What is more pleasant than the infectious sound of children laughing?
This sound is at the heart of some amazing work being done by the friars in the eastern European nation of Romania at the Sociale Centre (Social Center) in the town of Roman, which is in northeastern Romania.
The center is operated by the Fundatia Umanitara Pacea (Humanitarian Foundation for Peace) and dedicated to the education of poor children. It was founded in 2000 by the friars in Romania and also provides services related to proper hygiene, skills training for job creation and social skills dedicated to helping the poor and illiterate citizens of Roman.
“Part of the Sociale Centre is an education unit that holds 80 children,” said Fr. Lucian Bobarnac, OFM Conv, a native of Romania’s capital city of Bucharest who joined the order in 2001 and who was ordained a priest in 2008. “Half of them are enrolled in our kindergarten and the other half are in the primary school. Every day they are transported back and forth by our school bus and here they receive, apart from an education, two meals per day.”
The children also find something very rare in their daily lives… pure joy.
In the fall of 2020, construction of a beautiful, modern playground, commissioned by the friars, known as the St. Anthony of Padua Playground, was completed.
“All of these children come from a poor and dirty environment. They have no other means of playing outside, just mud and dirty premises,” added Fr. Lucian, who serves as the President of Fundatia Umanitara Pacea. “When they come to school they feel like they are in paradise and we noticed in them a big desire to play in our garden and on our sports field.
“Before this playground we had an old, basic and deteriorated playground that the friars built, as they could, some 15 years ago. Therefore we thought that a new and bigger playground would do them very good and indeed it did. It’s hard for the teachers to get them back into the classrooms.”
Fr. Lucian expanded on the impact the playground will have on these children’s lives.
“These kids are marginalized by the Romanian society. They are often physically abused at home. It’s an oasis of joy here at school, having something to eat and being able to play. We never thought a playground could bring so much joy, but it is exactly what they, just like every other child in the world, need.”
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