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Archive for the ‘Social Solutions’ Category

Today I went for the second time to a club run by a local NGO for drug users and those who are current users and those rehabilitated to come and talk and relax and or see the on hand psychiatrist to help them with the many struggles associated with addiction and staying clean. I’ve just gone there mainly to listen and here their stories and talk to the staff who are very dedicated to helping these ones without being critical and condemning as I realize as much as you might just want to say “you stupid, don’t do that” once they are into heroin or other hard drugs it really does not help as it has to be their own decision and determination to quite and want to do more with their lives. It is agonizing to see, but they are all adults and have made those choices for themselves and have to want to change in their mind first, and when they do they are here to help.

I really do not know much about this at this time but am quite interested in this program as drugs is one of the biggest social problems in Croatia and particularly in coastal towns like Rijeka and Split. Some of my friends and I volunteer there every two weeks now and just converse with them to give them understanding and learn about them, some come from broken homes and bad childhoods, are single parents etc. no one I’ve seen yet was a current user smacked-out at the time but I hear at night or weekends (as it is a 24 hour center) it gets hard users on hard drugs that can be real intense even for the trained staff but that is life and the awful truth even in this paradise.

I’d like to help more and maybe accompany the staff one night or go on a needle exchange field operation to have more first-hand understanding of this program to better relate to those that come from this and what they are up against here in this city.

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ck-roma-kids2-august06-jw.jpgToday I went with part of a local NGO and they had a lot of extra clothes and toys and had been hoping to visit the Roma (gypsy) village I wrote about before so we finally made time for it and took two truckloads of useful items we had for them including clothing, bedding, winter blankets, household items and toys for the children.

Again I was impressed with the orderliness of the children. We brought school supplies and cuddlies for them and they patiently waited their turn, the younger ones even holding hands waiting their turn while the school-aged kids got notebooks, pencils and erasers for the start of school next month.

ck-roma-kids-august06-jw.jpgAnother thing that struck me was how appreciative they were for the simplest of things as they really live a simple life on the margins of society, while public school is provided for they do not have much else and used toys, dolls, tricycles, and new toothbrushes were like having an early Christmas for them.

We also distributed donated glassware to each of the 15 households that make up this “village” as well as fresh milk and childcare material in the local language for each family.

It is always fun to visit this place as despite there ethnic background and lifestyle they have found their own way and created for themselves and there families an island of hope and understanding free from crime, drugs and substance abuse so rampant in other gypsy villages and even some sub-circles of society at large.

We were inspired too by the improvements they’ve made even since our last visit as the village elder who started this village who is a builder added a bathroom and living room addition to his small house to improve the living conditions as they have 11 extended family members that until now had to trek to the outhouse in the forest.

This is the first such bathroom I have ever heard of in a gypsy village and he hopes to repeat the idea to the other houses in their community and has appealed to us for donated bricks to be able to make this a reality sooner for the other households too before the winter months set in.

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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.

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