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Volume 8, No. 2FALL 2005

Victims of family violence, AIDS in Romania
getting assistance with basic needs.

His Beatitude TEOCTIST, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, addresses those attending the program signing ceremony in April 2005. Among those present were staff from IOCC, the Romanian Orthodox Church, the U.S. Agency for International Development and members of the press. Photo: IOCC-Romania

Bucharest, Romania (IOCC) — To a woman living in a domestic violence shelter, a blanket is more than something to keep her warm — it’s a source of comfort. For an underprivileged child struggling to stay in school, a new pencil and notebook are more than school supplies — they’re tools for success.

Blankets and school kits and health kits are the kinds of material assistance that IOCC is planning for victims of family violence and AIDS as part of its new $5.4 million partnership with the Romanian Orthodox Church.

The project, launched in April in cooperation with the U.S. Agency for International Development, seeks to raise public awareness about AIDS and family violence in Romania, and to improve the quality of care for those confronted with these devastating issues.

It is estimated that 29 percent of married women in Romania have suffered either physical or emotional abuse in their lifetime, and that an alarming number of young people have either experienced (41 percent) or witnessed (26 percent) parental physical abuse during childhood. Seventy percent of Romanians living with HIV/AIDS are teen-agers. Those who are orphans and living in state care will have to fend for themselves once they turn 18, and many face the grim prospect of a life of poverty and unemployment.

Against this setting for a public health crisis, the Romanian Orthodox Church and IOCC offer the prospect of hope and social change.

Will Clowney, IOCC-Romania Program Coordinator, said that at-risk young people and women in the program can benefit greatly from basic necessities such as school supplies and personal hygiene items. The $445,000 in material assistance is being made available through IOCC’s growing Gifts-in-Kind program, which leverages bulk quantities of goods from corporate and charitable donors. IOCC’s in-kind contribution was strengthened by the support of Romanian Orthodox Christians in North America.

“In our project, we’re working with 13 dioceses of the Romanian Orthodox Church. We’re going to distribute these items through the churches and work with the dioceses to make sure they go to the people who need them the most,” Clowney said.

About 2,600 Church personnel, including priests, priests’ wives, deacons and religion teachers, will receive instruction in AIDS awareness and family violence prevention, as well as training in counseling techniques and in mobilizing their own parish communities on behalf of the victims.

Community-based services will be implemented through a series of grassroots initiatives, half of them youth-led and for teen-agers, and another half through concerned parishioners organized into Philanthropic Committees.

Through educational classes and Youth Initiative Clubs, the project will reach nearly 350,000 young people with a faith-based message of abstinence and faithfulness to one partner.

Many of the health kits, school kits and blankets will be distributed through the Philanthropic Committees and Youth Initiative Clubs as a way to engage lay people in the project.

“Children from poor families get nickel-and-dimed to death for school supplies, so book bags and supplies are always welcome,” Clowney said. “Health kits are helpful for victims of family violence who are living in shelters. Blankets can also be used in shelters and by children whose families are affected by AIDS.”

The items are expected to arrive in Romania late this summer.

The school and health kits are made possible through the contributions of Orthodox Christians.

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