As we traversed the celebrations of Christmas and entered into a new year, the people of Galati were given reason to lament.
New Year’s parties are usually times of delight and of hope for the new, the possibility of change, and the expectation of something better. Sadly, Galati enters the New Year with a loss and with a change for the worse. On January 1st, the Association “Nova 2002” is closing its doors.
“Nova 2002” is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2002 to help vulnerable young mothers and their infants. They established an Emergency Center, which cared for infants that were abandoned or at-risk of parental abandonment. (http://www.stiriong.ro/detaliu-csc/vrs/IDcsc/4092) “Nova 2002” specifically targeted underage mothers.
Although the number of underage mothers (ages 12-18) continues to grow, Galati is now in a worse position as we enter 2013 than we were in 2012.
Of course, “Nova 2002” could not resolve all the cases of vulnerable infants and young mothers. There are over a hundred each year. But the organization did provide care, counseling, education and support to many of them. They created a solid methodology and an efficient administration, and they offered rich experience and expertise. And they did this at great personal cost. The staff of “Nova 2002” did not have high salaries. They worked out of a personal desire to help little babies have a better start to life.
The major reason why “Nova 2002” shut down is the lack of support from the local government authorities. As with almost all non-profit organizations, “Nova 2002” struggled to raise funds. They successfully covered their budget through donations from outside the country and from within Galati. But the majority of their budget was covered by public funds allocated through the Galati council.
In 2012 the Galati council allocated 1.7 million lei (about USD 530,000). Of that sum 1,027,000 lei (about USD 320,000) was allocated to six foundations affiliated with the Romanian Orthodox Church, while the rest was designated to another 10 NGOs. “Nova 2002” received 79,000 lei (about USD 25,000). (For the specifics see: http://www.viata-libera.ro/politica-administratie/26604-pentru-nefericitii-galatiului-asistenta-sociala-de-17-milioane-de-lei).
In October, the newly elected Mayor breached the contract made with “Nova 2002” and most of the other non-religiously affiliated NGOs by blocking the promised funds. While the Mayor, Marius Stan, refused to respond to the official requests for an explanation, he did state to the press that local NGOs claim to help the needy but are really just siphoning money for themselves. (For the full statement, see: http://www.viata-libera.ro/politica-administratie/34660-galati-viata-libera-politic-bani-sifonati-asistenta-sociala-fundatii).
Although the Mayor did release the money shortly before Christmas, he failed to respond to requests by the local NGOs for a response to their requests for local funds through law 34 for the year of 2013 and for the Mayor’s objectives for social assistance during his mandate.
Although “Nova 2002” desired to continue to help infants and vulnerable mothers, the instability of the local government forced them to close down. This is a loss to all of Galati. We lose beneficial infrastructure. We lose an organization that we developed by the contributions of the local citizenry. And, what is worse, some of our most needy compatriots are now more vulnerable than before.
As all of this happened around the joys of Christmas, I was reminded of the laments of the first Christmas. The government pursued a policy of infanticide. And the tears of the people were described as the wailing and loud lamentation of Israel’s mother: Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be consoled, because they are no more.
While our local government is not actively pursuing the annihilation of the children, its practices are actively hurting them. And so, we too lament.