Flowers for mom. The story of Andreea Ursaru

What help do vulnerable families actually need and how can they get it?

By Roxana Gramada
Andreea Marin, National Ambassador for UNICEF in Romania, visiting a 20 years old mom of four children in
UNICEF/Anamaria Dinulescu

25 January 2019

Her mother left the country ten years ago and never came back. She was left behind with her sister and her dad.

“I raised my sister since she was 6. Now she’s married in Comănești … dad died two years ago.”

When Andreea was in the seventh grade, she met her first husband, and went back to school in the first semester of the eighth grade only to put up with the school mediator. Then she had her first child, and since then… “a fresh batch every year…” Andreea lacks a lot, but not a sense of humor.

She is a thin young woman, not too tall, with hazelnut hair modestly tied in a ponytail. A baby in her arms and three children chirping around her, she looks like any other mom, from whom someone always wants or is in need of something. Carina is 4, Andreea 3, David one-and-a-half and Daria only one month old. Daria was born premature and they spent three weeks in hospital. They came home only a few days ago.

Home is a tiny house with a narrow balcony and eight square meters to live in. Enough to fit two beds, a table, the stove and a cupboard where the TV lies tuned into a folk music TV channel. In the glass case sit a tube of toothpaste and a bottle of dish soap, both nearly finished. The place is clean though. Ever since Andreea started getting visits from the social worker and the community nurse, many things have changed.

Support where it’s needed

The lady always visited me, helped me with kind words, advice… to clean up [the house], talk to other women, […] go to the city hall and talk to them, too. She told me to take care of the children, give them clean clothes, bathe them and feed them on time … with kind words. Without them, I would not have known [what to do] so and so, since I did not have mom next to me.

“…otherwise, I don’t even know how I would’ve gotten by, to be honest.”

Asău, the commune where Andreea lives, is part of “Community Services for Children,” a program implemented by UNICEF and its partners in 45 communities in the county of Bacău, whereby families in need like Andreea’s receive basic social, medical and educational services. That’s what it’s called: “Minimum Package of Services”. Andreea received advice, encouragement and support to get birth certificates for her children and to file for social aid. It was Mihaela, the social worker, and Maria, the community nurse, who asked about and took care of her while in hospital and told her about family planning. “They helped to get the papers for child support … for groceries, otherwise, I don’t even know how I would’ve gotten by, to be honest.”

 

Andreea Ursaru together with her new born baby and a local professional - the community nurse
UNICEF/Anamaria Dinulescu
Andreea Ursaru together with her new born baby and a local professional - the community nurse

UNICEF Ambassador meets the family

Today, Andreea will receive something else. A visit from Andreea Marin, National Ambassador for UNICEF in Romania. As soon as she arrives, Andreea Marin looks into what matters most: the children. She wants to talk to them and know their names and ages. Slowly, the children open up and gladly share with her their world. Carina has been in kindergarten today. Before long she will learn that the lady’s name is the same as her sister’s. Andreea wants to tell the puppy story and David comes around ready for a hug.

A child on each knee, Andreea Marin is interested in anything the mother will have her know. How the first husband left and does not come by to see the children, how the second husband and dad to the two youngest, shoveled like her, works odd jobs here and there. “It’s hard. In here we cook, live and eat … I have to buy wood, winter is coming…” “But I think what matters most is love, right?” “The most,” confirms the hostess.

In the tiny room, games and colouring are on with the guest. As any healthy child, Carina has dreams and speaks about them: she already knows how to read. It’s precious proof of trust in her own powers and in life, and Andreea is careful to nurture it. “The first step is curiosity … one day you will know all the letters of the alphabet and you will know how to read.” Children’s minds grow when someone near them has enough power and skill to show them a way.

Andreea Ursaru is doing her best to look after the children. It does not even cross her mind to leave them. “I will not do that in my life, I would rather starve.” She has this strength about her… “she has the will, struggles, goes to the hospital with the baby, fights to get what she needs…” Maria and Mihaela have seen that, now so has Andreea Marin.

“You have such wonderful children, you will see, bit by bit things will get better. And you are such a good mom.” A kind word goes a long way.

Andreea’s visit is no accident. When the social worker and the community nurse work together in every community, as with Andreea and her children, a speck of hope takes form. That they will grow with their family, get to go to school and see a doctor when needed. It is a hope not only for the children in the 45 communities in the county of Bacău, but for all the children like them in Romania, that the program started by UNICEF and the city halls will expand to include them. And for the good of these children, Andreea Marin always finds the time to encourage them.

People crowd in front of the house from all over to see Mrs. Andreea who’s on TV. It’s quite a day for them, so they brought flowers to thank her for the visit and her support. Andreea thanks them gracefully and asks permission to offer the flowers to the hostess. “It’s my pleasure to leave them in her house.”

Because Andreea Ursaru has never received flowers. Until now.

The social services Andreea Ursaru receives are available to all families but were created for the most vulnerable children and their families in particular. The services include social protection, healthcare and education that could prevent, at a fraction of the cost, many of the issues that generally affect these families: children separated from their parents, lack of minimum welfare payments, violence, early pregnancies, illness, school dropout or absenteeism.

For these services to reach all families like Andreea’s, every community in Romania must include a social worker, a community nurse and a school counselor.

UNICEF in Romania is currently testing this model (Minimum Package of Services) in 45 communities in the county of Bacău, with financial support from Norway Grants, Foundation Botnar, UNICEF and the private sector. The pilot model is independently evaluated, and the results are shared with decision-makers to develop new legislation, norms and standards and to mobilize state and European funding for national implementation throughout the country. All children of Romania will be more protected, healthy and educated!