Winter is the most difficult season for people living in poverty in Moldova. There is far less seasonal work available for the many people who don’t have stable employment. Roads can become impassable due to snow, and heating costs rise. Christmas becomes yet another burden on cash-strapped families who can barely afford to put food on the table, never mind pay for a big family dinner and presents.
The Rusu family live in northern Moldova – and for them, celebrating Christmas is yet another thing they can’t afford. Ion Rusu, 40, is unemployed, and Ana, 32, has epilepsy and doesn’t have a job, but takes care of the four children, aged three to ten. Although Ion takes on any jobs he can find in the village, they don’t pay well enough to meet all of his family’s needs.
When the Rusus first moved into their house, it was uninhabitable, fallen into disrepair, and full of rats. The local church helped them to repair two rooms – the entry way and the bedroom – but there is still no bathroom. The third room, which they use as a kitchen, is not in good condition.
As Christmas approaches, the Rusus’ poverty becomes more acute. They need to heat their home using a wood-burning stove, but firewood is very expensive.
Ion said, “I collect dry wood from a nearby forest, but it’s not enough for the entire winter.”
Fortunately the family have been enrolled on Mission Without Borders’ (MWB) family sponsorship program, and have started receiving regular support –food and hygiene parcels, emotional support, and educational help for their children.
Ana said, “One of the best things the Mission has done for us is help us with repairs and provide us with mattresses. Before that, we were sleeping on some wooden boards.”
Ion Munteanu, the MWB family worker who supports them, said, “Indeed, the delivered mattresses were a great blessing for the Rusu family. It was the first time I had seen them so happy.”
Usually the Rusu family can’t afford to do anything to celebrate Christ’s birth. This year, however, is different. MWB’s Operation Christmas Love campaign delivers parcels of food, treats and Christian literature explaining the real meaning of Christmas to families living in poverty in Eastern Europe.