Families living in poverty in Romania are reaping the benefits of the tireless work of an Isle of Man based charity.
Hands of Hope was established to help communities in areas of need and the group brings across aid in the form of clothes, shoes, toiletries and educational materials. The charity has built homes, distributed aid and provides ongoing social care and educational support. It encourages poor and marginalised families to support themselves as much as possible, enabling them to be more self-sufficient.
With support from the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, husband and wife Ruth and Chris Baker regularly travel to the town of Dorohoi in the North East of the country to provide this aid.
Unemployment in Dorohoi is high and many of the families live in poor circumstances and are trapped in a cycle of poverty. The minimum wage in Romania is a third of the Isle of Man, so even those lucky enough to have a job may only be earning £400 a month. The price of food and utilities are on a par with the Isle of Man.
Earlier this year, Hands of Hope transported second-hand IT equipment, donated by the Microgaming PlayItForward initiative and Zurich International, which was used to update computers and WiFi access in a secondary school, Scoala Gimnazială Alexandru Ioan Cuza. Three other volunteers (David Baker, Geoff Walton and Steve Willetts) spent a week in Romania to help install the equipment.
Further aid and IT resources have since been delivered.
Ruth says building up a trust with locals is key to progress.
‘Our presence on the ground in Romania means we can oversee where each pound is spent and see each life changed in some small way,’ she explained.
‘To see beneath the surface, to learn and understand the depths of their needs and culture, and to build up trust is invaluable.
‘To now see children living in community houses that we have built is rewarding, as is helping ensure they have access to education. Schooling in Romania is free, but parents are expected to pay for even the most basic of extras, so a little support can go a long way. We believe one way for people to break out from the poverty circle is to make sure children reach their full potential, it is a long-term goal and we are so grateful to the support of island companies.
‘Over the years the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has generously assisted with ferry crossings, which has been invaluable, and I’d like to thank all the staff for their continued support.’
Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward added: ‘Hands of Hope is a small but very dedicated charity which we are once again pleased to help. Its work is clearly making a difference by helping families in poverty stay together and by providing essential aid.’