So Spring has arrived although just a week ago it felt like the middle of winter! But surely the winter is now behind us and we can begin to enjoy the beauty of spring. It is such a wonderful season as new life begins to show itself and the display of beauty, the hope of flourishing and looking forward to good times ahead – is not just for nature and the season – but is what we pray for and work towards each and every day for the people we serve and support here in Romania.
I am so thankful for the many people who help us to fulfill this vision through their prayers and financial support month by month. I am also delighted that some go the extra mile and actually come to visit us and share the privilege and experience of supporting our beneficiaries while here on Mission Trips.
There are some who even go further than the ‘extra mile’. Luke Wathen gave up his job when taking a year out to spend with Smiles in Romania. After that year, he decided to stay indefinitely and now shares his time as a volunteer at the Mission Centre welcoming teams and when back in the UK – he promotes the work of Smiles and the impact it has on lives – both his and those in Romania. Luke has been in the UK giving presentations since Christmas and we’re delighted to have him back for the April Mission Team.
Also here for 6 months serving wherever she can help is Hannah Davidson from Northern Ireland. Hannah has been a few times on mission trips but after spending a month here in 2017 she decided to come for 6 months so now here until September this year.To help us in the second half of what is a very busy time with Mission Trips Chloe Hoskins will be coming for 6 months. Absolutely amazing that these young people are willing to give of their time, raise support to be here and serve with such willing hearts.
Thank you Luke, Hannah and Chloe for all you do to make Smiles in Romania. Volunteers are fundamental to the work of Smiles and Barbara Morrison does an amazing job encouraging our volunteers around the country. Don’t miss her report this month as there has been plenty happening with Smiles events and fund-raising.
As an organisation, we’ve been doing this for a long time now. It is 28 years since I first came to Romania and 17 years since we started our first official project of delivering food and family support for the poor in and around Oradea. Of course, a lot has changed since those early days, but sometimes Smiles hasn’t changed quite as much as it should have, or we might say, was a little slower to adjust to the changing circumstances of the country.
In recent months, I have been developing the concept of the new project we’ve called Field Project.
It is designed to bring Smiles activities very much up to date and see the services we provide in 2018 are different to what we did in 2008 or even 2001 when we started the Family Care project. When you are working on changing the structure for something that is so well established, it has a lot of challenges attached. Most important is that people understand why we are changing and what those changes will mean to basic operational aspects of our well established projects.I have spent many hours not only thinking and praying this through for myself, but also explaining and discussing those operational aspects with the executive management team here in Romania. I am excited that the concept is really starting to formulate and we have a clearer vision of how we want to see things progress for the future.
Maria’s regular report is a must to read. Why? Because I said so!
With Georgi, Adi and Luke rotating their reports each month now, April is Adi’s turn to share a report and he’s delighted to give greater insight to the new Field Project – its concept and philosophies – so I encourage you take a proper read and any questions you have, feel free to write to Adi or myself on any aspects you don’t understand or want further clarification on.The notion to change first came to me when Nelu told us he was leaving Smiles last October. At the same time, Raul came asking to begin a 3 day working week due to family reasons. Once we agreed to that, we had to be considering the future of the Family Care and Homeless projects as these were Key to our past operations.
As the new structure took shape, Raul decided he could not be a part of the demands of the new project, especially from a 3 day week prospective, so sadly he left Smiles in March and in thanking him for his work and commitment to the Homeless these past 7 years, we pray his future plans will work out well for him and his family.
We continue to seek the right people to lead the Field Project, both a manager and social worker. Pray with us for the right people to respond to this opportunity for service to God through serving the poor of Bihor County.Meanwhile, Adi will be Acting Manager for the Field Project and Alina will assist as much as possible in addition to the work she does at Rapa. But with Rapa now part of the Field Project, it’s not so difficult for Alina to assist and she is certainly doing a very good job in Rapa for which I am delighted.
