Wood windows with no glass, two rooms for nine people and a whining old ceramic oven as the only heat source. Nevertheless, the Grosu family does not want to complain. They know that there are others here in the village that are even harder to hit by the winter cold.
The village Dimanche, in northeastern Romania, is no place for children - but children can not choose where they are born. Small feet move in our vicinity, across the streets and backyards, and too rarely they are protected by shoes and clothes that are warm enough. We are on our way home to the Grosu family, where mom Ana and Dad Marius live with the seven youngest of their nine children. Three of the daughters; Marta, Estera, and Rebecka, come daily to the Star of Hope children's center where they receive food and study support. Climbing into their homes is like climbing hundreds of years back in time. The house's one room has walls of cement, and that's where everyone sleeps next to the tiled stove, underneath under thick layers of blankets. The other room is more like a tree trunk, with holes for windows and slips between the wall panels. There, no one in the family would survive the winter.
In our work we have seen even worse homes; shattering plate shells in the slums of Kenya and in Haiti's rural area, but there is an important difference, in Kenya and Haiti it never gets 20 degrees below zero centigrade. Here in Romania every child and every mother knows that the cold can be their death.
Ana, Marius, and the children do not have an easy life right now, but they are still grateful. Last year the situation was so much worse. Star of Hope has among other things, helped the family to grow their own crops last summer, which Ana saved before the winter. Also, they were able to drill a well on the farm and arranged new windows to the room where everyone sleeps. It helps them keep the heat - at least as long as it's time to cook with. "It has meant so much," says Ana. Before we had almost nothing. We only lived day by day.
The situation for their friends, neighbors, and relatives is simply much worse. The freezing temperature threatens thousands of vulnerable families around the country, and in all Romanian villages where Star of Hope works, family needs are urgent. The worst time is in front of them - but there is no help yet.
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