As I sat on my new balcony enjoying a cup of tea and contemplating my first week as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I noticed two little urchins, one of them barefoot, begging for money from the cars stopped at the corner traffic light. I had seen this activity before, but not by such small children and not on my very own corner. The little one had to stand on his tiptoes to get his head up to the car windows. About one out of five times he got something from the driver. I found it very unsettling to sit on my porch and watch this, so I took my tea and went inside.
The following day, when I got home in the afternoon the boys were playing in the traffic again under my window. The bigger one seemed to be drinking something out of a plastic bag. I wondered that nobody in my building had contacted the authorities. These kids were so little and this is one of the busiest intersections in Bacau. Who are these kids? Where are their parents? Where is the Department of Child Protection?
I got back the next night about 9 p.m. and the kids were still working the corner. I picked up a bag of Oreos someone had left in my apartment, put some milk in a small plastic Coke bottle and went down to the street. The boys were not the least bit reluctant to take food from a stranger. Alexandru, who looked 5, said that he was 8, and that Marius was his 10-year-old brother. As I talked to them, a storekeeper with whom I had developed a nodding acquaintance interrupted us to show me a wounded baby bird he was holding in his palm. “You shouldn’t talk to those kids,” he said in English, “they’re bastards.” And then he walked away cuddling his bird.
Two days later, after having bought him more food and a pair of sneakers, I was taken by Alex to meet his sister Corina. She was lounging on a park bench a couple of blocks from Alex’s spot on the street. She said they were from Buhusi (pronounced “Boo-hoosh”), a town 20 kilometers away, consisting of a few slummy blocs and two large abandoned factories.
The father was dead, the mother was “on the road.” I asked Corina if she had heard of “Casa Pistruiatul”. She said yes. I told her I wanted to take Alexandru there. She nodded. I asked if she wanted to go with us. (It occurred to me that in essence I was on the verge of kidnapping a child.) “De ce?” she asked. “What for?” At that, Alexandru and I headed off.
Casa Pistriatul is a children’s shelter established by FSC, the non-profit organization I had just been assigned to work for by the Peace Corps. Located in a former soup kitchen, it is small and shabby but very clean and the atmosphere is friendly, more like a disorganized working class household than an institution. In addition to a small kitchen, a “surgery” (what I’d call a nurse’s office) and the director’s office, there is one big all-purpose room and two small bedrooms, filled wall-to-wall with single mattresses on box springs. They were supposed to get bunk beds from a church in England, but the shipment hadn’t arrived.
After giving him a few minutes to get used to the place, the nurse took Alexandru into the shower room and started the hygienic detox process. The other kids were having their morning lessons in the main room so Gabi, the director of FSC, and I went into the office to wait. Romanian law says that if children don’t go to school for two years they become ineligible to attend school at all. Consequently, most of the kids that pass through Pistruiatul aren’t allowed in the Bacau schools. Pistruiatul offers a kind of make-shift school for them. After about half an hour, we heard a commotion outside. I looked through the window to see Alexandru’s sister ranting at Laura, the Pistruiatul social worker. Gabi and I went out. I couldn’t understand the words but Gabi explained later that she was cursing me up one side and down the other. “She lied to me,” Corina shouted in Romanian. “She said she was just going to buy him shoes…”
Corina explained that they lived in Buhusi with their mother, everything was fine, they had a very nice family and we had no right to take Alex. Fortunately, Alex was in the shower at the time. After a few minutes she seemed to lose steam. Laura quietly went back inside, then Gabi went in and motioned for me to do the same. In a little while Corina left.
The nurse spent over an hour working on Alexandru, who resisted nothing. When he finally emerged in pale pink jockey shorts his beautiful shaggy hair had been completely buzzed away and there were patches of scabies covered with ointment dotting his torso. With his feet now clean, sores and cracks were visible on the soles and between the toes. The nurse spent another half hour cleaning and bandaging his feet. Alexandru didn’t even wince. She told me that when she gave him a toothbrush he hadn’t known what to do with it. I asked her why she cut off all his hair and she indicated it was full of lice.
