Paul’s story: Why “The blackest plan” wasn’t his only way to stay fed and warm
For every two Covid deaths, one child becomes a #CovidOrphan. As countries plan their recovery from Covid, vulnerable children are being forgotten. At risk of exploitation, trafficking and life in an orphanage—they are at the bottom of everyone’s list. Except ours.
“The blackest plan.” That’s how Paul’s mum, Nina, describes the thought of leaving her children in an orphanage to grow up without her. But not long ago, she feared that this might be the only way to keep them fed and warm.
Even though Nina’s husband, Iosif, works full-time in a local factory, his wages barely covered the rent on the tiny, rundown flat the couple shared with their children. When their landlord sold-up and told them to leave, the family was on the brink of homelessness.
With nowhere else to turn, Paul and Nina came close to believing that their children might be safer in an orphanage. But decades of evidence prove that orphanages do not protect children; they harm them. By exposing them to neglect and abuse and denying children the love that they so desperately need, orphanages damage children’s development and life-chances. Being confined to an institution would have been especially traumatic for Paul, who has learning difficulties.
“With nowhere else to turn, Paul and Nina came close to believing that their children might be safer in an orphanage.”
He’s nine now but still relies on his mum’s devoted care. Nina and Iosif’s only hope of keeping their family together was to find a way to finish the house they had begun to build on a small piece of land that they owned. They had got as far as laying the foundations but could see no way to afford to finish the work before they were evicted. That’s when we first met Paul and his family. Our specialist local team in Romania was determined to keep Paul, his siblings and their parents together because they know through experience that the best way to protect children is in loving families, never orphanages.
We worked with his parents, their community and the local authorities, to help Nina and Iosif complete their home and begin to build a more secure future for their children.
“What I like the most is to be together around the table during the meals, working together, watching TV together and spending the holidays together,” his big sister, Narcisa, tells us. “The biggest change we feel is not the physical one but the change in the atmosphere in our family,” Nina confirms. “The children laugh more often and their faces are brighter now,” she adds with relief.
“The biggest change we feel is not the physical one but the change in the atmosphere in our family… The children laugh more often and their faces are brighter now”
Today, Paul and his brothers and sisters are growing up in a home where they feel safe and they know that they are loved. By providing the support to keep families together, even when times are very tough, we can keep children out of orphanages and make sure that, like Paul, they can stay with the people they need the most; the people who love them.
The need to protect children from orphanages has never been more pressing. Our Director of Global Programmes, Stefan Darabus, says,
“In over 25 years I have never known it so bad. Child protection systems run by local authorities are beyond capacity. Families struggling due to Covid are facing breakdown and family separation. Hidden problems like domestic abuse are being ignored.”
You can help keep vulnerable families like Paul’s together by helping us provide essential support like emergency help with food, clothes and heating. With the basics taken care of, parents won’t have to surrender their children to orphanages in the hope they will eat this Christmas.
On average it costs just £45 to identify a vulnerable child or family at risk of separation.