Mention helping people from another Country on twitter, and you'll get nasty comments or even abuse for helping foreign people when Britons supposedly need so much help.
I love my Country and I'm incredibly proud to be British - but if anyone witnessed what I've witnessed and didn't shed a tear, they'd be a monster.
A recent addition to the European Union, Romania is one of two EU Countries to see growth - in the last year, t's reached 2.3%.... a good bit of news you might think... but it's to be expected since it's such a poor country to start with - and one of few yet to adopt the Euro.
In Britain, most people's attitude to Europe is sod them - particularly since we are a net contributor spending £60,000,000 each day just to be a Member. Many ask quite fairly what we get out of the EU>
In Romania, Europe has leverage to make the political powers that be, who operate under a corrupt system of bribes and personal interests to do the right thing. After all, Romanians are a proud and nice people.
On December 9th, Romania will hold a General Election for their Parliament and Prime Minister - but the PM doesn't have to appoint a PM from the party (or actually coalition parties as is normal) that wins - and may not. Indeed, the all powerful President, who's Office is not due to re-election until 2015 also appoints Magistrates - so the Executive has it's grubby hands on the main Institutions.
But it seems certain that the current coalition will turn, thanks mainly to their commitment to retain the 16% flat tax, which since it's introduction has actually seen an increase in revenues of 1% significant in the region) and one that favours very rich business people.
In Bucharest - which is not representative of the rest of the Country, you will see the biggest imaginable gap between rich and poor with BMW's and yes, even Rolls Royce's alongside 20 year old bangers. The average income in Bucharest is around 300 Euros a month - about £260.
And welfare - if we think we have it tight in the UK, the "pension" as it is known for disabled people is set at a flat rate of 73 Euros a month. Think about that. That's under what many people earn in a day here , and a tiny amount of what many earn in half a day in the UK.
So disabled people can't afford their own places. It is expected that they will not work. The country is proud that they have ONE deaf person working as a porter in a hotel and even school teachers who I have spoken to tell children not to expect to work.
Life skills and mobility aren't taught to blind and partially sighted children. The teachers and headteachers say they can't find time in their schedule. Even when you tell them plainly that the most educated person in the world is no use to an employer if they can't dress, cook or leave their house - but the traditional answer from teachers and political leaders is No, no, no, no, no, and sometimes arm, no.
Only through Europe putting pressure on politicians in Romania will things improve - and even then I expect to see only modest improvement in the climate within my lifetime.
And bear in mind that in Bucharest where severely disabled people receive just 73 euros a month, a cake and a coke costs about 3 Euros and a Mcdonalds about 4-6 euros. These are things therefore that simply don't get taken up by the poor majority.
One deaf child recently had his hearing restored by an audiologist who donated a month of his time to the Light Into Europe Charity. He examined a deaf child who had never seen a specialist and found that the reason for his deafness was skin growing around his ear. A simple issue to fix in the UK but an issue that crushed that boys life.
Yesterday morning, I met with the Health Director at the Department of Health in Romania - a Civil Servant, not a politician and was introduced as a visiting guide dog user from the UK. When we explored whether the department of health would help the charity, or at least disabled people, the stock answer was no, no, no, no, no. I asked why not and was told that the government is commissioning a report to build up a picture of disability in Romania - given that we are approaching the very end of a 6 year strategy on disability that has achieved, and set out to achieved exactly nothing. I was told the report is due in March - but dingos kidneys is the same in any language and I told them I thought they were dissembling and trying to brush us off. Fortuitously I don't normally take no for an answer so like General McArther (or the Terminator) I'll be back!
There is so much I could write about the country and the region but I fear it would fall for the most part on deaf ears. The UK's not perfect, but Romania is probably about 80 year behind us.
I don't just want to help, I feel it is my duty!
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