A story of passion and perseverance

Sweet and sour, like the taste of our traditional plum jam

“Sweet and sour, like the taste of our traditional plum jam,” describes Marinela, 29 women's life in rural areas of Romania. Sweet – because they are dedicated mothers who enjoy every moment spent with their children. Sour – due to the lack of opportunities, poverty, challenges they have to face every day. Without any qualification and in the impossibility to commute long distances to the city as they have to remain close to their children, they struggle in vain to get a stable job and offer their children the chance for a better future.

Marinela is the director and a founding member of AgroAlim Cooperative, set up by World Vision Romania, with the support of STOP Hunger and Sodexo Romania, in Predesti community, in 2017. Part of “Empower Women in Need Project”, the main goal of the cooperative is to help single mothers, women who have never been employed, women who work day by day in the community to have a constant economic income and financial independence.

Marinela, 29 years old, has two beautiful daughters: Alessia, 6 years old, and Francesca, 4 years old. She is a hardworking, dedicated, kind and smart young woman. She was born, raised and got married in Predesti. He graduated high school, but she doesn’t have any diploma or other qualifications. She never succeeded in finding a job in her community or nearby. To make a living, her husband has to work abroad in agriculture. They support each other and do their best to offer their children an education and a chance to a better life. 

I have always dreamt of finding a job and also to develop myself so that I can be an example for my daughters, to guide them, to share with them my experience, to give them a proper education. Luckily, I have had the chance to work in the cooperative and I received it as a big opportunity for me and my family. And it was, indeed, life changing, “says Marinela.

At the Cooperative, Marinela together with other four dedicated mothers and hardworking women: Mirela, 30 years old, Veronica, 32 years old,  Viorica, 42 years old, Ionela, 33 years old, grow, process  and sell vegetables. They are not alone as they receive support and guidance from Amalia, an energetic and kind hearted woman, who is the local coordinator of the project “Empower Women in Need”.

 Marinela has participated in a course for workers in public alimentation and learnt, with every day spent at the cooperative, many new things about agriculture and vegetable processing. Most of all, the job allows her to remain close to her children and take care of them. “I am passionate about what I do; I really like the processing part. I add soul and love to every product and the fact that I work in the community, close to my home and girls, makes the perfect recipe for me too,” smiles Marinela.

For the first time, Marinela has a fix monthly salary, almost 500 euros, an indispensable source of income for the whole family. “This is my first job and the first money I earned. It is a feeling I cannot express in words. I use them to take care of my children: to buy them clothes, school supplies, healthy food. Together with what my husband earns, we make step by step improvements to our house”, says Marinela. 

Because she is open, communicative and showed a lot of involvement, Marinela was named the Director of cooperative. At the beginning, it seemed a lit bit challenging as she had to organize the activity and the team, do financial staff, talk with clients and make decisions, but in time, it proved to help her a lot develop and gain new skills and competencies.

“Like many other women in rural areas, Marinela has a hidden potential. As a leader of the cooperative, she got the chance to discover and develop her abilities. She is kind and knows how to talk with people, she is courageous and eager to try new possibilities, she is smart and learns very quickly, she a good person who knows how to keep all women in cooperative motivated,” says Amalia, the local coordinator of Empower Women in Need project develop by World Vision Romania, with the support of Stop Hunger and Sodexo Romania.

At the AgroAlim Cooperative, you can choose from fresh tomatoes, spinach, onions, garlic, peppers or processed products: tomato sauce, vegetable base, vegetable stew, sweet or spicy pepper sauce, sugar-free plum jam, hot pepper jam, all made according to traditional receipts and methods. The products are promoted from mouth to mouth and on the Facebook page of the Cooperative - https://www.facebook.com/CooperativaAgroalim. People come and buy them directly from the Cooperative or the products are sent to the clients by courier. Large quantities of tomatoes and processed products have been successfully sold through various local or even national store chains.

,,My greatest fulfilment is to see that our products are appreciated by customers. That they return and asked for a new order, that they recommend us further. We feel our work is appreciated and so we are valued, and this happens to very few women in rural areas,” concludes Marinela.