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Lay Volunteers Help at Summer Work Camp in Romania

11/07/2010: Romania

Raul and Silvia are teachers, both thirty-one years of age, who decided to participate in a work camp for young street children in Romania. They are not the first volunteers - and they will not be the last - to participate in the program set up by the Marist Brothers’ NGO called SED (Solidaridad, Educación, Desarollo). Everyone at SED had a keen interest to let the young street children observe a real couple, a married couple (and we do not refer here to the visit made by the Spanish royalty in the persons of the Prince and Princess of Asturias): a husband and wife on equal terms and in a relationship such as it is: very, very normal. All the same, in the part of Romania where we worked, everything is not always as “normal” as we would understand the word in our corner of the world.

From the outset, the children enjoyed seeing how the two of us were wearing the identical type of ring. At the beginning they were teasing us, asking whether we liked each other, as if we were boyfriend and girlfriend who had gotten to know each other only a short time ago. Then we had to explain that the situation was much more advanced, that we were in fact married already; that we possess a home, a car, that we go on vacation together. From then on, their faces, their looks indicated that they did not think that such a thing was possible

Maybe one of them had seen such a case on television, and so they thought of it as science fiction. Here we meet up with some young people who have never known even their parents, never known a family. There are others who do live in a family, but one that unfortunately is very different from that with which we are familiar.

Some of the children were not quite able to understand the equality that exists in the couple working with them. They did not understand that I help set or clear the table, or that I will rise from my place to serve the meal to Silvia. They kept on insisting that I should not get involved in such matters, that I should just stay in my place, like a person who had been received as an invited guest. Yet, they would not have objected if Silvia had been the one performing the household chores. That’s the normal way for them. They’d never seen anything like our way before.

One day, the question that Sylvia and I were asking ourselves so many times arose from the children. A little girl approached Silvia and asked, “And in your home, Raul beats you, doesn’t he?” Silvia responded negatively. And the thought in the child’s mind would never have occurred to me.

We have always felt that we were the lucky ones in this exchange and sharing of LIFE with the children. One goes there with the confused idea of . . . helping? . . . and the outcome is that you return with your suitcase full of special feelings, moments that can never be repeated. Surely we take back home with us much more than we could leave behind: an unforgettable experience; lasting memories. But maybe we too have left something behind us in Romania: a “poem of experience” from a couple’s life. Real. Normal.


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