written/translated by: Hildegund / Herma
For most people, Christmas is a time of presents, time spent with family or friends, cosy evenings with a glass of mulled wine or other seasonal delicacies, and the spirit of goodwill to others. However, this is not the case for everyone. A large number of people spend Christmas alone, cold and hungry. This year the EVU wants to draw attention to those for whom Christmas is no different to any other time of year, and encourage our members to support a very worthy project in Moldova that aims to help a vulnerable section of the population – the elderly.
The Sunrise Day Care Centre is a project based in the town of Straseni that provides assisted living for elderly citizens, in particular those who are alone, sick or physically disabled. The Centre opened in December 2003 and offers a public vegetarian kitchen, bathing and laundry services and a place to socialise. The elderly can watch television, read newspapers, have a massage, see a doctor and participate in various activities organised by the centre, such as poetry gatherings or dancing sessions.
The local community is involved in the work of the centre as much as possible in an attempt to highlight the problems faced by one of the most vulnerable sections of society. Involvement of the state authorities is also foreseen, to ensure that the project does not replace the governmental activities but rather complements and enhances them.
In an attempt to promote the philosophy of Neohumanism, a vegetarian diet is offered at the Sunrise centre. Neohumanism is an extension of humanism and promotes love and respect for all animate and inanimate beings and objects. It stands for the protection of the environment, animals and plants as well as humans. Initially there was uncertainty about how the vegetarian diet would be accepted by the visitors to the centre, but after several months it is clear that the vegetarian cuisine has been a great success. In addition to excluding meat, fish and eggs, the diet is also yogic, meaning that no onions, garlic or mushrooms are used. Many elderly people who have digestive problems, gastric illnesses or stomach pain now look forward to eating at the centre, and several think that they are being given meat when soy cutlets or chunks are served! More than once, people have remarked “you said the food here is vegetarian, but today we had meat”.
Vegetarianism in Moldova is usually linked with poverty due to a lack of money to purchase meat. The Sunrise Centre touches many people’s lives, within the local community and abroad, both visitors and guests. The centre is making a small but important impact in promoting vegetarianism as a way of life in its own right. Most of the people who have eaten at the centre have overcome their initial prejudice regarding vegetarian food, especially as the chefs make an effort to ensure the food looks good as well as tasting great.
In addition to providing facilities for elderly citizens, the centre also helps homeless animals, in particular cats and dogs. Strays are taken in from the streets or rescued from violent neighbours. The pets are given a place to recover, and have proven to be quite therapeutic for the guests.
A new project, the “Rainbow” home for old people has also recently opened. This is strictly vegetarian as well, and will be able to house up to 20 elderly residents at a time.
It is clear that both projects require a lot of financial support, and although the project organiser, Vanja Vasiljak, is always busy fund-raising, it is never enough. The European Vegetarian Union has therefore decided to support both ventures, firstly because they are successful vegetarian initiatives in a very poor country, and secondly as they show how vegetarian nutrition can feed the poor and hungry, even under such hard circumstances.
One thing that would help the sustainability of the projects is a greenhouse, which would enable the centres to grow fresh and healthy vegetables throughout the year and help them to maintain their vegetarian diet. And this is where the EVU will start its support. For Christmas, the EVU will provide financial support towards a greenhouse, because we see this as an important method of promoting vegetarianism in a largely meat-eating country.
You too can help us, in more than one way. Above all, financial help is required. It is not practical to send parcels to Moldova as the postage is very high in comparison to the value of the packet, and Moldova is too far away to drive there by car or lorry. Therefore, the best help is through a donation, and all funds are welcomed. You can send your contribution to one of the EVU’s accounts, marked with the reference “Donation Moldova”, and we will use every cent of it to build a greenhouse in Moldova. We will report regularly on the progress of the project in this magazine and on our internet site.
Alternatively, should you one day plan a journey to Moldova, please contact us beforehand. You may be able to help out by transporting something to the centre, such as a spare part that cannot be bought in Moldova. Needless to say, if you want to help directly and spend some time working in one of the projects, you would be more than welcome!
Please help us to develop this valuable and unique undertaking in Moldova and provide support and assistance for those who really need it. Your contributions and help are urgently needed and very much appreciated. As you sit down to eat on Christmas Day with your loved ones, you will know that you have helped others to enjoy a healthy, nutritious meal. And that, after all, is what the season of giving is all about.
Article based on a report submitted by Hildegund Scholvien.