Gabi and I stayed for lunch. Alex was still looking a little shell-shocked. The other kids were very welcoming and one of them, who turned out to be Alex’s cousin, also from Buhusi, put his arm around him and led him to the table. There were eight kids between the ages of 6 and 14. The children were in charge of setting up the tables and chairs and serving the food. Without being told, one of them turned off the TV when lunch was ready and another stood up and said grace. Alex silently took in everything going on. When the food arrived his face broke into a huge grin. Lunch consisted of soup, hot potato salad, and bread. The other kids dawdled over it but Alexandru intently ate every bite.
Of course, the story was only beginning. Three days later, Alex’s mother arrived in a state of considerable outrage and took him off.
Laura noted that when Mama arrived Alex had run into the bedroom. She promised to take him back to Buhusi, but later that day I felt a familiar tug on my jeans as I left my apartment – Alexandru was back on our street corner. In the course of the next week, Alex was brought back to Pistruiatul several times and his mother came to retrieve him, promising each time that she would take him back to Buhusi and not let him beg. Child begging is illegal, so the police were called in to help ensure her cooperation. In one deposition she made to the police, it emerged that Alex had lived in an institution from age three months to five years, at which point she took him out, apparently to start him on his present career. At another time she revealed that they needed his income in order to survive, and proudly stated that he had been known to make as much as 100,000 lei a day. (That would come to 3 million lei a month, close to what I get from the Peace Corps.) He had shoes, she said. He just preferred not to wear them while he was working.
I didn’t see Alex on the street for several weeks after that. Then he began to show up about once a week, always alone. Sometimes I’d buy him a sandwich. He’d smile shyly, gladly accepting my offering but making no attempt at further contact.
Laura said that when she came across him in town, he ran the other way. More than likely he got some severe beatings over the “Casa Pistruiatul” episode.
I felt terrible that I might have made Alex’s life even worse through my spontaneous, but ignorant, attempts to help. But I now understood some of the complexities of the problem and was more determined than ever to do something about it. FSC initiated the Doinita and Stefanita programs to support both children and their mothers in finding a better way to support themselves. We started a US charity to help raise money for these projects and named it “The Alex Fund.”
We didn’t see Alex all winter but the next summer he showed up at Pistruiatul again off and on. That August when we started the Doinita Mother’s work training program we tried to recruit Alex’s mother. She came to only one meeting – but after that she let Alex stay at Pistruiatul, so something must have clicked. Alex started school that fall and this year he is in the second grade. After school he comes daily to the Stefanita program for homework help and activities.
Epilogue 2008: Alex lived at Pistriatul for three years and successfully completed the 3rd grade. In the fall of 2004, at the age of 11, Alex began to chafe at some of the Pistriatul house rules and ran away after a conflict with the caretakers. He wound up back with his family in Buhusi. Our social worker Nadia tracked him down and got him registered for school in Buhusi and his records transferred, not a trivial thing in Romania. But without the structure and support of the Pistriatul staff his attendance was spotty and trailed off to complete inattendance by the end of that school year.
A few days before Christmas 2004, Nadia found him loitering in the train station about 10 pm. She brought him to my house and together we convinced the director to give him one more chance and re-registered him in his old school. But that didn’t last long and he was back with his family in Buhusi. The last we heard, Alex was in Italy.
Note: The Alex Fund, named after Alexandru Craciun, was started in 2001 to raise money in the United States for children’s programs in Romania.
The author, Michelle Kelso, has spent the past 14 years in Romania. As a Fulbright scholar, her research on Roma during the 1940’s ultimately led to a documentary, Hidden Sorrows. For the past few years she has worked with NGOs under the auspices of the Ministry of Education training Romanian teachers to conduct classroom discussions about difficult topics such as genocide and prejudice.
In early September 2008, I visited Sandra, a long-time Romani friend whose relatives had survived the Holocaust. She lives with her husband and four children in a town on the outskirts of Bucharest. Clearly distraught, she told me about her struggle to register her only daughter Alina, age seven and a half, for the first grade in the neighborhood school. Her older brothers already attend this school, a few blocks walk from their home.
“The principal told me that it was too late,” said Sandra, and that the class was already full, anyway. She was unaware that a preliminary deadline for enrollment had passed in May, but officially registration was open until September 15th, the first day of school. She was also unaware that it was her daughter’s legal right to enroll in her neighborhood school.
It was the second year the school had refused to admit Alina. “Last year they told me that school isn’t a babysitting service,” she said. Since Alina was only six, Sandra accepted their rejection. In Romania, and especially among the Roma, for whom school looms as a financial – and often humiliating social hurdle, most parents don’t enter their children into the system until they are seven, and sometimes eight. By age nine, children are not allowed to register, except in the rare schools that offer a “Second Chance” program.
