Portrait of the month : Father Alfonso, with the homeless of Iași (July 2020)

This month, we offer you an interview with father Alfonso, who is leading the Opera Don Guanella Congregation in Iasi. We usually meet his team at the community or at the shop, where we distribute the donations. This time, we went to their place where we had the chance to participate in one of their food distributions.

My name is Alfonso, I’ve been in Romania for four years. We are the first of our congregation to come to Romania, in Iasi, to open our Opera… That is, to create a place and take care of people with disabilities. When we met boys who were abandoned or from disadvantaged families, we thought about how we could help them. They are young people of the Moldavian region who come from villages. Here there are 15 young people. We are doing activities with them and they go to a regular school… but right now it’s the holidays. 

When we arrived in Romania, we had a kind of apprehension. It was another culture, other activities, we thought that Romanians were distant, not really welcoming. But we were wrong, it’s not true. They are very friendly, respectful, and in Romania, I really see the faith, whether it be from the catholics or from the orthodox… And I appreciated it. 

One day, I was at the Nicolina’s weekly market (one of the alimentary markets in Iasi, ndlt) and I saw homeless people who were staying here, frozen. I wanted to do something to try and help them. It was the beginning of our work with the homeless people. Now, we have a project that we are developing during the fall, we bring them food everyday. But, in this period of Covid-19, we have wanted to do something. One month ago, we applied to the NGO Start Kaufland’s project (Kaufland is a supermarket chain in Romania). And we received money to continue to distribute food everyday for two month. 

But generally, what homeless people lack is not food, it’s not clothes, they lack human proximity. We have beneficiaries that tell us : “Father, all the passers-by give us something but they have no respect for us, nobody tells us – good morning, good evening -, although we have a good heart”. And that’s true that they are well educated… Unlucky in their lives, but for sure they are good people. As all of us, they need affection. It’s our work : not only give them food and clothes but instead create a relationship with them. 

Here, with the Sisters (Daughter of the Sainte-Marie’s Divine Providence, congregation created by Don Guanella, it’s the women’s equivalent of the Serviteurs de la charité), who celebrate 25 years of presence in Romania, there are 45 elderly people. We also run a social canteen where almost 80 people come to eat lunch each day. During the state of emergency, the canteen was closed, but it reopened on June 15th . The Sisters, like us, take  action and get involved with the homeless people. We also have a land on which we want to open a night shelter, for a 45-person capacity.

To find out more about their action in Iasi :

Their Facebook page : Asociatia Opera Don Guanella

Their website : operadonguanellaromania.com