SOS Children's Villages started working in Romania shortly after the images of post-Ceausescu Romanian orphanages shocked the world. More than two decades have passed, and although the lives of children in Romania have improved, many families still struggle to care for their children.
Many children cannot afford to go to school
Playing outside an SOS family home (photo: K. Ilievska)
Cisnadie is a town in Transylvania, about ten kilometres away from the bigger city of Sibiu. The population of the town has fallen since the Romanian revolution of 1989 - there are an estimated 15,700 inhabitants at present.
The area has traditionally been known for its production of textiles, including carpets. The agricultural production of fruit, corn and potatoes has also been important, as have the manufacturing and construction industries.
The changing political conditions of the past decades have also brought about social and economic changes. Many people have been forced to leave the area in search of work as the local textile industry has been in decline. Although the local authorities are trying to modernise the infrastructure and so hope to increase the productivity of the area, local residents often find it hard to find a job. Unemployment rates are particularly high among young people and women.
Life is full of difficulties for people living in poverty in the area. Very often their homes are inadequate and overcrowded. Many lack clean water and decent sewage. Access to education and health is not easily available either. Countless families struggle to meet the basic needs of their children. As a result, children are often socially isolated - parents cannot afford to send them to school, and without a decent education it is hard to imagine a brighter future for these children.
SOS Children's Villages gives direct support to children in need
Over the past two decades little investment has been made at a local level to provide health, education or support to children in need. At a time when poverty is rising and an increasing number of children are losing parental care, SOS Children's Villages is providing vital support to families. In a country with an underfunded health-care system, we give families health advice and ensure that their basic needs are met so that children can go to school and receive an education. We run special programmes which allow children to attend school and receive a nutritious meal while they are there.
What we do in Cisnadie
An SOS family at the table (photo: E. Meier)
SOS Children's Villages provides different kinds of assistance to the local population: support to vulnerable families, medical treatment and counselling, pre-school education, loving homes for children without parental care and a youth programme.
Our organisation works closely with the families in the neighbourhood so that they can stay together. In collaboration with local agencies we ensure that children have access to essential educational, health and nutritional services - in some cases this involves giving families material aid. We also provide advice on health issues and psychological counselling. We support adults so that they can find work. In 1995 the opening of the SOS Kindergarten, which can care for up to 100 children, was welcomed by parents from the neighbourhood who have to go to work or attend training.
The SOS Playmobile Bus often visits the area allowing children to play imaginative and educational games or take part in craft, dancing or theatre activities - it hopes to give children a chance to forget about their daily struggles and to increase their self-confidence.
Children who can no longer live with their families can find a loving home in one of the twelve SOS families. The SOS mothers provide a loving and stable environment where children can flourish. When children are ready to leave their families they can move to the SOS Youth Programme in the nearby city of Sibiu. Young people attend further education or training, while they are guided by professionals so that they can learn to live independently.
In 1997 a holiday camp was set up, and since 1999 an annual meeting has taken place, bringing together Romanian and Bulgarian children who are in the care of SOS Children's Villages.