Now that Alina was almost eight, Sandra feared her daughter would never go to school, a fate she herself had suffered. Sandra said, “When I go out, I have to ask people to help me because I can’t read the signs. I don’t want that for my daughter.”
In Sandra’s traditional community, girls are often kept home from school or are pulled out of classes before reaching puberty. Marriages are frequent among teens; school graduations are not. To Sandra’s knowledge, not one girl from their community has ever completed high school. But Sandra is part of a nascent group of traditional Romani women who realize that with education comes the possibility of qualifying for a job with “carte de munca” (working papers) and ultimately, with a modicum of personal independence.
Sandra wants this change and is willing to assert herself for it, both within her own culture and outside of it. Once Sandra learned of her rights, she returned to the school to register Alina. The answer remained the same, “It’s not possible.”
Sandra said, “I told them that just because I was a Gypsy didn’t mean I wouldn’t fight to get my daughter in school.” Angry and sad, Sandra really hadn’t a clue what to do next.
I phoned Leslie Hawke. She put me in touch with one of OvidiuRo’s trained “School Mediators”. He advised Sandra to make a written request for admission, and take copies to both the local School Inspector and the Ministry of Education. Legally schools must admit children who live in their neighborhood. If the school wasn’t cooperating, the case had to go higher up.
When Catalin explained the procedure, Sandra recoiled. The paperwork intimidated her and she feared that involving higher officials would provoke reprisals from the school against her sons who were in the 5th and 7th grades.
Catalin phoned the school director who held firm that there was no way they could register Alina since there were already 30 children in the class. But now he offered a choice; the parents could register Alina at the other school across town or wait a few weeks to see if a pupil dropped out, thus opening a place at the neighborhood school.
“He said his refusal was because of restricted class size,” Catalin told me. “He was afraid the Inspectorate might penalize him if they found out there were 31 kids in a class.”
But isn’t the point, I thought wearily, for all children to go to school, not only for as many as existing classrooms will comfortably hold? Is class size more important than access to education?
By law, schools must accept children who live in their designated neighborhood. But if an official request doesn’t exist, neither does an official refusal. The school wouldn’t have to do anything for Alina unless her parents filed papers.
The day before school started, Catalin accompanied Sandra to the school. Catalin and the principal spoke privately. A few minutes later Alina was accepted. Catalin reported, “I told him that OvidiuRo would support him if he had any problems at the Inspectorate because of class size.”
In a phone conversation a couple of weeks later, her father said that she was happy. “The teachers are treating her well. Yesterday, one gave her a sandwich,” he said. “I don’t think we would ever have gotten her in without your help.”
I learned from Sandra’s neighbor that two other Romani children on their street were also refused registration for the first grade, and several others for the preparatory kindergarten class. Teachers sometimes tell me that Romani parents don’t value education and that their children don’t want to be in school. But they never told me that Romani children had difficulties registering for school.
Day or night, the way to the six meter square storage room in this Ferentari basement always requires a candle. Five people, Mr. & Mrs. Georgescu and their three children (ages 1, 4 and 6), live between rusty pipes, stale air, and peeling walls. They live there due to the kindness of the father‘s employer who owns an apartment in the building. They don’t have electricity, heating, or a toilet, but they consider themselves lucky to have a roof over their heads. They know how it is to live on the street and to be asked by the law enforcement move on in the middle of the night.
But soon they will have to leave. The apartment will be sold and with it the storage room – and it is unlikely the new owner will allow them to live there. “We should have left long ago. When I lie down at night I can’t sleep. I keep asking myself, ‘how can we get out of here?’ says the heavy-hearted 25 year-old father.
The Georgescus have wound up in this situation because neither of them ever went to school, not even for a day. Mr. Georgescu had a minor physical disability which his parents thought would prevent him from being accepted in school. Consequently, a decent job was never a possibility for this well-spoken, hard-working young man. The money he makes as a night watchman is not nearly enough to support a family of five.
This young couple is aware that their children’s only chance for a better life is to go to school. But their oldest daughter, Anca, missed out on kindergarten because they feared they did not have enough money for clothes and school supplies.
In 2006 her father heard from a work colleague about Fiecare Copil in Scoala . With help from OvidiuRo’s social worker and school mediator, Anca registered in the summer program and entered the first grade in September 2007.
