Transforming the Lives of Europe's PoorestScot Bower - 24 Oct 2011
With the intense heat of summer comes the sound of young children laughing as they run through the streets spraying water from plastic bottles. These playful screams are accompanied by the insistent, compulsive beat of balkan-gypsy drums and occasional brass section. During these months this is a place of laughter and celebration. But wintertime here tells a different story; It brings bone-numbing cold to the same dirt streets lined with ramshackle simple structures. The smell of burning oil and wood linger in the air pouring from so many makeshift chimneys and is joined by smoke from piles of smouldering rubbish that burn at the side of the road. This acrid smell reminds you of the hardship that's a reality for thousands of families.
It's against this backdrop on the outskirts of Skopje, Macedonia that we find one of the most encouraging and beautiful expressions of 24-7 Communities making a difference in the lives of the very poorest.
The Glasnost community work with the Roma gypsies of Shutka, the largest Roma settlement in Europe (more than 70,000). There they are building relationships with young people and support an incredible preschool which is changing the lives of 20 kids every year. The Little Friends preschool brings hope to a community as children are given the chance not only to learn the alphabet, but to be in a safe, warm place, and learn about Jesus, about the world and their place in it. They are taught that they are important to God, even when the world around them says they are the least important.
There is nothing more valuable we can do for those others, especially the poor and the hopeless than to bring an understanding of who they are in the eyes of the creator. That they are loved and they are to love others. It's this message that could transform this community.
Children come to the preschool from the age of 4 then at the age of 7 they leave and join the local school not just as some of the brightest kids at the local school but some of the best behaved. As such there's often a scramble for teachers to sign up the 'little friends' children. But the relationship doesn't stop here as the team continue to work with each child and their family throughout their school life. visiting the The vision is that soon 20 children per year will be graduating from school and taking a place in their local community where they too can bring life and the love and acceptance of Jesus to the streets of Shutka. This, the largest Roma community in Europe, could be transformed by and for the gospel within 2 generations!
The Little Friends preschool relies on donations and sponsorship of children. At the moment they need sponsors for 10 children, if you can help visit patchworkids.org where you can pledge your support.