go to teachers collage to work as a teacher fluent in both the national language and their Romani dialect to help other Romani kids integrate and get through school. The mother cleans houses and the father and older son (husband of Renata) do construction jobs in the summer and build houses for other members of their little growing community in their spare time. There is no limit to people with a vision and it is very inspiring and refreshing to see.
I’d been to other Romani settlements were young boys get into stealing and drugs, pre-teen girls wear dyed blond hair and makeup obviously being used to bring in extra income, toddlers crawl around in the mud butt naked all glassy-eyed (due to the mother’s excessive drinking while pregnant) and where the village chief comes to meet us with a long-neck beer bottle sticking out of every pocket of his pants. This clearly was not the case here and I was very thankful. It is very painful to see scenarios like that that is really beyond our control and you feel so bad for the kids that have to live in those conditions due to the wrong choices of the parents.
It was very rewarding to see people trying to help themselves and it encourages us to want to help them more because we know it will not be wasted and we look forward to working more with this little community in different ways in the future.