There is also excitement in Rapa as we prepare for the final house build planned for May. Initially we planned to build 10 houses in Rapa in addition to the Hygiene Unit and Church. Then Lica joined the community and asked if we could build him a house which was number 11. Then the two brothers who shared a house (Cornel and Remus) needed to separate as Cornel married Gabriela and are now expecting their first child.
Gabriela’s disability will make caring for the baby quite a challenge for which she will need a lot of support, but a house for the family is rather essential! So house number 12 is needed and May 5th we have a small team coming from America and Northern Ireland to build the house. If you want to join them, get in touch with us urgently and we can help make the arrangements. We also need to raise £6,000 ($7,800) for the build – so if you can help, please send your gift marked ‘Rapa House’ and this summer we’ll have pictures and celebration all round.
The challenges we face to do the work of God in Romania never cease. The past couple of months have seen a severe increase in the financial pressure since the Romanian Government increased minimum salaries on January 1st 2018 by about 31%. Whilst on the surface that seems a very nice thing to do, the impact on Smiles with more than 100 staff, a majority of whom work shifts, weekends and bank holidays means the increase in the basic hourly rate has increased our basic costs by up to £10,000 ($13,000) a month. But on average across the year, we are expecting an increase to our budget of £5,000 ($6,500) a month and this is above what we planned and budgeted for our projects in 2018.
We urgently need extra help to face these increases, so monthly support, fund-raisers, special one-off gifts will all help Smiles meet our obligations without putting staff or projects at risk for the future. This requires a united effort to meet the need and not just financially, but also in prayer. We are therefore proposing a Prayer Day for Smiles on May 6th 2018. We trust some groups will meet to pray for Smiles, some churches will have a special prayer for Smiles, and I trust you and thousands of others will take some time that day to pause and pray for Smiles in Romania – its Work, its Staff, its Finances and its Impact on the lives of those we seek to serve. Prayer & Praise link.
Make a note of the date May 6th 2018 and please start now to get the message out to your church leadership, church magazine/news sheet, house group, friends and family. However you can – encourage people to pray for Smiles on May 6th 2018.
Throughout 2018 I have promised to update you each month with the top 3 projects needing additional financial support to enable it to continue the ministry we are called to provide.
Based on 2018 support to date, the top 3 needs are as follows:
1. Residential Care and this month the Tileagd Assisted Living which achieved 70% of the income for its operational budget. Therefore approximately £4,296 ($5,585) budget deficit in February. Support Assisted Living
2. Tileagd School & Nursery achieved 48% income of its operational budget. Approximately £3,524 ($4,581) budget deficit in February. This was made worse due to the State not making its agreed payment, for a second month, while the government sort out their own Budget demands. Fortunately a payment was made in March so the situation will improve next month!
Support Tileagd Education
3. Gepiu Community Project achieved 27% income towards its operational budget. Approximately £1,630 ($2,119) budget deficit in February. Support Gepiu Community
The early months of the year are always more difficult months. All our projects need your continuous support, but if you would like to start a commitment or make a special gift – please consider these needs to help reduce or eliminate future deficits.
We are delighted to be moving forward with exciting plans and opportunities for the year ahead. We have a very busy schedule of Mission Trips but will always try to find room for you. Contact us to see when you could come.
Don’t forget our special Pastor/Leader trip scheduled September 24th – 29th 2018.
Smiles Trustee, Mike Wildsmith will be leading the trip, specially focused on ‘Engaging the Church in Missions’. Attendance is by ‘Invitation only’, so if you know a Pastor/Leader who has never experienced a Smiles Mission Trip, drop me a line with details and if possible, we’ll extend an invitation. Numbers are very limited for this trip, but it will be a super trip to be a part of. Don’t miss the opportunity.
Thank you so much for your continued support and prayers for all we do.
My sincere best wishes to you for a Joyful Easter as we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord.
Chief Executive to The Smiles Foundation