Working Hard, Playing Hard
If there ever was a success story about beating the odds, it would be the story of the Got family. Where most people in their situation fail, the Got folk find a way to cope and build on the future.
Toma is in grade seven and is the third youngest of the seven Got children. At twelve-and-a-half, he cuts a confident figure. Known to everyone in the village as ciobanu, the shepherd, he has earned himself a reputation as a capable young man who does not sit about and has a knack for profitable business even in times of economic hardship.
Three Christmases ago he put meat on the table for the whole family when the local farmer rewarded his hard work on the farm with a hundred-kilo pig. It has been a few years now since Toma started milking the sheep on the big farm in the next valley and bringing into Vurpar a cartload of milk containers in the early mornings. Driving a horse-drawn cart with the local supply of milk is a big responsibility for a young person. It goes to show just how much he has been trusted to do the job well.
Responsibility is something his mother, Maria, drilled into all her children from an early age. A Baptist for the last ten years, she has a strong work ethos and assigns endless chores to her six sons and one daughter: anything ranging from chopping the wood to feeding the chicken and digging up the vegetable garden. Toma is admittedly the best worker. Maria proudly glances in his direction: “When he sweeps the yard, you can eat off the ground! He’s so careful with it.”
UNICEF research shows that there are many boys in rural areas who drop out of school in sixth or seventh grade to carry out agricultural work. Toma somehow manages to do the agricultural work and, at the same time, remain at school. This is very much owing to the support of his family. His parents do not have permanent employment in Romania but take turns to pick fruit on farms in Germany for a couple of months every year. The money they bring back is used very economically for the remainder of the year. Their family home has a small vegetable garden, poultry and rabbits which afford the Gotes a fair degree of self-sufficiency.
Maria is a very hands-on parent. She is always monitoring the children and setting boundaries before behaviour gets out of hand: “If they argue, I intervene. They watch TV only after they’ve finished their homework and their chores. I help them with their school work but when they reach fifth grade I am out of my depth.”
The head teacher of Vurpar school is highly appreciative of Mrs Got: “She is one of our most conscientious parents. UNICEF would want her as a consultant to deliver parenting classes to less competent families. She really knows how to promote her children’s best interests’.
Having to cope with the same challenges as all other Vurpar mothers, Maria has not balked at the impossible travel costs associated with high school education for rural kids. Three of her older sons are in high school in Sibiu. They have enrolled on auto-mechanical and engineering courses at technical colleges which sponsor their commute to the city. Maria pushed for this even though the children might have liked a different career. At least she has given them a way out of unemployment, poverty and misery.
One of Toma’s older brothers runs Sunday school for the Baptists in Vurpar. He is a great role model for the younger children. He taught Toma to share his earnings with friends and invite them round for biscuits and juice once in a while. An excellent host and quite an entrepreneur, Toma would like to have a chain of hotels when he grows up. I would be his first guest. For the Gotes are not only hard working but possess a great sense of humour. An hour after the interview concludes we are still together in stitches of laughter over Toma’s story of how the pig tried to escape from becoming the Christmas meal.