Being a volunteer in the elderly centre in Straseni (Moldova)
In the period 30 June till 12 July we were guest and volunteer at the elderly centre in Straseni in Moldova. IBO- Netherlands organised our stay in the elderly centre.
My two fellow volunteers, Annemieke from Utrecht and Imkea from Barneveld, preferred being in touch with the elderly in their work in the centre, I myself preferred doing some practical work during the weeks a stayed at the centre. I worked in the garden of the centre and I also did some work in the gardens of clients of home care.
As a volunteer you have a good life in the elderly centre; the centre took care for our meals; we stayed in nice wooden houses with good comfort; we attended a vivacious cultural meeting for the elderly at the centre, in which the Russian poet Poeskin was the principal subject; and the centre organised every week an excursion for the volunteers to an attractive spot in Moldavia, like the monastery Capriana. And in the evenings and the weekend we amused ourselves with several things, for instance taking a drink in Straseni, making a walk in the neighbourhood of the elderly centre or in the surroundings of Straseni, and visiting a museum in Chisinau and having a good meal in that place. So, sometimes I thought I am at this spot not as a volunteer to do some work, but as a volunteer to let me pamper.
Although we did useful work during the time we were in the elderly centre , yet I got the feeling that neohumanist gave us in the first place the opportunity to get acquainted with their work for the elderly.
Foto: Karine Mars
In the two weeks I stayed in Straseni I learned a lot of the life in Moldova and of the life of the elderly in Moldova.
In my opinion many people in Moldova have reached an acceptable standard of living, but there is also a lot of poverty in Moldova, especially in some parts of Moldava and for certain groups of the society.
In Straseni and surrounding I saw sometimes individual persons somewhere along the street, or a row of persons near the marketplace with in front of them, on the ground, only a few things to sell. For instance a few bunches of flowers or herbs, or some kilograms of fruit or vegetables. Sometimes they were sitting there in the heat of the sun, and often they looked tired. This kind of drudging for only a very little money means that there exists grave poverty in Moldova.
The most of the elderly I visited with home care lived in poverty. Their houses were nice to see but devoided of many essential things, like connexion to thewaterworks, electricity, and the heating or cooking places of the houses were often very simple: the residents of the houses had to make a little fire in their houses for heating or cooking.
In the winter it will be cold in the houses and I suppose that the residents will keep themselves warm by wrapping round some blankets and, in the evenings, by going to bed early.
The employees of home care give attention to elderly who often lives rather solitair. When we arrived at their houses some of the elderly were waiting before their houses for the weekly visit of home care. The employees of home care listen to the elderly and help them with practical things, like cleaning the house or by giving some help in the garden. Home care also do some medical things, like measuring the pulse rate and blood pressure, and giving the elderly, if necessary, some medicines. At the most addresses home care leaves some foods behind, like milk, macaroni and bread.
The home care team I accompanied visits about eight addresses a day. The work home care does is basic help. I think that in the case that a client needs more help than usually, it will become difficult for home care to give good help. I didn't speak with the home care team about their possibilities in the case extra help is necessary, but I suppose that they will do their best to find a solution.
In Straseni we, an assistent of the elderly centre, a fellow-volunteer and I, worked in a garden of an old woman. The garden was getting to become a wilderness. The client was thankful for the work we did, but in the house of that old woman - she was born in that house - there was another big problem that we couldn’t solve: in the roof there were several really big holes caused by a tree which had fallen down. That problem was not a new problem , it exists already a long time. The old lady didn't complain about it, but of course it caused an uncomfortable and unhealthy situation for here.
Maybe it could be a project for IBO volunteers to solve some of that kind of problems in co-operation with a craftman of the eldery centre or a craftman from Straseni. But of course it would be better when during the year round, if necessary, home care has the possibility to enlist the help of a local craftsman or another specialist.
The lifes of the women I visited with homecare (the days I accompanied homecare we only visited solitairy living old women) I wouldn't like to describe in problematical sense. Their life is hard and their poverty is bad, but their lifes are also a little special; the women live rather close to themselves and close to the nature.
One woman we visited with home care, gave in her house space to a cock and seven or eight chickens - for her that must be quite a normal situation - and it wasn't even so different from the atmosphere of the living of the other women we visited with homecare.
For me counts that being a volunteer in a foreign country is much more worth than just being a tourist. When you take part in an organisation of a foreign country the distance to the population increases quickly. And then you can have -like me- the awareness that, despite all the differences, the people in that far and unknown country are, in many ways, just the same as the people in your own country.
Foto: Karine Mars