By István Kovács

 

Before I arrived to Beius in Romania for the June Term course, my impression was that Habitat for Humanity builds houses with volunteers utilizing charity money from individuals and gives it to families in need; this is not the case. It’s important to point out that this organization works more as an ethical bank that provides loans for families at an extremely low monthly payment for zero percent interest. Therefore, a family can receive a loan for about fifteen thousand euros and pays about forty euros per month for nearly 20 years. The charity fund Habitat receives through volunteers is the money that they loan to these families. As a result, the families applying for a house are required to have an income.

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The primary concept of Habitat for Humanity is that they don’t provide a house for these families as charity; they need to work hard in exchange for this opportunity that they receive. To be honest this is fully understandable, a country like Hungary, who pays a huge amount of aid to Roma families who do nothing in exchange, should copy this concept. This organization offers different solutions to families who are more than willing to take any kind of job in order to get a loan. These families can customize their homes according to their own taste. The owner can choose the fence around the house and the color of the walls, in order to make the houses a bit more unique. After you see the houses that people built for these families and the type of circumstances that these families lived before moving into their new home, you will appreciate the work you have invested a lot more than at the beginning of the trip.

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During my visit I also learned a lot about the culture of Romania and the town of Beius. It is important to point out that everywhere you went, you were greeted with kindness and respect, unlike in other European countries. The poverty and hardship could be seen in the town, but it did not make the place sad as it had its own glory. When an old man stops with his bicycle next to you and gives you a cherry branch to show his gratefulness for helping him; you are touched by the warmness of the place. On another occasion, a perfect example of tranquility was when I sat down after a hard day of moving cinder blocks to watch the horses play just a few meters away. These are things you usually can’t experience in the city, the touch, the feel, and the smell of pure nature. During the week we also visited some caverns called the Bear Cave, which is decorated with incredible stalagmite and stalactite formation. The name of the cave comes from the fossils of 140 cave bears that were once trapped in the cave after an earthquake. The cave’s atmosphere has preserved the bones for more than 150,000 years. To be honest at first I was a little worried since I’m claustrophobic, but what I saw inside, it could not be put into words.

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After the experience of building an entire shed from scratch I feel like we have accomplished something distinctive during our hard work on the work site. We spent a whole day on the construction of the shed and it made us feel unbelievably good to hand it over to a family who now can store wood inside. The main heating material is wood in most of the houses; therefore it’s crucial to have a dry place for storage. Team spirit was a key element during this course whenever the group was working collectively on a job, such as building the foundation of the homes out of concrete. Individuals took care of others if a job needed an extra hand and remained cautious about each other’s safety. Nevertheless this was not the only place and time, the team remained in formation even when it was time to celebrate the work we have accomplished. We ate together every evening in order to share our thoughts and also toast together responsibly on the last night of the week.