She is now in OvidiuRo’s after-school program where she gets help with her homework and a nutritious snack – and, for the first time in her life, she has a computer to use. At first Anca was very shy, but over time she blossomed into an active and inquisitive youngster who loves to work at the computer and is diligent about finishing her homework before she leaves each day. At “home” in the cramped room it would be far harder to do her homework by candle light.
updated in 2008
On any given day, as you enter the OvidiuRo computer lab, you might notice a tall, pale teenager concentrating in front of the monitor. He greets you politely with a half mysterious, half amused grin, that makes you feel like an ignorant child in the face of an adult’s experience. Maybe it has to do with the fact that even few adults have faced the obstacles that, at a young age, Cristi has overcome.
When he was 3 months old, his parents divorced. With only half of the money from the sale of their apartment, his mother was left with nowhere to live and a young son to raise. Although originally she was able to rent a room, without a stable income, the two were soon forced to move out, seeking refuge in building entrances or in parks.
To many it might seem hard to understand how a mother can end up on the streets with her young son. But, in communities where virtually everyone is impoverished, people’s options are severely limited and social supports are lacking.
When Cristi was 7 his mother registered him in first grade. However, unlike his schoolmates, he had to do his homework in the park and to sleep “in shifts” with his mother. If you ask Cristi what his most vivid childhood memory is, he gives you a prompt answer: the cold.
After several years of makeshift shelters and nights in the park, it became almost impossible for Cristi to attend school regularly. His inconsistent attendance resulted in his repeating the 4th grade three times until he was 11 and the school told him not to return at all. Cristi’s mother recalls one day in the park when he saw from a distance his former classmates with their teacher on a day out. He immediately jumped off the bench where they were sitting and hid behind a tree.
When Cristi was 13, a social worker heard about their situation and sent them to OvidiuRo. He was included in the Mozaic group, an accelerated educational program for over-age kids, that helps them pass two school years in one. He was particularly interested in the NobelKids IT classes. Cristi shortly became the “IT master” of the centre. Every month he got the Best Student Award and even obtained 3rd prize at a Municipal IT contest. Now he is the IT teacher’s assistant and an important resource for the entire team.
Cristi intends to graduate from high school and eventually work with computers. He’s 16 and only in the 6th grade, but he’s back in school and he’s catching up…
Cristi will finish eighth grade in June 2010. He hopes to start high school next fall at the age of 17.
updated in 2008
Two black eyes, looking only to the floor for the first two minutes.
Little by little, Georgiana starts looking you in the face and she reveals one of the most beautiful and intelligent looks. Her uniform is always clean, and the white collar is shining al the time just like pure snow.
Looking at her you might ask: what is she doing with all those poor children? You could easily say her family must be doing better than the rest. Well, you would be totally wrong. Georgiana’s family: six sisters and one brother, mother and father living in Rahova, in a house with no running water.
OvidiuRo has helped twenty-year-old Loredana – already a mother herself – go back to school, starting with the fifth grade where she left off. OvidiuRo is also helping them to get the five year old into kindergarten, and providing counseling the mother so she can keep on going, keeping her family together since the husband is more trouble to them than support.
Madalina and Larisa – Georgiana’s sisters – are doing well at school too, but Georgiana is by far the “brain” of the family. Her mother brought her to OvidiuRo’s Sotron after-school program where she got assistance with homework and participated in the IT and English clubs. At home, with such a big family and a very noisy father it’s difficult to study and complete her homework.
Georgiana graduated first grade with a capital “A” and her mother is very proud of her results in the Math and Romanian language contests but she is always worried about the new up coming school year, the expenses that go along with keeping a child in school. The help she got from OvidiuRo with school materials, uniform and emergency aid for winter go a long way.
updated in 2008
Do you still remember the bell ringing to announce the break? Or the rumbling in the halls? Or the teacher saying “Quiet!”? In the summer of 2007, Liza could not hear any of this. She was 8 years old and should have been in the third grade. But her family was destitute; they didn’t even know that she had the right to go to school.
Several thousand children, who had never been to kindergarten from impoverished families, but were going to enroll in first grade in September 2007, got to prepare for school that summer, in the Sotron Summer School Preparation Programs organized by OvidiuRo. Liza Mihai, from Balteni village, Dâmbovita county, was among them.
