We received this email yesterday from an old friend who made his first visit to our shelter this week. With his permission (on the condition he remains anonymous), we reproduce it in full:

Ian Tilling was one of the first people I met when I arrived in Romania, back in 1998 I think. The first Casa Ioana shelter had just opened and Ian was telling me about the seemingly thousands of bureaucratic obstacles he had had to overcome in order to get the shelter up and running. Ian even paid for the beer I think, despite the fact that funds were as precious then as they are now. The venue was – if memory serves, the Grand Cafe on Pache Protopopescu. It was a regular haunt of Ian’s at the time and you would often bump into him if you dropped by.

In the many years since I have followed the progress of Casa Ioana and have marvelled time and again at just how much Ian and his team have managed to get done. Since those beginnings the nature of Casa Ioana has changed somewhat, reflecting the changing demographic of the homeless in Bucharest. When it first opened, its focus was on helping single homeless men. Today, homeless families and the victims of domestic violence are its prime concern.

To my shame, despite helping out with the odd donation and supporting Casa Ioana’s work in various ways I had never visited the shelter. That wrong was righted on Tuesday, when my wife and I took some winter clothes which we had rounded up from various, generous friends to the shelter at Soseaua Oltenitei. We were also able to pass on a very generous donation which a friend of ours had made so that Casa Ioana could buy mattresses for its planned new shelter in Bucurestii Noi.

It would be a massive understatement to say that I was moved, both by the amazing staff and by the people currently benefiting from their help. Talk about dignity: these people can teach all of us something about  that. They are also a reminder of two basic truths:

1. We all have a duty to help as many people as we can

2. Very few of us do

As my wife and I left we vowed to do far more for Casa Ioana, and we shall. I would also suggest you ask all your friends, helpers and donors to make at least one visit to the shelter: seeing how people are being helped puts a whole new perspective on your wonderful work.

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