Todiresti, Vaslui County. The house that doesn’t exist is isolated. It has no electricity, no running water, no well, and no roads. Although it has almost nothing you would expect from a house, this building is home for Costică, 37; Roxana, 30; Diana, 6; Rebeca, 5; Andrew, 2, and Iasmina, 10 months. The family barely makes it through the day on an income of less than $100 (USD) per month.
While travelling the roads of Todiresti, Vaslui County, on a deserted field, one can see a small house, hidden between two mounds. The isolated house has no electricity. It has no running water, no well, and no roads. A cart filled with hay is resting near the thin and slightly ill-looking horse that bears the burden of carrying it, whenever there is need for water.
For visitors, the house is nearly impossible to find. With no roads and no sign to indicate its presence, the small, irregular hut, made of clay and straw is nearly invisible. Two friendly dogs and a kitten were only sign that the structure was inhabited.
The family: Costică, 37; Roxana, 30; Diana, 6; Rebeca, 5; Andrew, 2, and Iasmina, 10 months were waiting for us in their home. They were cooking an old sheep (which Costică had received as wages for two days of work). The strong smell of the old meat cooked inside their small room was hard to bare and impossible to escape.
Outside, Roxana said, “This is how we live. These are our living conditions. But, it doesn’t mean we are not a family!” It is easy to see Roxana’s desires to provide a dignified space for her family.
Their home is small, but the beds are made and the children are dressed (albeit in inappropriate clothing for the cool (17 degree Celsius) temperatures). Diana, the eldest, was wearing a pyjama t-shirt and a pair of shorts, leaving her arms and knees naked. Rebecca had a pair of thin pink trousers and a t-shirt. Andrew was barefoot, while the baby was dressed only with a white pyjama. The lack of appropriate attire leaves the family members vulnerable to sickness. Both Rebecca and Andrew were sick.
The family barely makes it through the day on their income of less than $100 (USD) a month—what they receive from the state poverty allowance for their four children. “With this money, we sometimes buy rice or potatoes. If we are lucky and buy some oil, I make them their favourite dish: french fries,” said the mother.
“My sister gave me a brood hen and 20 eggs. I looked after the eggs, and now we have 19 chickens. I could try and raise them into hens, but we do not have food and they might die. So I’d rather use them for feeding my children once a week,” she explained.
Diana is in the first grade and Rebeca is in the preparing class. Their mother used half of their monthly allowance money ($41 USD) to buy them each a school bag, notebooks, drawing pads, colours, uniforms and shoes. For very poor families, it is difficult to purchase a complete package of writing materials, which costs approximately $30 (USD) per child. “My children are going to school!” said Roxana with a determined voice. “I am not going to let them end up like us, with no financial means, no money, and no job. They are not going to live the same struggle we do.”
“I do not know how we are going to get by these months,” she admits. “[But], even if we are going to eat only potatoes and beans, my children have to go school. I don’t want them to feel ashamed because they have no shoes or clothes to wear.”
Diana is the oldest child and the first to be in the first grade. She has a kind and intelligent face. Her clean blond hair was tied up with a rope behind her back. She is very pretty and has warm brown eyes. She shows her notebooks with pride. Although she just began school, she already had two “Very Well” marks written with a red pen for each of the two assignments during her first week in school.
“Her teacher is a very kind woman. She understands our situation and usually sits with her for 30 minutes extra so that she can do her homework in the classroom. She is very fond of our daughter and appreciates her, because she knows that despite everything she is smart and she can learn,” explains Roxana.
Rebecca sat down on the stairs and placed an old medical brochure on her lap. It is clear that she is trying to read. Her mother, who was able to study through tenth grade, told me that she has been using that brochure to teach her daughters how to read. “We do not have any books or newspapers, so I kept this small brochure to teach my children some words. Now, they are practicing,” she explains.
Rebecca is having a hard time going to school. “Her teacher doesn’t like her and teases her in front of the other children,” says the mother. “She feels ashamed in class. After her first day at school, she came back crying and saying that she is never going back,” she explains, noting that Diana had similar problems in the same class last year.
Although they are poor and barely have food, or clothes and they lack water and electricity, there is one thing that is never absent in this family—smiles on their faces and dignity in their hearts.
“We do not beg. We do not look for charity. We look for work and we don’t give up. I may not have running water, but that doesn’t mean I don’t wash my children before going to bed, or I don’t clean up their clothes every week. We may not have television or electricity, but we have each other and that is what is important for me: my family,” said Roxana, their mother.
Powered by faith
“We have faith in God. We pray every morning and every night,” says Roxana. “We don’t go to church every Sunday because the nearest one is 25 kilometres away and it is hard for us to travel in the cart. But, we have God in our hearts and we know He looks upon us as well.”
The house where they live used to belong to Costică’s family. It was deserted for many years. Until four years ago, the family lived with Costică’s mother, in the village. But, the house was also very small and crowded, so they had to move out. “At least here, we are together, by ourselves. We have a patch of land in the village, but we have no money to build ourselves a house. I don’t think we ever will [have money to build a house]. We have been living here for four years, now…” explained Roxana.
The house that does not exist is home for 6 people. But they are not the only ones who live in invisible houses. World Vision has recently begun a development programme, Vaslui 2, which will benefit more than 30,000 from 10 communities—including this family.
After two years of research and community meetings, it was decided to focus on economic development, education, child protection and health sectors over the first five years. World Vision is planning to support farmers and help them to develop their agricultural skills as well as improve their ability to place their products on the market. Additionally, plans are being established to improve the protection of children through the mobilization of rural social workers who will train parents and children in child rights and protection issues as well as facilitate the access of children with disabilities to specialized services.
Also, because access to education has been difficult for many, World Vision will be installing remedial activities for those who are academically behind their peers, to help them catch up as well providing workshops about the importance of education for parents to ensure children’s education is being prioritized at home as well.
Finally, World Vision will be training doctors in the rural areas with new tools for monitoring and supporting the appropriate health and development of children.
“We hope that a change will come in our community, if not for us, at least for our children. We have already seen our children’s reaction when they participated in some World Vision activities at school. We just want what’s best for them,” ends Roxana.