A large family struggling to survive!

Snow has come to Romania, and the fields and frozen ponds have become shining white playgrounds for sledging, skating and snowball fights.

For the Neagu-Podu children, the snowfall has brought lots of fun – but what they are most excited about is the new arrival to their family, a baby sister named Ioana Daria.

Although their mother Petronela left hospital only yesterday with the new born, she’s already starting organising the children and household as soon as she arrived home. 

“To be honest, I didn’t want to have another baby, just because life is so hard already – especially with little ones,” said Petronela. “But now she is here. She is a very quiet baby and sleeps well in the night.”

Little Ioana Daria is fortunate to have six big brothers and sisters, all eager to include her in their playfulness and noise. The two boys, ten-year-old Alexandru and four-year-old Stefan, and four sisters – Alexandra, 11, Elena, eight, Bianca, six, and Antonia, three – are full of mischief and energy and love playing outside. 

Their house borders Ucea village and there is plenty of land around where the children can freely run and play, including a forest where they can climb trees, explore, and pretend the whole world belongs to them. For the Neagu-Podu family, it’s the perfect location. 

Their home itself has its challenges, with the large family living in just two rooms. Inside, cold cement floors are covered in some places with small threadbare rugs and elsewhere with old linoleum. The windows are broken and draughty, the walls are damp, and the toilet is outside and in poor sanitary condition. They wash in a basin as there is no shower or bathtub, and their hallway doubles up as a kitchen. While the living conditions are unsuitable for a baby or any young child, Petronela and Horatiu, the children’s father, are doing their best to make the most of their circumstances. 

A few years ago, the family had only a one-room house that was more of a hut than a home. However, the hut had to be demolished because it was in the way of the village road, and the Neagu-Podu family had to find a new place to live. One of Horatiu’s brothers acquired some land where together with Horatiu, they managed to build a one-bedroom house. Slowly with the little they have, Horatiu managed to build one more room. Now Petronela and Horatiu and their children live there along with the children’s grandfather, who is dependent on a portable oxygen inhaler and is frequently admitted into hospital. Although he is unwell and unable to participate much in family life, he adores his grandchildren and loves having them around. 

Horatiu is the sole breadwinner and works as a day labourer in construction where he earns about 40 USD a day. That and the children’s allowances, an approximate 325 USD a month, is the family’s income. When Horatiu can’t find work, they go into debt to be able to buy some of the things they need. 

As the children laugh and shout, sledging down a slope of hardened snow, their mother talks about the less enjoyable side of winter: the increased heating bills and the worry over money for food and firewood, as the family try and get by in below-freezing temperatures in a poorly insulated house. 

Summertime eases the pressure on the family, with clothes drying quickly outdoors, berries, fruit, and vegetables easy to find and often pick for free, the house dry and warm, the days long and sunny, the work more plentiful. Winter is its opposite, with food becoming more expensive, the house growing damp and cold, the pressing need for heating always draining funds, work opportunities often drying up, and darkness setting in earlier. 

At those times the family home feels less like a welcoming refuge and more a place of discomfort and desolation, a reminder of how precarious their lives are, as hunger and cold threaten to overwhelm them any moment. 

Fortunately, the Neagu-Podu family are not left alone to try and survive winter without support. Enrolled on Mission Without Borders’ (MWB) family sponsorship programme, they receive regular material help, as well as emotional and spiritual support. Over the years, they have received clothes, shoes, household items, furniture, school supplies, toys, Christian literature, food and hygiene supplies. Whether winter or summer, the ongoing support makes their house a home, one where their children can grow up feeling safe and cared for. 

Petronela said, “We are so fortunate to have Radu, the MWB family worker, who comes along and helps us in our need. Every month we’re given food, hygiene supplies and even clothes detergent which I’m very happy about, as I need to wash clothes every day. Buying food or any other essentials can become a great burden for us, especially in the winter when we need to spend about 500 USD or more on firewood alone to make sure we have enough for the whole cold season. 

“As well as all the monthly packages, just before Christmas our children were overjoyed to receive Christmas presents from MWB. As parents, our hearts were overflowing to witness our children’s happiness, as we know too well that we couldn’t have provided them with presents like that on our own. We did manage to decorate the house a little and have some treats, but we could never have afforded such wonderful gifts.” 


“It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that other people care about our situation and are ready to cover us in prayer and support us in finding ways to improve our situation. That helps us feel more secure and more hopeful, and we’re very grateful for everything that the Mission does for our family.” 



 

Like any parent, Petronela wants to offer her children the best she has, and she likes cooking their favourite meal, potato stew. About two years ago, the family’s stove broke down and MWB provided them with a new one. 

Radu said, “They still talk about the stove almost every time we see them, and they’re so grateful for it.” 

Over the years, Petronela and Horatiu have drifted away from God when they have questioned their faith amidst suffering, they have gone through, but they do believe that God exists and that he loves them. They are happy that their children in taking part in MWB’s Christian children’s activities and that they have had the privilege of going on summer camp, where they learned about God’s great love for them. And in the meantime, MWB is investing in the family’s wellbeing, modelling God’s love and care to them. 

Radu said, “Petronela and Horatiu are doing their best with the little they have, and little by little, they’re making small changes to improve their lives. But like many, they come from a place of disadvantage and lack of opportunity, and it’s a daily battle for them to overcome their circumstances, both materially and spiritually. 

“The family is open to the Word of God and I like visiting and talking to them and I’ll spend time playing with the children. I’m happy to be able to come along and help turn their attention back to God, hoping and praying that one day they’ll give their hearts to God and at the right time they will get to enjoy the beautiful mansions that Jesus has gone ahead to prepare for them.” 

“I’m not sure what we would have done without Radu’s help,” Petronela said. “We wish all the MWB sponsors health, and we thank you for blessing us so much.”

36%

36% of rural households reported that they could not heat their homes sufficiently. Of the rural households with inadequate heating, nearly a 1/4 had no heating at all for more than one day at a time. 

Report by UNOCHA 


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