Today was back to Dobrich for a bit more insight into the work of Helping Hands Foundation.
The team had a fun hour with the Roma children at the HHF kindergarten, where we had been on Wednesday, and it was lovely to see that the children remembered who we were.
But first off we visited the HHF hostel that provides temporary accommodation for up to 6 men who were previously homeless. The men are referred from the local authority, and tend to stay for between 6 weeks and 6 months whilst they get assistance with reintegrating into society. Where possible HHF try and help them find work, but some of the men are too old for that and so for them it is a case of sorting out alternative accommodation, and accessing whatever income they might be eligible for.
We were able to see round the home, which is very small, but a safe and welcoming place, and meet the workers and volunteer staff as well as some of the residents. They also showed us their garden where they grow vegetables and keep chickens and rabbits in an effort to be as self-sufficient as possible.
The residents are taught how to do the gardening as part of their daily routine so that even if they don’t have paid work, they still have something to do that gives them self-worth and is a chance to develop new skills.
It was a very insightful visit for the team, and here are some thoughts from Josh Harvey and then Tiff Evans that underline how significant it was.
Q – what did you think about the homeless hostel?
A – I felt sad for the men who lived there because they had to live on the streets without money or food
Q – did you talk to the men?
A – they showed me the garden and how they grow vegetables and raised chickens and rabbits to feed themselves
Q – how did they make you feel?
A – I felt lucky I have people to help me look after myself and I have money to buy food and things
I would like to do something like a hand print collage to give to them to put on their wall.
When we went into the hostel one of the men’s faces lit up and he had a big smile that made me sad that he had no family or friends to make him smile
‘I was only homeless for a week, but that felt really bad. So when we were meeting people today it really upset me as it brought the memories back and I felt so sad for them. I was lucky as I had help and support to help me get back into accommodation. But the people over here don’t really have anything like that. There is nothing for most of them.
For the six people we met, it must have been really hard for them being on the streets, but now they can have a bit of hope. When they were on the streets it must have been so hard having to approach people to get into that place, but now they are in the home it is still hard as they don’t really have anyone; but I hope that the home is giving them hope, that they are starting to think there is a future for them.
When I was on the streets, I was very cold, hungry and lonely. I had no phone so I was shut off from the world. And because I’d been thrown out of home I didn’t know who to turn to. It was only when I went to my church and they saw the state I was in that they contacted my after-care worker, and she helped me get back to living with my mother. So at least I had my worker, and the people at the church who cared. Most people here don’t have that.
I get on better with my mum now, and after this trip I think I’ll get on even better. I appreciate her more now, and what she does for me; even that I just have her around. So when I’m home I won’t act like a spoilt brat anymore and I’ll try to spend more time with her, quality time that counts for something, showing that I am grateful to her and appreciate her.
Compared to the UK they have it harder here. In the UK there are soup kitchens, and hostels that people can go to for the night but over here there is just the one home for 6 people and if that is full there is nothing else for the others. In the winter here it gets really cold so that must be really hard – it’s hard enough in the summer but in the winter when it is freezing cold and raining – some of them freeze to death in their sleep, how awful is that.
I find it hard that there are charities to feed the stray cats and dogs here, but so little is down to help the homeless people. As much as animals are important and are living creatures, I just think humans should come first. I know some people might think that sounds harsh, but it seems to me that dogs are replaceable, and there is one of each human being and so we really ought to try and make their lives as good as we can.
I like to do voluntary work, and I was planning to go and volunteer in a charity shop when I get home, but now I’m thinking of volunteering in a soup kitchen or hostel instead. I don’t know what is out there in my area that I can help at but I will sit down with my support worker and look into it.
Going there today has really opened my eyes and made me realise there is a lot more I could do. I usually just sit around and think of what I want, and myself; I don’t usually think of others, and what they do or don’t have. But coming on this trip has opened my eyes and made me think and inspired me to want to help others a lot more.
I know I smoke way too much and I’m thinking that if I cut down on cigarettes and put the saved money to charity as well, then the amount that I used to spend on harming my body – that could pay for someone to have a roof over their head and a warm meal for a bit, and that would make it so worthwhile.
If I cut down just to spend money on clothes I wouldn’t have the will power, but to cut down so I can help someone else – that gives me more motivation. And I’ll find something to do to fill the gap – something that is about doing good for others to distract me from smoking. That’s what I want to do when I get back.
I am so grateful for having the opportunity to come here and see what I’ve seen and experience what I’ve experienced. It’s really changed me and helped me see life differently'