Global Hope entered into a new partnership with the United Methodist Church in Sibiu, Romania earlier this year to help develop a new ministry for vulnerable children in the community. The ministry will be a Day Center called “Super Kids Day Center” run by Pastor Cristi, along with his wife, Ligia, and a social worker, Kiki. After many months of planning, next month we will begin to see life pouring out of this ministry as kids begin to come!
Here is a synopsis by Suzanne Dubois, who just returned from a trip to Romania, of why a Day Center like this is so important, and what the Super Kids Day Center will do in this first year.
It’s recorded that there are 67,000 children orphaned in Romania, and in most cases, it’s not because their parents have died, but because their parents have abandoned them. I wondered though, how accurate is this number? After talking to numerous people who work in the child welfare field, they believe this number understates child abandonment, although no one really knows by how much. There are street children who don’t get counted and Roma children (Gypsies) who are not even registered as citizens. There is also a belief that the government does not really want the world (or their citizens) to know how high that number is. Pastor Cristi, for example, was told by the Department of Child Protection that there were no abandoned children in their community, yet Cristi knew for certain there were! Even a newspaper had recently reported how 240 children were abandoned in the past few months with little being done about this issue!
A majority of abandoned children in Romania come from Gypsy families, with some calculations as high as 80%. People offer different reasons for this, but the most prevalent is that in the Roma culture girls marry at a young age, and have children very early. The average number of children is eight, but some have as many as fifteen! Because of the poverty of most Gypsy families, they are incapable of providing care to so many children and so child abandonment, or even abortion, is an easy solution.
Day Centers in Romania, including the Super Kids Day Center, are a fairly new concept, but have shown to be an effective way to support vulnerable children and help prevent child abandonment. They provide a place where children can feel safe and spend time to get whatever support they need. They also are sources of meals, clothing, and educational help.
The Super Kids Day Center is situated in a very poor area of Sibiu where there is a high population of Gypsy families, with most struggling to make ends meet. It is common for at least one parent to work outside of the country where they can earn better wages, but sometimes BOTH parents work outside the country, leaving their kids with a relative, a neighbor, or even worse, on their own.
The vision for the Day Center is to be a place where vulnerable children in the community can not only come to feel safe, and have their physical and educational needs met, but also to hear about the Good News of Jesus Christ and understand their worth in the eyes of God—that they are “super kids” wonderfully made in God’s image!
The Day Center will open its doors once school starts in September, and be open after school and into the evening. They will start by serving about twelve children, between the ages of 9 to 11. Some activities they will begin right away are: Bible studies, educational support for school, various workshops to engage the children in art and music, and counseling as needs are identified. Also, while the social worker can help identify needs in the children, she can also connect with each family to support them in their role as a parent.
It was encouraging to see the enthusiasm and commitment of Pastor Cristi and his team to serve the poor families and children in their community. God has started a good work in them and we are excited to watch the fruit of this ministry grow. I look forward to reporting back once the “Super Kids” start coming to the Day Center!