Saturday, 4 September 2010
I rarely bother to blog unless I’m on tour or something major is happening. But I feel that I have to let you know what goes on here in Romania. I am extremely down and depressed by yesterday’s goings on. I think you’ll understand why.
Cat was handed in to an orphanage when a couple of days old. She was a pretty little baby with huge brown eyes and a head of curly brown hair. Before she was a year old she was adopted by a family, encouraged by the State paying them a small amount of money every month. But it wasn’t long before Cat was surplus to requirements and was left on the street in her pyjamas before she was four years old. She was picked up by a gypsy family and abused for several years. She ended up in what’s called a “Placement Centre”. These are institutions where children are cared for who are either orphans or from families who cannot afford to look after the children, or victims of abuse. We have had a very close working relationship with a Placement Centre in Valenii de Munte for many years.
I first met Cat when she was just 12. Already she looked like she was 15 and she talked openly about all her boyfriends. She was very street wise for such a young age. I took her for Pizza and talked to her about God loving her and the fact that she had intrinsic value. I met her twice in all and tried to let her know how valuable she was. She always had a huge smile and a mischievous smile. And those big brown eyes….
Then suddenly she wasn’t in the Placement centre any longer that we worked with. They couldn’t tell me where she had gone. For two years I heard nothing from her and then about three months ago I got a message from her on Yahoo Messenger saying she would love to see me again. By chance I was heading to Romania three days later with a David Phelps tour, so we arranged for her to come down to Bucharest with some other kids she used to know from the Valenii Placement centre.
She’s 15 now and tells me shes’ in another centre , but that the State were insisting she go back to live with her Mother. But her Mother had told her she’d be better off dead than coming home to live. This was the same Mother who had left her on the Street. We bought her a cell phone so that she could keep in touch and tell us if she was in any trouble.
I introduced all the kids to David after the concert and told him each of their brief stories. He was very taken by Cat, and as they left he called her back and had a special word for her. He told her to believe that the future could be bright, that there was always hope and that she was loved. She told me afterwards how much it meant to her. David told me how much she had touched her heart, that a beautiful little girl like that could feel so unloved.
The day came when she was taken home to live. Her Mother fought and screamed at the Social Assistant who took her, but she was still left there to live.
We kept in touch on a daily basis and things seemed not too bad, but then the news that Cat had run away from home again. Or so we were told, because no-one really knew where she was. Those of you who read my Facebook posts will remember that a few weeks ago I posted that I had had a deeply disturbing day. That was the day.
I came back to Romania three days ago and two days before that I found out that Cat was now in a special high security emergency centre. Because I have contacts in the Welfare system here they had agreed that I could go see her.
Yesterday we pulled up outside unmarked gates with high barbed wire. We were ushered into a very old dark building which obviously hadn’t seen paint in 30 years. It was an extremely depressing place, bars on every window. If you know Romania you can picture it.
We waited in a crèche which had a few old broken toys scattered about and worn carpet on the floor. Catty was duly sent for and entered a few minutes later. Dressed only in ill fitting pyjamas, gone was the smile and the spark.
Tears came to her big eyes as she hugged me and called me her Dad and told me she loved me. She related what had happened.
Things had gone ok with her Mum for a few days, but then became strained. Her Mum started again to tell her she’d be better off living on the streets or even dead. Her Mum broke her phone.
A couple of older guys befriended her and then after about three days they turned ugly. They told her to get her bag packed when her Mum was at work and to steal anything from the house that was of value. They gave her an hour or told her they would torch the house and hurt her family. She’s 15, what’s she to do? She does what they tell her.
They took her away and locked her up in a room with several other young girls that they have kidnapped. I don’t want to go into details from here on because they are too disturbing. But the next 10 days see her forced to work as a prostitute for ten hours a day. She’s 15 for God’s sake! The same age as my youngest daughter. She can’t talk about the horror.
Her captors then move her to Bucharest as they suspect the authorities have word about them. Turns out they are an organized gang of traffickers who are well known to authorities.
By a twist of fate the place she is being forced to work in Bucharest is raided by the police looking for something completely different and she’s rescued.
But the ludicrous thing is that she’s now being held in this emergency centre for her own safety, but is treated as if it was her fault. I’m not allowed to write to her. Or her to me. If I call they say there’s no-one here of that name. She’s never allowed out of the building. It’s mindblowing.
She tells me that just the day before our visit she was thinking it was all over, that no-one cares anymore. What was the point in going on? Then the next day Erika (my assistant in Romania) and I appear to visit her. She hugs me in the hallway of the centre for a long time and any other children who walk past she says to them, “Please meet my Father”. I don’t like spiritualizing things, but I truly believe we were meant to be there.
Folks my heart is broken and as I write this the tears are flowing. They’ve been flowing on and off for 24 hours. I’m sitting in Sinaia with 12 other young kids that we have worked with for years. What’s the future for them in this ludicrous place?
I hope you don’t mind me being blunt, but I need your help. I’ve funded the stuff we do here for a long time, but I need help now. Those of you who know me know my heart and know that you can trust what we do. We’re an officially registered charity.
We need to fix up our house in Sinaia which is starting to show its age. We need this house here to continue to bring the kids on breaks where we can teach them how to best live in this country and how to be safe. And to teach them that God loves them. And we need funds for feeding them, for the mini-bus to get them around and on and on.
Please pray for Cat. I lay in bed last night and stared at the ceiling as I thought of her lying in bed alone, with no-one to care for her, probably replaying all that had happened to her. She has no family in the world. No-one but me now. She needs our prayers. More than I can express.
If you can help financially, please send something through paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to let me know your thoughts on what I've written, please do so to the same eamil address. I feel at the moment as if all we are doing here is re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Hopefully I’m wrong.