"This is one of the toughest areas we work in"

Reaching a forgotten Roma village at Christmas

In an isolated village near Brezoi, Romania, the festive season looks very different from how it does in the movies.

Here there are no brightly lit Christmas trees in windows, fridges filled with all the trimmings, presents piled high.

Here, poorly-built shacks alongside a river strewn with bits of rubbish do an ineffective job of shielding inhabitants from the cold. In this part of Romania, temperatures are below freezing throughout winter and can drop to -15C. Instead of plaster walls and tiled roofs, sheets of plywood and corrugated aluminium are all that protects people from the bitter cold – and there is no snow plough to make roads accessible and safe in winter.

Mariuca* is a young girl who lives in this Roma community at the foot of the mountains. While surrounded by natural beauty, villagers struggle with high rates of unemployment and poverty, and survival is a day-to-day struggle. Four out of every five people in Romania’s Roma community live below the poverty line. Many families cannot afford to celebrate Christmas, and many hardly know that such a holiday even exists.

Many Roma do seasonal work to bring in money – and there is little of that in winter. People in Mariuca’s village survive through the toughest season by borrowing money and gathering firewood to warm their homes. Mariuca’s aunt said, “We go to the woods and get firewood illegally, stick by stick. We can only take a small amount at a time, and it’s only enough for a couple of days, then we do it all over again.” Instead of fun and feasting, Christmas for Mariuca’s family is another reminder of their poverty, of their ongoing struggle to meet their basic needs.

We go to the woods and get firewood illegally, stick by stick.This Christmas, Mission Without Borders (MWB) wants struggling families such as hers to have the chance to celebrate the birth of Christ – and to find out about God’s abundant love and provision. Through Operation Christmas Love (OCL), we provide 7,000 families living in poverty in Romania with a parcel containing food supplies, treats and Christian literature. It lifts the burden off poor families in the midst of winter when living costs are high – and brings the message of salvation into their lives on one of the most special days of the year.

Mariuca said, “I like the tea and my little sister loves the chocolate we get. It makes us so happy!” Marius Anescu, MWB’s coordinator in the area, said, “This is one of the toughest areas we work in. Christmas is the perfect time to show them that Christ’s love never fails and to show them that there is hope.” 

 *Maricua’s name has been changed


67% of Roma in Romania live below the poverty line and 44% of working age Roma are unemployed. (Source: The World Bank)

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