Liza comes from a traditional Roma family, living in a very poor settlement of conservative silver coppersmiths (his father’s name is “Argintaru”). The family’s only income was from selling iron and copper.
With help of OvidiuRo, Liza was enrolled in the village school in the first grade in the fall of 2007. Her parents were advised how to prepare the official paperwork so that she could qualify for an allowance which was triple the regular child allowance. In addition, Liza was offered a hearing device from an Alex Fund donor in Colorado who has two daughters.
OvidiuRo also helped her get transferred to the school for hearing impaired in Bucharest. When she first arrived at the new school, she didn’t know basic things like the days of the week or how to colour. But she learned quickly and after only two months, Liza was able to say her first word. Her father became extremely emotional when Liza first called him “tata”. Now Liza is in second grade. Her teacher says that Liza started to speak, learned sign language and how to read lips. She misses school very rarely and she is very active in class. The teacher is optimistic about Liza’s chances to go to high school or vocational school. But in order to do this she must not get married, as most Roma teenage girls from her village do. Even her parents started to have aspirations for her; her mother really wants Liza to learn how to speak so she can manage by herself.
Liza was offered the chance to make up for lost time – and her physical handicap. Even though the law says every child has a right to education, Liza would have fallen between the cracks if OvidiuRo had not knocked on her door in the summer of 2007 and convinced her parents that she should be in school. How many other Lizas are out there?
I will never forget my first day of school. I was 10 years old, and so frightened. Everything seemed different than I had imagined it would be. I always believed the school was a place where teachers are strict and severe. I was happy to find out that they were kind and helpful. I was excited to be with so many other children, but I was afraid that they would not like me, I was self-conscious because I was older than them and I didn’t know how to behave.
The reason I was in school at all was because of a lady from Bucharest named Ioana Voicu. I met her while walking on the street one day at the feast of the Eldest. She asked my name and what grade I was in. Shy and ashamed I told her that I didn’t go to school.
Being the only girl and the youngest in a very poor family, my mother thought it would be better for me to stay home and take care of the house. Every day, I saw other children go to school and then run out into the courtyard at break time. I didn’t know what happened there – I imagined severe and authoritarian teachers. Even so, I wished I could be in school like other children.
Ioana Voicu was Executive Assistant to the Canadian Ambassador in Bucharest when I first met her. Her parents had a house in Matasaru, where my grandmother lived. She knew Ioana very well since she was a child. She was the one that supported Ioana in gaining my mother’s trust and lose the fear she had related to school. With the help of my grandmother Ioana made my mother understand that sending me to school would be good for me and that, as a mother, she was the only one to decide my future. Education could give me access to knowledge that could help me have a better future and be proud of me in time for what I could accomplish after having a good job.
In time I understood how important education was, that it could help me to have a normal life and not to be illiterate, to make friends, to graduate from high school, then college, to be able to own a house and then to support my family. In my case, the education I received at school blended with that received from Ioana. I’ve learned to be responsible for what I do, to investigate before taking a decision and accept the consequences of my actions. To learn from each experience and move on with a smile. If I should define education, I would say it is the second mother of a child.
I was in seventh grade when I realized that I wanted to finish college and work in a hotel. I like to interact with people. A hotel is transited by many people and I wanted to be there to learn something from each of them.
Over time I encountered many obstacles that could have prevented me from continuing my studies. But no matter how hard it was, I never thought of leaving school. Money were always a problem in my family. My mother was forced to take care of me and my two older brothers. They went to school on time, but they had to stop, one after ten years, the other after only eight. They needed to work. For a long time they didn’t want me to stay in school because they were afraid of my being more educated than them. But as time passed and they realized that I remained the same person, and that I had gained people’s respect in the village because I knew how to speak and how to behave and they were also respected because they were my family. Their status changed when mine changed.
My mother is now proud of me. I am grateful that she supported me as much as she could, sharing the exams’ emotions with me and that she understood why was important for me to go further. I am happy that I had beside me wonderful people who believed in me, encouraged me every time and made sure I would never feel alone. Ioana became my best friend and she is my mentor now. She made me understand that I was different from the others, but at the same time equal to them, that I had the same rights, but also responsibilities.
By ninth grade, I was the best in my class. It was not easy, but gives me now great satisfaction. I am a student in the second year at the Faculty of Geography of the University of Bucharest, majoring in tourism. OvidiuRo give me a scholarship and I volunteer at their center.
