Enough of the Tr thing. So, roads, rentals an Roma

Trip Start Dec 07, 2009
Trip End Dec 19, 2009

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Flag of Bulgaria  , Oblast Sofiya-Grad,
Friday, December 11, 2009

By this time on a trip like this I've usually lost all track of what day it actually is so in truth Friday is really my best guess.

Anyway, this morning the team visited Moderno Predgradie, a suburb of Sofia. Tedy has contacts with three churches in this Roma dominated community that we first visited last year to distribute boxes to the residents living in the surrounding localities. Moderno really is a very strange place. Large quite neat houses with orchards side by side with run down shacks and old crumbling houses and every where the signs of poverty and neglect. Our first stop was to a tiny room perched on the top of a pastors house. The members of this church have been feeding the children of their community for years, providing a vital service that helps to keep children healthy and families together. So many children are put into state care in Bulgaria each year because their parents cannot afford to feed them. By feeding these children this small church is helping to prevent youngsters from being condemned to a life of state care and all the hurt and damage that goes with it.

After a brief chat with the pastor’s wife the team delivered to a second church on the other side of the community that also has been feeding local children. The van was unloaded by some very enthusiastic kids and we were duly invited inside the church to listen to some songs led by some impressively voiced kids and to distribute boxes. Here the church is also running support groups for local women who just as in Stara Zagora, have many children and suffer from a very high rate of STD’s. This group meets to help women who are suffering from diseases and from the long term effects of working on the streets to bring in an income due to the massive levels of unemployment amongst Roma men. This is the background against which we arrived to give out Christmas boxes and the kids were very excited to receive the presents. The same questions still remain, how do communities like these even function as they do? How can the cycle of poverty be broken here so that future generations are not subject to the kind of degradation that afflicts the current one? Despite the overwhelming nature of the problems we left feeling hopeful about the people in these communities dedicated to protecting the vulnerable and counselling those who suffer daily.

After this it was a quick drive across the city to drop off the big van and then head out to our first orphanage visit of the trip, Dogonovo. Haha. There was nothing quick about this drive and we eventually arrived rather late for a party that had been arranged for the children living at the orphanage by some of Tedy’s friends. It was rather more than a party; they were having a full on Dogonovo’s Got Talent event complete with dancing and singing and it was clear that this orphanage at least was enjoying a happy day with all the kids joining in, even the older, cooler teenagers sat, as ever, at the back. After giving presents we just spent time with the kids and enjoyed their company. For many this place will be the nearest thing they experience to a family. Some of the older residents are in their last few months at the orphanage and when they reach the age of 18 they will have to leave this place and with no state assistance make their own way in Bulgarian society. These young people are completely unprepared for the world outside and are easy prey for drug dealers and sex traffickers. The House of Joshua exists purely to try and tackle this issue and over the next few years we hope to open more and start to show how this project can make a real difference to the lives of these young state care leavers. Perhaps we may be able to help a few of these guys over the coming months but all over Bulgaria there are young people who at best, are returning to the kinds of communities that we have seen in Stara Zagora and Moderno and who at worst will disappear onto the streets of Sofia or Varna and find themselves in the hands of those who would only exploit them for personal gain or gratification.

The team are now relocating to Sofia for the rest of the trip and are looking forward to a day off on Sunday. We have racked up a lot of km/s and Mimi and Rich, our drivers, are frankly fearless heroes, neither of whom are involved in the writing of this blog in any way. Much.

Sadly the team will not now be joined by Pete Cole, who was due to fly out today and join us. Pete and his wife Maggie were part of our summer camp team this year and the staff of Lipnitza residential school were so impressed with his juggling and storytelling skills that they invited him back this December. The plan was for him to come with us to other orphanages and the Sofia prison party too but unfortunately Pete has seriously hurt his back and cannot make the trip. Please pray for Pete, he is very sad that he can’t make it and we will miss him here.
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