Adi Matis, Smiles Romania Assistant Director April 2017
There is a Romanian saying that, in life a man should have a child, plant a tree and build a house. I think I’ve heard this many times, without spending too much time over it, as this would be just another saying out of many. But when year after year goes by, I think there comes a time when you think more about the deeper meaning of such sayings. Truth is, I’ve seen quite a number of families being unhappy because they either could not have children, or they did not have the chance of creating something of beauty around them, or they didn’t manage to have a home of their own. These are important things in life and we all want something along these lines. What about our beneficiaries? Would they care for the same maybe?
The Smiles Foundation has a large number of people who are assisted across our many projects, with a variety of problems and issues that prevent them from having a normal life, limitations of many kinds that will not allow them to deal with the difficulties of life, like all the other would. In order to help them, we are ready to come up with ideas, plans and programmes that should make a difference. Above all, we believe the most significant change is when these people will understand they have a great value, they could contribute and their existence can be or become a joy for themselves and others. But all of these do not come easy necessarily and especially when there are many other issues associated, seeing beyond the immediate needs is not always possible.
Under Family Care, we’ve been helping many families in the last 16 years! In all the projects we did, but maybe Family Care is the one to serve the largest variety of situations, all created around family and specific needs. In many cases, the most serious problem is the lack of a place where family could live, a roof above their heads, a bed where children could sleep through the night and a table where dinner could be served. One way we decided to help was to offer a Smiles’ house to these families and to allow them to create a home. This form of assistance is a long-term commitment from us, at least until the family will have passed the difficult years or will have the means to move on by themselves.
Then we noticed that most of the families who received a house for their own needs will feel they want to do something and not to be assisted forever in this situation. They either wanted to build something of their own, which is not an easy undertaking for the families we’re working with, or to at least add or improve in some way the house they were given. Of course, many did repairs and maintenance work that was needed without waiting for us to do it – this is just a normal reaction! And so this was a good sign of taking responsibility and chances are therefore, these families are able to sustain life on their own.
Of course there are many different possible situations. Not all the families knew or cared about maintaining the house. In some cases, especially when difficult mental or emotional issues were present, the families would even refuse our support for repairing the house, believing we want to move them out and so on. But these are rather rare situations, but they exist nevertheless.
So, we’ve decided to offer a very special chance to some families that were both interested and able to have a house of their own. Rather than building a new one, they were offered the possibility to buy the house they were living in, through a special arrangement that would be very convenient to them, so that in a few years time they will own the place all together and become totally independent from our support.
This option also encouraged them and helped them towards having a normal life, without the status anymore of ‘social case’. Some of these families were first supported by Smiles when all their children were young, trying to attend school. We helped them through those challenging years. Now many of those children are working and in the family perhaps 3 or 4 have a salary each month. These families are no longer supported as part of the Family Care programme, but they still live in a Smiles House. Our objective here is to encourage the family with available income now, to channel £100 ($130) a month, sometimes more, towards buying the house.
These houses are on average worth up to £10,000 ($13,000) so we are in essence offering finance (or a friendly mortgage) for 8 years or so, but gives the family something to work towards and also takes properties that need constant repair off our Books and allows regular income to help finance other projects more relevant today.
This is only possible because the sponsors that helped us buy or build houses understand what we were trying to do and now agree it is a good idea to sell the properties if possible. Two goals were achieved by the same action. Families will have their own house and become less of an ‘assisted situation’ and Smiles would be able to help other new families that are in need of support with the income.
I wanted to share this with you as an example of how we try to help a family that had nothing in the beginning, they came in as poor, unable to deal with life’s issues but after a while they do move forward, by becoming more aware of what they should be doing, how to set targets and reach them, how to become responsible for their children’s future and for their own situation. It is encouraging to see that most of them are interested indeed in changing and improving. We are very happy to be able to help!
For the future, our desire is to be able to support more and more this type of situation. There are still several Smiles’ houses that families are living in and interested to buy, but in some cases it’s easier than in others. What we hope to achieve is for families to become ’normal’. Of course these houses are nothing fancy, their purpose is to be functional, but it is very good to see how people want to turn them into homes, their homes. And this is actually part of our vision, to change indeed the world for someone.
Thank you for your continued support and for the many years of being partners with us in making a difference. May God bless you and give you many blessings!
of Smiles Foundation Romania