TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Many kids love winter, enjoy outdoor winter activities, and hope for Christmas gifts, but not to the children living in some areas of Armenia, Bosnia, and Romania, as their parents manage to build fire to help them survive freezing winters, said people with a relief organization recently at a forum in Taipei.
The World Vision Taiwan organization hosted a forum with guests from three different countries on Sunday, Nov. 26 to rally support for assistance programs to serve struggling families and children living in poverty.
Representatives of the relief organization from Romania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Armenia came to Taiwan to discuss the difficult conditions of poverty stricken people, especially the risks and challenges such communities face during the harsh winters in the region.
The representatives outlined the current situation and strategies to address the chronic poverty and malnourishment in the poorest regions of their country.
In the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Livelihood and Resilience Tech., the non-profit organization worker Almir Zulic discussed the problem of limited fuel sources to heat non-insulated homes in Bosnian winters that can reach -20, even -30 degrees Celsius.
The team there aims to create a wood pellet production line, which will produce the relatively less expensive fuel source for communities. Increased availability of fuel for heating homes will allow families to save funds that would otherwise be spent entirely on wood, a crucial resource that is quickly becoming too expensive for many in the country.
The wood pellet production line will provide work for some youth employees, and a model for other villages and community organizations. The country's WV Communication Officer Nejra Baltes explained that youth unemployment in Bosnia-Herzegovina is at a staggering 65 percent for people ages 18 to 30. The country’s infrastructure has been extremely troubled since the early 1990s when the region suffered heavily in its conflict with neighbor Serbia.
The goal is to help communities help themselves by establishing sustainable ventures and small business models to create employment opportunities, and cultivate a more hopeful outlook for the future of the country.
Forum guests learn about the issues in the region (Image courtesy of World Vision Taiwan)
Armenia is a country where poverty has been on the rise over the past decade, and over 50,000 people live in extreme poverty on less than US$ 50 every month.
The Armenia team is especially concerned about the number of struggling single parent families, and the number of children in orphanages or behavioral institutes in the country, where infrastructure for childcare falls below the average for European countries. Armenia ranks the 3rd highest in the world for prenatal selection, where preference for male children puts female babies at particular risk, especially in poor communities.
There are 15 communities in Armenia that are especially isolated during winter with little possibility for outside assistance. The Manager from Armenia's Aparan region Tamara Babakadze explained that most homes in these areas are built of stone and poorly insulated which contributes to high malnutrition in poor households that lack an adequate supply of hot water or proper winter wear.
The organization also hopes to introduce solar panels to there, and train a local workforce in their maintenance and installation. Armenia has around 300 sunny days a year, and solar panels will contribute to job production, and create energy stores that will help families stay warm in the winter.
In addition to their support for families during the winter each year, the WV Armenia Program Director Zhiayr outlined the organization's strategy to develop youth education programs as well as programs that provide support and educational courses for young parents.
The aim is not simply to assist individuals on single occasions of hardship, but rather to uplift and enrich families and communities through education and training to improve shared economic prospects for entire regions.
Romania is country that recently joined the EU, however it still suffers from very serious wealth disparity between urban and rural areas. The common European market has resulted in higher priced goods, while wages have remained stagnant throughout the country.
WV Romania is especially concerned about the poverty stricken communities in the Ural mountain region, which are reliant on small clay stones to heat often poorly constructed and poorly insulated homes. Project Coordinator and Social Work Specialist for the Vaslui region, Roberta Tuduri described the difficult and discouraging situation for many children in the region, where one in eight is likely to only eat one meal a day, and one in five will never finish secondary school.
The Operations Director for Romania Cristina Balanescu examined the obstacles and needs of families and communities in the Ural region. They hope to improve a network of cooperation and communication throughout the region to teach better home insulation techniques, as well as provide wood to heat homes and clothing to keep children warm in the winters that are regularly -15 to -20 degrees Celsius.
As has been observed in many communities, poverty creates a cycle of economic struggle, which in turns contributes to neglected education and increased health issues. Poorly educated communities with little economic prospects are then even more likely to continue sliding deeper into poverty.
The representatives have been in Taipei for a week to consult with their counterparts in Taiwan, to devise cooperative strategies for the best way that World Vision and the people of Taiwan can help at-risk populations in the three countries. The sharing session and forum was organized by a Taiwanese philanthropist Mr. Chen, who began sponsoring an Armenian child, four years ago, and has become more involved in the effort to help as many people in the region as possible.
World Vision is a relief, development and advocacy organizations that assists struggling families and children to overcome poverty and suffering throughout the world.
If you would like to assist children and families in Armenia, Bosnia-Herzegovnia, or Romania, by making a donation, offering your assistance, or sponsoring a child in need, more information is available on the main World Vision website (Eng), or the site of World Vision Taiwan (CHI).
World Vision representatives and forum attendees (Image courtesy of World Vision Taiwan)