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In Bucharest the Marists are dreaming, or at least that’s how it seems to us



Visit of Esperanza Aguirre to the Marist community in Bucharest

10/02/2006: Romania

Brother Juan Carlos Sanz Miguel sent us the page references of the Spanish magazines that have published the notice of the visit of Esperanza Aguirre, President of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, to the Marist community of Bucharest. Following this are some press cuttings outlining the most significant aspects of this news.

The President of the Madrid Community has presided over the signing of a protocol to promote with 300,000 euros an integration programme for homeless children in Romania that will respond to the social needs of forty minors, between six and eighteen years of age, as from next summer.
This programme will see the commencement of the Saint Marcellin Champagnat Centre, which will be ready in the coming months with four houses for young people and a sports building among other installations.
This project aims to cover the basic needs of the minors who have lost their homes and to accompany and encourage their education to guarantee an adequate integration into society and the working force in the future. It also aims to promote a programmed reintegration into their families to re-establish lost links for the young people and their families. As well, the construction of some occupational training workshops is planned so that the minors can develop professional skills. ( http://www.madrid.org)

Aguirre visited a house in which six Romanian children are being lodged, five of whom are gypsies who have been abandoned. Each year some 4,000 to 5,000 minors are abandoned and there is little help for them, noted Juan Carlos, one of the Marist Brothers who works in this centre and who previously worked in the Vallecas slums in Madrid.
The Marists arrived in this country eight years ago and since then have worked with young people to provide a family atmosphere in which problems such as school absenteeism can be avoided. They also hope to alleviate the pain caused by being abandoned that these minors suffer. Some have been left abandoned in hospital for up to two years, the police finally intervening and taking them to a centre such as the one run by the brothers.
The abandonment of minors is not new in Romania, but goes back to the time of Ceaucescu “when there was a lot of talk of having many children to make a great country without caring about how to look after them as the State would take charge of them,” Juan Carlos said. Now, these “children” are 25 or 30 years old and their “home” is near the pipes that carry the hot water for the central heating.
To avoid such situations is the aim of the Saint Marcellin Champagnat Centre and today Aguirre recognises the work done by the Marists in over seventy countries in the world working with “the weakest, most neglected and most in need.” In the case of Bucharest, four houses will be built to accommodate forty young people who will also have access to cultural and sporting facilities. “It will be the closest experience of a family that these children will have had,” noted Aguirre.
The head of the Executive stressed the importance of being committed “to the young people and their future” and of collaborating in projects that improve the “prosperity and the future of Romania.” As well, she emphasised that the Romanians are “ a very venturesome and valiant people and we share many similarities, among them the Latin root of our languages which is one of the reasons that 120,000 Romanians have chosen Madrid as the place to seek opportunities that they could not find in their own country.” (Taken from: http://www.telemadrid.com)

Mariano Calleja, from “ABC” relates the visit to Bucharest this way: His name is Lain and he is eleven years old. He is Romanian and his parents abandoned him shortly after birth, as happens here in this country with four or five thousand children, according to Government figures. Lain is lucky because a judge has sent him to a house of welcome run by the Spanish Marist Brothers, situated in one of the slum areas of Bucharest. Many other boys live and grow up on the streets, finding whatever food they can and in winter taking refuge near the pipes that carry the hot water for the central heating. The poverty of this country is evident at the turn of each corner.
The President of the Community, Esperanza Aguirre, visited this house yesterday afternoon where Lain lives with five other boys. They are waiting for the arrival of two more. They, and the Marists, are his family. In summer, they will move to another centre, formed by four one family houses, for which the regional Madrid government has donated 300,000 euros. In each of these houses, between eight and ten minors up to eighteen years of age will live. In having four family sized homes, the project avoids the larger building where the littlest ones can get lost in indifference. The Marists, driven by their dreams and vocation, want to give them a life so that they have a future, in an environment that is as close to being a family as possible, without stopping them from intending, some day, to return to their own family http://www.abc.es

The correspondent from El Mundo added: The six Marist Brothers – five of them Spanish and one of them Greek – are pushing ahead this project of building a four house “village,” in which they can look after, educate and accommodate forty children who have been sent their by the courts as the majority of them are forced to steal in order to be able to survive.
The money that the President has committed will serve, as she herself explained, as a “grain of sand” so that those abandoned children “can become free citizens” and have a worthy occupation that allows them to “contribute one day to the improvement of the economy of their country.”
The 300,000 euros from the Madrid Community will help to build a multi-sports hall in the new four-house village, so that the young ones can play sport in a country as cold as Romania.
The Marists are financed by donations from Caritas, from Caja España, from their own association, and by the eight euros that the Romanian government gives monthly for each child, taking into account that the average salary in Romania does not exceed 150 euros a month. ( http://www.elmundo.es)

And Jaime G. Treceño, special envoy from La Razón, evaluated the situation of childhood in Bucharest in this way: Childhood in Romania is a luxury that not all the children can be allowed. Between 4,000 and 5,000 children are abandoned by their parents every year, according to the organisations that work with them. A few consciences may be stirred if one keeps in mind that this country has a population of 22 million people and that in the capital, winter temperatures fall to twenty degrees below zero.

Here it is not possible to carry out international adoptions. The Romanian Government prohibited them soon after a scandal of trafficking of minors was discovered some years ago. “Here the so-called ‘street children’ do live on public roads. Housing is a luxury and there are no abandoned houses where you can find cover, so refuge is taken near hot water pipes of the central heating,” assured Juan Carlos, a Marist who arrived in Bucharest in 1998, working in a project to help these young lads. With him are five other Spanish co-workers and one Greek, all of them, Marists. “The Romanian government gives us very little help as they have few resources. They give us about eight euros a month per boy,” one of the other co-workers pointed out.
The cortege of journalists credited in Esperanza Aguirre’s official trip to Bucharest has contemplated in situ the difficult situation of the minor. On Sunday, the day of their arrival, they encountered from the security of the bus that transported them to the hotel a boy no bigger than ten years old practically thrown into the street, barefoot and trembling. “There have been cases in which a boy has been interned in a hospital by his parents and then has been left there for up to two years. The parents dont take any responsibility. They have the children and practically from the time the children can cope on their own they toss them into the street,” Juan Carlos points out. The Marists welcome four minors in a house in the outskirts of Bucharest and they are waiting to receive another two. “We seek to give them an atmosphere that is as close to a family as possible. In the mornings they go to the school and in the afternoons we help them with their tasks. ( http://www.larazon.es)

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