Mayor Costiuc has been a virtual one-woman band, working tirelessly to reach out wherever she could, to find help for her village. Such has been her success that in the recent elections Nina was again voted as mayor, with a percentage of 96% of the village voting for her! And when I arrived in this poverty stricken village I immediately saw why.
The road leading into Budesti is similar to any country's roads that may lead out and past farmlands. The road is paved, but only barely. There are no markings on the roads, and without the benefit of daylight, you place your life at risk driving there.
Part of the village rests upon the side of either a large hill, or small mountain. If your intent is not to see the village, you could easily miss it, except for the view of the spires of the basilica in the distance. But as you approach the village you'll notice something quite unusual. On the left is a large, new, clean two-story structure, painted in a bright magnolia colour. Directly across the street is another structure that resembles a country one-level ranch house or cottage.
The structure on the left is a community centre. I am chagrined to say that, in England, we wouldn't have anything this nice for a town of 30,000 people, much less for a village of 5,000! Across from the community centre is the single-shell cottage, which has been built with the hope of becoming a medical centre for the village. Neither of these buildings has any contents. But nevertheless, the structures are there.
This came about as a result of Nina's tireless campaign in writing almost anyone she could to ask for help in revitalising her village. They have worked diligently to address some of the specific needs of the village such as: schooling for the large number of handicapped children, community transport for people securing work in the city of Chisinau, and inviting local programmes for the young people of the village.
It is a credit to the mayor as well as to the people of Budesti that they have a beautiful structure to help serve as the foundation of a life-changing opportunity. But now the next step is essential to help save and change lives.
I met with many villagers in their homes. Many were ashamed of the poverty in which they lived and it burdened my heart to even ask if I could take photos; I know they would have agreed, but I wanted to protect their dignity.
Many of the homes are without electricity, water, heat of any sort, other than pieces of coal that may be donated by other villagers. In some of these shacks, people sleep three and four together in order to keep from freezing to death at night. Toilets, gas or propane, television, etc., are unheard of. And when you speak to the young people who live in these conditions, their dreams are profoundly different.
One sixteen year-old girl told me that her first dream was to have a floor! She said this as we stood on the uneven dirt floor of the shack she shared with her sisters. Her "Biggest Dream" was to have someone teach her how to cut hair. She wanted to learn a skill so that she could get a job and bring money home to her family.
I innocently asked her if she had a boyfriend. My question caused a torrent of response. No, she didn't have a boyfriend, but there are "men," (as she squenched up her face to show disgust), "who come by all the time and say they can introduce her to wealthy boyfriends who will be nice to her and take care of her and help her with her family." And then she continued; "but they are like the other men who come to the village and say they will give me a job and I can make lots of money being a hostess at clubs that rich people come to." And at that she looked me in the eye and asked if "these clubs are nice,yes?" I gather it was her assumption that all people from the west go to clubs to meet girls.
Mayor Nina told me that she had spent considerable time trying to warn and teach the young people about the predators that rove the villages in search of innocents and vulnerables. And the young girl nodded in agreement. But she then said, almost wistfully, as if in disagreement with the mayor, "but some of them are nice. they bring us things - food, candy, gifts, and they don't ask for anything - ever!" And this, of course, is part of the problem, when the villages face groomers who work on these children and hit them at their most vulnerable moments.
If you are not familiar with the Eastern Orthodox Church, it represents the pinnacle of village life. I spent a considerable amount of time with the village priest. I instantly liked him and we got along well. And although I am fully versed in my understanding of his following, as well as his communal requirements, I always ask the same question, of every Orthodox Priest I come to meet; How many times a month do you visit your parish members, and how much is your budget each month to help your parish communicants. This time, Fr. Vladimir's response was different than what I typically experience in Romanian villages.
Fr. Vladimir put his head down, as if in shame. He paused for a moment then looked at me and said: "It is different, I do not see people. They must come to church. I do not give money. They must give money. It is different." He then, again, put his head down. The mayor turned to Fr Vladimir and asked him "Why is it different? Same God? Why Fr Vladimir?" He looked up and responded to Nina by saying "because we are poor." Nina didn't let go, " The poor visit the poor, it does not require money." At that, Fr Vladimir clapped his hands is if to make the conversation go away and told me he was taking me to the cemetery - I imagine he was either hoping to just bury the conversation, but possibly me along with it!
We desperately need your help, please: I am not asking for anything too costly, or complex. But your actions can not change just one person's life, but an entire community.
I am not being a "do-gooder" in asking for things which I feel will help, but I am responding specifically to what the children have asked for:
We need, please:A Hairdressing School
Chairs, sinks, carts, curlers, mixes, virtually everything to create a school for a minimum of six-10 hairdressers at a time. This school will not be for just the village of Budesti, but will also bring young people from adjoining villages. By gaining these skills, the young will be able to travel into Chisinau to gain jobs.A Sewing School
Sewing Machines, bobbins, threads, materials, patterns, etc. I need a minimum of six electric sewing machines that we can use to create a sewing school. By creating this school, the young people will be able to make their own clothes and help their community. The goods they make can be sold to buy food and heat.Computers
I need up-to-date computers, preferably with modems and a router, to allow distance-learning courses in a wide-range of classes, from home-care to travel. Please can you help? I would also love to have a satellite to use for connections to the internet.Library
This may be one of the greatest challenges of all. I need books, lots of them, but the first preference is that they be written in Romanian! This was a particular request by the mayor.Transport
If I can find a small bus, that meets EU standards, the village will be able to provide transport to-and from schools, into the city, and especially provide meals for outreach programmes for the elderly. It needn't be anything fancy, just basic, simple transport, perhaps one of the used coaches that collect passengers at airports to take them to their hire cars, or hotels. Truthfully, I need two coaches; I desperately need one in Chisinau
Finally, within these groups of images, there is one small photo of a young lady with her cousin. Her name is Nathalia Procu. She is the daughter of the woman who was killed last Christmas. Nathalia is the "shining star" of her village. She has recently earned a civil law degree and the village have all joined hands to help her with transport to work, because they not only honoured her mother so much, but they have faith that Nathalia will be able to help change their village's future.
I am trying to find a job for Nathalia in England or America. Prefereably the role might be in the legal profession, or possibly tourism. Nevertheless, I have a handfull of recommendations for her. Anything you might be able to do to help, would be greatfully appreciated. Personally, I feel that Nathalia can make quite a contribution to your organisation. Her spoken English is good and according to her boss in the Ministry of Tourism, Nathalia is one of their finest employees. I would say, truthfully, she needs some help in her writing English.
As you can see from this, I have not been shy to ask for many things. I need your help, desperately. There are numerous projects at hand currently, but this is one of the larger ones. But I believe that there is someone out there who is just waiting to be touched.
Is it you?
My photos are a bit in reverse. If you want to follow the story better, it may be best if you begin from the bottom. Thank you for caring enough to read this. Thank you from my heart.