Field visits and exchanges of street social work practices in Brussels and Bucharest
Testimonies of Belgian social street workers in Bucharest and Romanian street workers in Brussels. When a full immersion experience allows to get in touch with unknown and different realities bringing a mutual enrichment to strengthen our professional practices.
In November 2019, two Romanian social street workers, Elena Adam of Samu Social in Bucharest and Andreea Dina de Parada of Social Circus were welcomed to experience some of the most usual social work fields in Brussels.
Andreea gives us comments on her experience:
“This experience will have a positive impact on my professional practice.
I was able to understand the way other organizations work with young people and their complex context related to specific community’s problems. I saw concretely how the professional activities were carried out and I acquired pedagogical and circus skills to work with children.
The most pleasant thing was to get to know organizations and people passionate about their profession and to meet beneficiaries from different cultures and in particular young Romanian migrants”
Then in December 2019, Florine Baar of AMO La Boussole and César Richelle of AMO Dynamo were hosted by Romanian social street workers in Bucharest.
Florine gives us her testimony:
“Here I am back in Brussels, from Bucharest, Romania. I went as a social street worker with my colleague César to meet other social workers and their organizations who fight against social insecurity and exclusion.
Here in Bucharest, the gap between wealth and poverty is very large. We met a 14-year-old Romanian boy who showed us around the places where he grew up. Today he lives in a squat with all his family in a single room without water, toilets and sometimes without electricity. We were very well welcomed. He grew up in the poorest neighbourhood of Bucharest. In winter to warm up, he would take shelter in the city’s water inlets (big very hot pipes where we sat with him). I will never forget the smile of this child and one of his words that marked me terribly “when you grow up here, you have little choice, you necessarily become someone bad”. The life context of these people is so inhuman that you end up sinking. Barely born, street children are already confronted with an atrocious world. In order to survive they are ready to do anything.
In the evening, we continued our tour in a van; we went to drop off clothes, school supplies, food and medicines for people living in such shocking conditions that it’s almost impossible to describe. We walked the streets of Bucharest, a beautiful city with a great architecture. We were not just tourists, we went to the very heart of a city that manages to hide its problems well, with a government that excludes and denies social realities.
The 4 organizations we met were funded by wealthy Americans; none of them receive funds by public institutions. The government puts very little economic resources in the social sector. For this reason, organizations lack of financial and human resources, which make them able to reach only a small segment of the target population.
This trip was not only a very enriching experience but also gave me even more energy to fight against inequalities and injustices. A job that allows you to be in direct contact with people, to understand their reality. A journey filled with extraordinary connections, especially with social workers, who dedicate their lives helping the most disadvantaged, while some others think only about their wallet.
When you come back from such an intense journey, you realize how much the current system goes completely against people’s basic needs and how urgent is to make some strong and radical changes.
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César tells us about his experience:
“We were able to observe the work of 4 associations, Parada, ASIS, ARAS and the Samu Social. I thank Vali from ASIS, amazing social worker who gave us a warm welcome; Andreea and Lonut, directors of Parada; Christine from ARAS and Elena from Samu Social.
This experience was unforgettable and had a strong impact on a personal and professional level. From a professional point of view, it allowed us to better understand our political, economic and social system, in comparison with the one from a different country and social context. Meeting such involved and dedicated social workers gave me lots of energy and motivation for my street work in Brussels.
We were able to attend one of the performances of Parada who works on the “social circus” tool with a group of young people. At Dynamo, we also work with the circus tool and this experience pushed my desire to further increase its use. All the associations work with very marginalized ROM communities that we had the chance to meet; this encounter allowed us to better understand their way of life, where they come from, etc. This made us realize that also in Romania it is quite hard to work with ROM communities.
The most difficult thing for me … see this poverty face to face, a greater and more intense misery than in Belgium. At the same time also realising the impossibility of a deep and radical structural change. The work of these associations can be compared to an emergency intervention that only puts a bandage on a wooden leg. Public money is not being invested as it should be in the social sector in my opinion.
We had very great people’s connections. The social workers invested quite some of their time to explain their work to us, which enriched our experience. I can’t wait to repeat the experience in another kind of context; I would also be happy to welcome soon other social workers from other countries to give them the same kind of enrichment we received.”