At the edge of a village in Vaslui County stands a small, two-room clay house where Corina, 33, lives and, along with her four children, fights for survival every day. The whole family lives off less than $5 (USD) a day.
Like many who are trapped in poverty, Corina’s life as never been easy. When her mother passed away when she was 13, Corina’s only option for surviving was marriage. Instead of making life easier on Corina, marriage only made life even harsher for the adolescent wife and young mother. Domestic violence and the alcohol dependency of her husband were torture and the reasons for which she eventually decided to divorce him.
Corina fights for her survival and that of her four children every day. Their home is little protection from the wind which makes its way through the cracks of the windows. The wood smoulders in the stove as a constant reminder of how much is costs and how little they can afford. Every day, the children walk 2 kilometres to get to the bus that takes them to school. The roads are muddy and ruin their shoes.
Every day, Corina and her children must carry 300 litters of water from the well to their house.
“I am mother and father for my children,” says Corina. “Every morning, I prepare them for school, I braid my daughters’ hair and I make sure their clothes are clean,” she says.
Washing clothes, however, is a challenge. “I bring water from the well to wash their clothes,” she says. “The water is cold and we don’t have money for detergent. Sometimes, my hands bleed form rubbing too much.”
People from rural areas of Romania are used to getting water from wells. It is a very old and popular practice by which they lower large buckets on ropes to collect water from underground.
Although this practice is traditional, it can also be treacherous as children risk falling down the hole. Additionally, the water is not filtered or cleaned. It comes directly from the groundwater and it is always at risk of being contaminated by pollution and the runoff of pesticides and chemicals used on nearby farmland. Extended exposure to these chemicals causes serious health concerns and can even cause death.
If contamination and dangers were not enough, the effect of weather conditions is the cruellest of all. These wells often freeze during the winter, leaving those who depend on them without access to water.
But, in addition to the risks of accidents, contamination or unpredictability of water, collecting water from these wells takes time and effort. Corina and her children have to walk more than a kilometre on often muddy roads to carry the 300 litters of water the need every day—a task that consumes a considerable amount of their time which could otherwise be spent on educational or income generating activities. And, no matter how much water they carry, it is never enough.
“The children’s daily meal is sour soup, because we can add water to it when it’s about to finish,” says the mother. “Eggs and polenta is their second usual dish. I buy the cheapest clothes and shoes. Once every two months, I have to buy them new shoes because of the mud and the constant rain. We sometimes borrow shoes from their cousins until we will have money to buy [new ones],” she adds.
All of the children are in secondary school and wish for a better future. “Only with education can they escape poverty,” she says. “I don’t want them to become like me, with six grades [of education] and no job.”
It is not that Corina has not tried to find work. For a time, she swept the streets. But, without a secondary school diploma, she was soon replaced. After that, she looked after an old woman in exchange for food and clothes, until the person passed away. Ever since then, she has not been able to find a place to work. And, the neighbours are just as poor.
The children refuse to talk about their father or the divorce of their parents. The father’s violent behaviour left deep wounds in the hearts of the children.
Thankfully, the children have been able to participate in a number of World Vision initiatives inside and outside of their community which have helped them maintain their focus on the future and broadened their horizons. Constantin, 15, is the eldest of the children wants to attend a technical apprentice school. Florina is 14 years old and has already decided that when she finishes the eighth grade, she will attend a haircut class in the city of Vaslui. Oana, 12, loves animals and has big dreams. “With the help of God, I would like to become a veterinary,” she says.
Pity and compassion is for those who have given up on their hopes. Looking at Corina, admiration and respect are the only acceptable feelings. “We do not feel sorry for ourselves,” she says. “There are children who are sick. I know that we are healthy, and that is enough for me.”
Forty-five per cent of the Romanian population lives in the rural area. Of the rural inhabitants, 75 per cent do not have easy access to water.