Mihai is a 2-year boy from Costesti, a village in the heart of Iasi County, one of the six Romanian counties hit by the floods of July 2008. Mihai’s house was severely damaged by the torrents which inundated his village. It’s hard to tell whether he understood what happened or what images will remain in his memory.
When the UNICEF team arrives in his village with a Gendarmerie truck full of emergency supplies, the sun is shining brightly and the birds are singing. It is hard to imagine the troubled, furious waters that flooded the area only few weeks ago. The only reminders of the power of the floods are the tired, sad faces of the people and the marks the waters left in the hills surrounding the village.
Together with other children, Mihai receives from the UNICEF team a sack with personal hygiene and sanitary products and a backpack with clothes and toys. He keeps a tight grip on the big sack he’s just received. He holds in his arms a big teddy bear from the sack. It is a beautiful new toy that brings amazement to his little face. Encouraged by the sweet happy boy’s smile, Victor Ionescu, a UNICEF volunteer comes closer and asks him:
”Do you like it?”
Shyly, the little boy raises his blue eyes. He has a bit of dirt on the top of his nose from playing with other children while waiting for the pack.
“Yes,” whispers Mihai. “May I sleep with it tonight?” he asks in a small voice.
“I don’t know,” Victor answers. “You’ll have to ask your mother about this.”
“I usually sleep with my mommy,” says Mihai and than pauses…”Can it feed me? My mommy feeds me at night.”
The encounter puts a wide smile on Victor’s face. He feels rewarded for all the long trips he has made in the past month. And suddenly he’s not feeling so tired anymore. The little boy and the adult are smiling together. And for one long moment the floods are far away from their life.
The UNICEF distribution of supplies continues in Costesti. It is now the turn of Andrei to receive a sack and a backpack. His story is sadder. Andrei lost his parents in an accident and now his only family is his grandmother. And then the floods came and their house was destroyed. He found shelter with some distant relatives. Although he is only six, he is very helpful, always ready to give a hand in the household, trying to repay in his own way for the shelter and food received. He’s like a little beaver, always busy with something, but when you see the serious expression on his face, you see how the tragedy has affected him. He’s grown up overnight, and it is too soon to leave his childhood behind him.
Now he has received a big sack. It is almost as big as he is. His face brightens up and a smile appears. People are looking at him and this is a moment of content. In the sack there are new clothes, new toys, not old, used or borrowed. These things are now his. It’s like a new beginning. He’s getting back a small piece of the world he lost in the floods.
“It is incredible how he lost so much in such a short time and still he feels content and maybe a drop of happiness. Children have their own world and ways in life. We can only be there for them and smile at their happy faces,” says Dana Petcovici of UNICEF, impressed by the boy’s story and his reaction when he received the pack.
On August 21 and 22, UNICEF distributed around 600 sacks to the child victims of the floods in Costesti (Iasi), Vicovu de Sus and Tibeni (Suceava).
Over the 20 day period between Aug 9 and Aug 29, UNICEF distributed emergency supplies, clothes and toys to almost 4,000 children from 42 communities in the counties Bacau, Neamt, Iasi, Suceava, Botosani and Maramures. Until September 15, UNICEF will also deliver school supplies to the nearly 3,000 children of school age from the affected villages.
All these actions have been possible with the generous contribution of the Romanian population who responded with extraordinary promptness to the appeal made by UNICEF and Realitatea TV in the campaign “Romania Takes Roots”. The fundraising campaign brought over half a million Euros that will change for the better the lives of thousands of child victims of the floods.