Elena, is one of our young ladies from the girls at risk programme, we have asked her to talk about her life growing up in Cernavoda, what choices her friends made and how she has been supported by Nightingales Children’s Project to choose a different future.
“When I was a young girl, I enjoyed playing with dolls all day long. After Mihaela, my sister, was born, I had to look after her as my parents had to work. I was like a second mother to her, until class ten when my parents realised that I needed to spend time with my friends without Mihaela. Looking back now having Mihaela with me when I went out with my friends, helped me to make positive life choices, and because I was worried about what Mihaela would tell my parents if I did some of the things my friends were doing.
When I was young my parents were very strict with me, and many times I wanted to run away from home, because I felt they did not understand me. Once aged 7, I was at home with Mihaela and my father. Mihaela was not feeling very well and I accidently knocked over her medicine. My father was so angry with me, he packed my bags and asked me to leave. I took the bags and left the house, a 7 year old holding a bag of her clothes, not knowing where I was going or what I was doing. Fortunately for me I had not gone far, and I met my mother coming back from work. She took my hand and walked me home. This was the start of the breakdown of the relationship with my father and since that day we have not been close, even though I have tried and often wish we could be close, like he is with Mihaela.
At school I was shy, and did not make friends easily. In class 5, I made friends with 3 girls and we would spend all our free time together. Up until class 8; when they started to skip lessons, so that they could have sex with older men. They did not ask me if I wanted to come with them, maybe because I was more timid and shier than they were. Now two of the girls have children, the other girl is working overseas as a prostitute.
Four years ago, I started coming to the charity and getting involved in one of their summer programmes, and then helping to translate for the English volunteers. That summer I met Luiza, the Nightingales social worker, I quickly became good friends with her, opening up about my life and my family. At the end of the summer she asked me if I wanted to be involved in a programme for girls who are at risk of being trafficked. I finally found a place where I felt loved and could be myself without being judged by my family, or feeling as if I was second best to my sister. It was a refuge for me, which has helped me to resist the temptation to run away from home.
The charity has helped me in a huge amount in all areas of my life. It has been a great support when I have felt angry or powerless in the face of certain situations. Luiza has always been there to listen to me and give me advice whenever I have needed it. If she had not pushed me to study and the charity helped pay for extra maths classes I would have most probably not passed my Baccalaureate exams. I am now finishing my second year at university studying to be a physiotherapist and dreaming of a bright future, where I can support my family through a job and hard work, not by having to use my body to make money.”
Elena is the oldest girl in the project and is a great example to the other girls of someone who grew up in their neighbourhood and is making positive life choices. We are very proud of her and the young lady that she is becoming; she has got a great future ahead.