Portrait of the month : Laetitia, formerly member of the association Mergem ABSL (Dec. 2018)

Laetitia talked with us about the association Mergem and Romania

Partenaires Association Mergem Belgique

In november, Laetitia and Anne, part of the association Megem, based in Bruxelles (Belgia), came to visit us in Iasi and in Popesti, and stayed a week among us.

This visit was the opportunity for those who already knew them to meet again, and for the other to know them. We discussed with Laetitia, no longer in the association, but still has connection with people here, and who is not has her first visit.

How did you discover Romania ?

I came with the association Mergem in 2002 to bring packages of clothes and letters to the kids et teenagers of an orphanage in Targu Frumos in the region of Iasi which was supporting by belgians families. I went there to prepare my scout camp that took place few months later in this orphanage where we would make activities with the youths. I discovered Romania in van, three days of travel from Bruxelle to Iasi.

In which projects were you involved ?

After the scout camp, i joined the association Mergem because i wanted to keep the connection with this youths with who i had a strong first relationship. I became responsible of the sponsorship between families from Belgia and this children. Their situation was very difficult in this center. There were few ressources, few trained personnel and a very large demand. We came every year in april and in may with packages, letters from their sponsor and with sweets. Our visit was un event.
Then, when this generation left the center, we decided to keep the support by creating a team “Dupa” which means “after”. This consisted in helping them to become independant with the funding of apartment supervised by the fundation COTE, a support for the personal projects of the people welcomed in Emmaus (driving licence, medical issues…), financial support for the maraude activity whose benefiaciary are often from the orphenages.

What was your first impressions ?

My first impressions were really strong… I finally discover this country that I heard a lot about ! A country that was difficult to access until the end of the communism. Romania… I had a fall in love with this country ! Its landscape, its nature, its traditions, its welcome, its langage, its poetry, its songs, its spiriruality, its history… You can not leave without feeling nothing. It is made from extrems, that what make its charm…

How did you keep the link, and what is your comitment now ?

I kept very strong relathionhips since 15 years with a lot of youths. For the sponsorship, I took a lot of pictures of them ! It is a very important task to keep a track of their life. In the past, the children didn’t have pictures of them. You have to imagine that for them, our coming with packages and activities was very expected. In 2002, and even a few years later, there were no internet, the letters didn’t arrive, the phone wasn’t working well, and it was very expensive. This created a very strong link because we weren’t able to communicate easily, and we were coming only every 6 months or one time per year. Now, there is Facebook that allows me to remain connected with a lot of people in Romania or abroad. You also have to know that they had a lot of separation in their life, of abandonment, of solitude, of indifference, of rejects and trauma. To keep a connection is not easy, because they often think that you will also abandon them, and that they doesn’t count as much as the others. Yet, they can be very proud of who they are ! I always was shocked by their complicated life, they developed such incredible talents : singing, music, drawing… that are just waiting to be express. We have been witnessing their life path, they know that “we know”, this creates unique connections.

How did the situation in Romania has envolved ?

Romania switched from the comunism model to the liberal capitalism and the consumer society over consumerist, with people let behind. In 15 years, I have seen the city totally change. The fact that Romania joined the European Union had a lot to do with that. There are no longer children living in the street, but there are still homeless people and people living in a big precariousness. The middle class disaper. The intelligentsia and the work force left to live and work abroad. The political situation has worsened. Yet, it is a country full of natural ressources, with a high level of education. It chocks me when I see that malls are being constructed with a lot of foreign shops based on the consumerism model. I often think that the elderly in Romania lived so diferent periods, and I ask myself how they manage to not get lost…

I also think that some subject can’t be discussed yet in Romania. Talk about the children, the youth palced in oprhanage and the way they were treated, still remain a tabou. Undoubtedly, it is still complicated in a country that places children as a king, that you have to spoil. Most of the time, the youth don’t know about this part of the History, and think that it is their fault if they have been placed. But, as a reminder, during the comunism regime, the government asked to the women to have children, contraceptives and abortion were prohibited, in order to have labour forces. This is how the state handle to raise them if the parents didn’t wanted them. “We are the father and the mother of the nation.” said Ceaucescu and is wife. Today the society owes them something, they paid a high price but I think it still needs some time to open this subject. Regarding to the situation in the orphanage, it has envolved. The youth placed there now are because of other reasons (social issues, desabilities…). Trained personnel and financial ressources has come. The youth of the generation that we knew are or abroad, everywhere in Europe, or successfully insert society and have created a family, or are welcoming in fondations as Emmaus. In other cases, some of them lives in the street and are not able to reintegrate the classical system and the most damaged are in rehabilitation center or mental hospital.