From hut to house
On the outskirts of the villages, Romani families dwell in tiny miserable huts of dried mud, boards and various scavenged materials, in cramped conditions. Up to ten persons share a room. The icy winter months are the hardest of all. Rain will often cause the mud walls to collapse, and the roofs leak. There is no furniture except for worn out couches and old stoves on which food is prepared. Keeping things tidy is impossible, and there is no place to wash.
In the Transylvanian Saxon villages, many of the houses are abandoned and the village centres are deserted. We aim to offer the poorest families proper homes and help them to build their houses via our project Casa de piatra. „Casa de piatra“ – „A house of stone“ – is what one traditionally wishes a young couple getting married. It signifies a close-knit family and a permanent dwelling.
More than 50 houses have been built since the project started, in Nou, Nocrich, Hosman and Marpod.
The commune provides the building lot and lays water pipes, drains and electricity. The houses provide adequate space: an open-plan kitchen, two rooms and a bathroom with shower and toilet. There is a long waiting list. The conditions are that the children attend school and that one of the parents goes to work, because ELIJAH places great emphasis on personal responsibility. Only thus can the families care for themselves and bear the running expenses.
New living space for the poorest
In Nou, we have built the new neighbourhood Cartier Caroline, comprising eleven houses. The last five new buildings have been completed. They are a pretty sight as they nestle up to the path above the village. The families have already moved in, leaving the miserable huts down by the stream behind them. They can stay warm in the sturdy houses, and for the first time they have running water and their own toilet.
A village blossoms
A run-down Roma slum on the verge of Nocrich township has been transformed into our Cartier Marghita. After over two years of construction, the families were able to move into their new winter-proof homes. Besides them stands the Social Centre Casa Susanna – the heart of the neighbourhood.
The village people have learned to appreciate and cherish their own private homes. A group of women keeps the paths between the houses clean. The social workers struggle with the families about the children’s school attendance and about hygiene. At present, water must be fetched from the Social Centre, but the mayor has promised that water pipes and drains will be laid to the individual houses. One has to learn how to live in a new house, and accompanying that is an important task.