The Field Project development and challenges ….
Given the changes and reforms within the Field Project which took place over the last two years, I thought it would be of interest to you to know how we are progressing and what we continue to plan for the future. And while many of you will still associate Smiles Field Project with what used to be Family Care, Homeless and Emergency Housing Unit Programmes, it is fair and necessary to say that ‘Field Project’, whilst it still comprises elements of those former projects, in fact now represents a very different approach which we felt we needed to take. But this does come with some challenges, some predictable and some not so obvious.
Speaking in ‘big picture’ terms, there is definitely a permanent change and continuous dynamic when it comes to social care and helping people in general and particularly when working with the groups we have and have had in our programmes over so many years. Nothing new here, we’ve often talked about these aspects and if we are to stay relevant to the real needs of 2019, we need ourselves to be ready to adjust as life dictates it.
More specifically, we adjusted our list of supported families in several directions, but we also decided to have a much more flexible way to support, which is largely in relation to how the beneficiaries will respond to our support and will understand to do their part to make the process worthwhile. We made a very important decision and have tried to put it into practice since – which is basically ‘we must be partners with our beneficiaries’.
We should allow ourselves to be planning too many elaborate and optimistic initiatives, as they may not necessarily follow, but instead, they will just be happy to receive support and do much less than they could and would need to. Given this observation and indeed experience, we try to see right from the beginning who could actually be the right candidates to receive support and then get more into specifics, as in what type of support is needed and possible.
So, we continued adding – and taking out – families and individuals to our programme. Some were only visited once, some repeatedly. Their needs go from getting their ID papers done, to receiving food, pampers and medicine, to getting a house to live in or simply to have someone to share and talk with about their problems. And we’ve seen it all when dealing with these families – from emotional blackmail to threats, from people who genuinely endure in silence to others shouting their personal issues in public! It can be a very difficult and challenging process that we face day by day.
In the last few months, we’ve seen more than a dozen new cases. We managed to help them for a while and some just needed a quick and somewhat immediate intervention. Some will be helped for the longer term no doubt. The danger with our previous philosophy was that families who actually only needed help for a few months would be ‘signed up’ and on the programme for years. Considerably longer than they needed to be. We now want to allow families to continue their lives without us, when they can, so we got involved with new families that seriously need help. And of course, we will always have situations where our support can continue for years, particularly in medical situations or severe incapacity, preventing them being able to live independently.
I have to say, this new approach makes a lot of sense, but it is not always so nice and easy. The major ingredient is to find the people who can and want to actually ‘tick the boxes’ and be serious about improving their situation rather than wanting to just receive support month by month and largely do nothing!
Then there is another very important challenge, which is finding the right people to entrust and rely on when it comes to this job (quite a difficult job at times) of helping people.
An idealistic image would be that beneficiaries are very happy to be supported – of course, forever grateful and thankful to God and generous people for giving them a hand up, understanding what we are trying to do and ready to work hard themselves in order to be better-off. In reality, rarely and sadly is this the case, and often the opposite is true. In order to manage these situations, we need honest, well-intentioned, experienced and committed people who will still retain a compassionate heart, working with perseverance and yet understanding, strong and yet flexible, fair and still ready to give a second and a third chance… And it is not that easy at all to find such people.
In fact, maybe the worst thing is that there aren’t so many of these kind of people around anymore, it seems. We could not have predicted how many people would actually leave Romania or simply redirect towards other types of jobs. Less into social care and even less into ministry. This indeed can limit our achievements, as we depend on special people to join our team and embrace the Smiles’ vision. Not to say we are not trying to find them! We already have some good potential here, so we are looking forward to the next chapter in the evolution of Smiles and its Field Project.
One final thought that is important to note in relation to all I have shared here, concerns the Supporters, the Sponsors who enable us to help the poor and those in need. Years ago, sponsors would support a family, build a relationship and sometimes, get too attached to them! As a result, never really wanted to stop supporting which in turn meant families stayed on our programme much longer than was needed or healthy in the effort to make them more independent. So we need sponsors to support the programme, the concept of Field Project that will allow me and my colleagues to make the decisions on levels of support for families and individuals which often could be for very short periods of time. Basically, I am asking sponsors to ‘trust me’ to make the right decisions and I will keep you updated whether through web reports or individually to anyone who asks through an e-mail.
Please continue to support the Field Project and all we try to do for those in need here in Romania. You could do that right here and I would be so thankful if you can:
So, here were just some thoughts I wanted to share with you, explaining also some of our concerns, or should I call them little difficulties…?!
Thank you so much for being a partner yourself in what Smiles tries to achieve in Romania. Please feel free to get in contact with us, regarding any and all aspects of our work. And I hope I will see some of you soon during our next Mission Trip season!
Director of Ministry
The Smiles Foundation – Romania
E-mail: Adrian Matis firstname.lastname@example.org