On March 31, 2012, a team of volunteers left Northern Ireland to build homes for the poor in Romania. Three young Romanians received keys to their very own house as a result.
Habitat for Humanity is an organisation which relies on volunteer labor and donations to build houses for people in need all over the world. Since its foundation in 1978, it has built over 500,000 houses and helped about 2.5 million people. Homeowners participate in the building or restoration of their home and also pay monthly mortgage payments, which are then used to build more houses.
The potential homeowner is helped by a team of volunteers from all over the world, and it takes about a week for a house to be built. Norman Currie is one such volunteer.
Norman was part of a group of 16 volunteers from the St Ignatius Church in Carryduff, Northern Ireland, led by Rev. Willie Nixon. They arrived in Bucharest and then made their way by bus to the city of Oradea in northwest Romania. The next day, in temperatures hovering around -2°C, they began work on their first house.
The building site was situated near the Caminul Felix orphanage, where 16 families care for 200 abandoned and neglected children. Children are integrated into families which already have children and they stay with them till they are 18 years old.
There were three beneficiaries chosen to receive the houses being built by the Habitat for Humanity and Caminul Felix partnership. All three had been with the orphanage since they had been abandoned there as young children. Maria works as a seamstress and lives in a former drying room for clothes. Adrian works at the Caminul Felix orphanage and this is his chance to get a home of his own. Popa was brought to the orphanage after her four-month-old brother died in her arms because of the cold. Now in their early to mid twenties, the chances of them ever owning their own homes were virtually non-existent until they were accepted into the Habitat for Humanity program.
The Northern Irish volunteers were joined by 35 teenagers aged between 14-16 years old from two mission schools in the US. "My work was physically challenging but very rewarding. Just to see the look on the faces of the three orphans and the tears in their eyes when they received the keys to their new homes and new life. I witnessed poverty on an unimaginable scale. I also saw the best in people. I have now started to appreciate dearly what I have," said Norman.
This is the second time Norman has been involved in a Habitat for Humanity project in Romania. "I've had a very good life. I felt I should give a little bit back to those who have been less fortunate in life," he said.