Monday 23 November we left for Unceste, near the Romanian town of Negresti which is about 40 minutes by car from Iasi where we’ve been staying.
The village is very rural and we embark down a path off the main road through fields without a house in sight. You really feel like you’re going to the back of beyond. 150 families live here and it’s 15 kilometres to the nearest doctor and 22 kilometres to the closest shop.
After about ten minutes of driving through the countryside we reach the village at 11am. We are greeted by a man collapsed on the side of the road, Vali one of the project leaders gets out of the car and checks he’s ok, he’s drunk. The man is breathing and sleep talking. We leave him there to come round. It’s a freezing cold day, so lying on the ground cannot be doing him any good.
Our first visit when we arrived was to visit the People against Poverty/ Business against Poverty micro-farm. The land was bought two years ago and since its inception has really flourished. The first thing to be done was to drill down and get the water. After this they built pens for the livestock and a poly-tunnel for growing produce. The poly-tunnel structure was built this summer by students from St Laurence School in Bradford on Avon led by John Williams who is the charity’s education director. John organises educational fundraising trips for the charity. I was really proud as an ex-pupil of the school to see such a fantastic building created.
People against Poverty and the networking arm of the charity Business against Poverty plan to complete a home for the farm’s caretakers Costel and Tatiana. Funding so far has been raised by platinum BaP member Gooseberry Bush Nurseries (who have nurseries across Wiltshire) has been named in thanks to them, Gooseberry House. However, further fundraising is required to complete the house as it needs a roof, windows, doors and money spent on its interior which will cost approximately £5,000.
The idea behind the farm is that it helps the rural community become self-sustainable providing food and jobs for the local area. The charity doesn’t give hand-outs, it works with the locals to help them help themselves build brighter futures.
After visiting the micro-farm project we walked down a country lane to visit some of the families. The most poignant house visit was to see a lady who had recently had a baby. When she came out of the house babe in hands we all guessed the baby’s age. When we were told 6 months we all said “No,no, you mean six weeks.” Sadly what we were being told was correct, she was six months old, but because she was so severely malnourished she hadn’t developed the usual skills we would expect a child of this age to have, such as being able to crawl or sit up. She was very small and under weight too.
As we drove away from the village I was flabbergasted. How could a baby be born in an EU country and be so deprived? Visiting these homes definitely made you feel that you were in a third world country and certainly not in the 21st century as we know it in the UK.
Our last evening was spent enjoying some traditional hospitality, put on by project leaders Raul and Dana. One of the treats was some homemade cherry brandy, it was delicious. After dinner we enjoyed singing songs karaoke style accompanied by Raul playing acoustic guitar. It was a great evening and it was lovely to be surrounded by such warm, giving people that devoted their lives to improving others.
I’m writing this sat on the plane home, reflecting on what a journey I’ve been on. I’ve learnt so much about Romanian culture and the country’s difficulties, it makes me feel so fortunate to be heading home to a warm house, with running water. The first thing I want to do is run a bath. Such an everyday luxury I entirely take for granted. I don’t think I’m going to be able to wash for a while without feeling grateful for the card I’ve been dealt.
To find out more about the work of Business against Poverty and to register your interest in becoming a member visit: www.businessagainstpoverty.com