I work with them for one and a half years and I am glad to see that there are people who do for other children what Ioana did for me many years ago. I feel fortunate for the help OvidiuRo gave me both morally and financially.
Today I look into the eyes of 10 year old children who cannot go to school and I wish for them to have a story just like mine.
Lamaita Calistrache, 23 years old
Narcisa Cumpana, the oldest of eight children, grew up in a Roma village near Bacau. When she joined OvidiuRo’s first Mother’s Program in 2001, she was resorting to begging in order to support her two daughters. “I found myself alone with two little girls at the age of 20. I lived with my parents. Sometimes I begged and sometimes I collected metal. With the money I got I bought my girls milk and bread.”
In the Mother’s Program, Narcisa learned new skills and gained self-confidence. “I learned how to behave – in a job, and with other people. When someone talked to me, I would be very nervous. But the program made me have more confidence. It helped me to feel that I could change things in my life. The director of the program asked me if I wanted to go back to school and finish high school. I said, “No, I’m too old for that. I have two kids and a job.” But she took me to one of the adult classes and I saw there were a lot of older people. I said, “Ok, they’re like me. If they can do it, I can do it too.”
In 2005, Narcisa heard about a training in Bucharest about family planning and health. “After a very hard course, we took an exam and I got a good mark. Then I got a job working as a health mediator for the Health Department. It was very hard to talk about this subject, but I knew that if I shared this information with them maybe it would save some lives. When I went home, women in my village would come to me and we’d talk about our problems and in some way I think I helped them to understand that in life, sometimes you can change things. But it was often very difficult because my old friends and family often resented the changes in me. I had to learn to live with that.”
And yet, many young women tell Narcisa that she is an inspiration to them. “I want to show other young women with kids begging that they can find a way to make things better. I tell them about the program and I try to find a way for them to go to the program. I tell them “I was just like you. I know what it’s like to have your kids be hungry.”
In August 2006, Narcisa graduated from high school at age 28.
In September 2007, she enrolled in the Faculty of Pedagogy at the University of Cluj, planning to become a teacher.
Autumn 2009, Narcisa graduated from the Babes-Bolay University in Cluj-Napoca and is now a licensed teacher, working in a kindergarten in Bacau.
Sergiu Neculai Gâsca is a six grader at the “Mihail Andrei” School in Buhusi. He comes from a family with seven children. In 2002, his mother took part in a USAID funded training program and received professional and psychological counseling. A year later she got a job at the Elder Care Facility in Bacau, a job she still holds today. His father worked as a day laborer in the crop fields until he found a job at a local street cleaning company. Because of the economic crisis he is now laid off without pay. However, he didn’t give up and started to work again as a day laborer in order to help his wife support the family. Through the «Better neighborhoods» program, in 2003, the family was able to build an extra room and renovate the one they already had.
Because of OvidiuRo, Sergiu entered kindergarten when he was 5 years old and was the first in his family to go to kindergarten. There he learnt, among other things, how to recite poems and sing. Sergiu says that it is important to really like the poem you are reciting and that you also have to pronounce the words correctly and use the right intonation in order to convey the desired meaning. Because it gives him a feeling of inner peace, he even started to write poems. His teachers considered him to be gifted and they used some of the poems he wrote at school celebrations. This is an example of a poem he wrote when he was in the fourth grade:
Mama care mi-ai dat viata / Mom, you gave birth to me
Ai fost mama ce ma invata / You are the one who taught me
Tu m-ai iubit tot mereu / You always loved me
Si la bine si la greu. / For better and for worse.
Sergiu enrolled in first grade when he was 7 and started attending OvidiuRo’s “Stefanita” homework program. He liked the program so much that he never skipped a class. It wasn’t long before the results became visible: as a reward for getting only high grades, Sergiu got to go to several camps during the summer, for three years in a row (Prahova, Valea Budului, Dâmbovita). OvidiuRo continued to support Sergiu. As a result, he is involved in many enrichment activities (visits to the Planetarium in Bacau, singing contests) and, at the beginning of every school year, he gets a school kit full of supplies from OvidiuRo.
Unfortunately, his older brother and sisters were not so lucky. His brother Robert quit school at 14 to go to work. However, Sergiu wants to continue with his studies and is determined to support all his younger brothers in doing the same thing.