With your help, ADRA is giving a hand up to individuals who are desperately seeking a way out of poverty. Individuals who work hard and hunger for more knowledge. Individuals like Arkadijs.
"I do not know one Roma* [Gypsy] who can read and write," Arkadijs shares. "We need to be pioneers. We need to learn and show the way to those around us. Please help us."
One of the foundations of ADRA's ministry is to create ways to help individuals lift themselves out of poverty. Following Christ's example globally, we focus much of our work among forgotten people groups or those whom society isolates.
ADRA is working in Latvia, a northern Baltic country that celebrated its independence from the Soviet Union 20 years ago. For generations, the Roma population was not allowed to attend school, and quite frankly, most did not see the need for education. Today, many young Roma adults are desperately seeking ADRA's help in providing a literacy program in the northeast of the country. I'd like to share a few of their personal aspirations and struggles with you.
Edgars longs to provide a better life for his family. Because he never went to school, at 35 years old he is unemployable by government protocol. When he was a small boy, his parents permanently injured his fingers to keep him from mandatory military service in the Soviet army. Despite physical challenges and illiteracy, Edgars works hard.
If you were to visit his home-a 120-year-old building that he shares with three other Roma families-you would find that Edgars' two rooms stand out for their tidiness and cleanliness. Outside, he has built a small woodshed for their wood-burning stove that provides heat and cooking. And although the building has no running water or sanitation, he has built the only private outhouse for his small family.
When asked why his home is so noticeably different and pristine, he responds, "I want to take care of my family. My children are very important to me. I want them to have a better life than I have had. I need to be a good example for them. This is why I want to learn to read and write, even though the rest of my family makes fun of me for these things.
"My two oldest children are in school," Edgars continues. "I am amazed at all the new ideas they come home with. I want to learn too. I feel very uncomfortable and weary when they bring home their school papers to share and I have no idea what they say. And when they ask for help with their homework and neither my wife nor I know how to help, I can't describe how this makes me feel.
"When I heard that ADRA was interested in helping the Roma, I couldn't believe it," says Edgars. "I had to find out for myself if this was true. Now to hear that with ADRA's help, I can learn to read, write, and count-I am a man filled with hope. I can build anything. If I could show that I can read and write, I can be paid for my skills. And even more, I can inspire my children to stay in school.
"I am a hard worker, and God has always provided for our needs, even with my hands. I will give you an example: European exporters buy blackberries from the Roma in Latvia. This year, I won the award for picking the most! On my best day, I picked 30 kilos [66 pounds]. No one understands why I push so hard. I want to provide for my family. If you give me this chance to learn, I will grab it and do everything possible to succeed," Edgars exclaims.
Take a moment and look at the enclosed photos to learn more about Arkadijs and to see Edgars with his 2-year-old daughter, Christina, in their kitchen. This is the first time in his life that Edgars has been photographed. Roma families are asking for ADRA's help in learning to read, write, and count in order to significantly change their lives for the better. ADRA plans to begin this literacy program this June.
ADRA is committed to helping individuals such as Edgars, who are desperately struggling to provide for their families. They live in constant fear of not being able to feed and care for their children.
*Throughout Europe, the Gypsy populations are referred to as Roma.