Cluj-Napoca is a city of two halves in north-western Romania. It is the capital of the historical region Transylvania, home to 85,000 students and a popular tourist destination. But Cluj is also home to a community of Roma people living in Pata-rat, a slum beside the city’s rubbish dump on the outskirts of town, affectionately called “Dallas” by the people who live there.
The Roma are some of the most excluded and disadvantaged people in Europe. There are six million Roma living within the EU, more than the total population of Ireland. They are treated as second-class citizens just because of their ethnicity. They experience persecution, are evicted from their homes and are treated unfairly by people in authority.
Life beside the rubbish dump is tough; living in make-shift houses with little access to education and job opportunities, things can seem hopeless for the community. One Christian charity, Rise2Shine have been working with the Roma population living in Pata-Rat over the long-term, seeking to bring hope and develop social, educational and vocational skills. GAiN UK has been partnering with Frank and Rita, who lead Rise2Shine, since 2015 by sending aid, finances and teams to support their work.
Serbia, once part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, became an independent country in 2006 and is home to 6.5 million Serbians.
Also a temporary home to thousands of refugees, Serbia is one of the countries located along the so-called Balkan route, which refugees take in order to reach countries in western Europe. This route is fraught with danger, not only from the elements of the ever-changing weather, but also from the authorities who don’t want the refugees in their country. When they are caught crossing borders, there are pushed back to another country. Most of the time, these pushbacks are accompanied by beatings and confiscation of valuables and clothes.
UNHCR has stated that as of August 2021, Serbia has hosted over 5,000 refugees from over 50 countries. Many come from Afghanistan and Syria, having travelled a long way to get this far.
Being a fairly new country, Serbia faces challenges of poverty and unemployment. 25% of Serbians are considered poor, and households are 10 times more likely to be impoverished if the head of the household hasn’t completed primary school.
We are working with Tibor, a church leader in Subotica and part of Eastern European Outreach, as well as Agapé Serbia in Eastern Serbia to reveal hope and restore life to those in need.