In 2005, in my first month as executive director of Habitat for Humanity Pitesti, Romania, my construction manager told me about a deserted area outside of Pitesti city.
I was intrigued by his story and we went together to see what was there.
The place had three grey, old concrete blocks of flats and a muddy courtyard full of garbage. I asked a kid who was playing with a skinny dog, what the place was. His answer troubled me: “My home.”
I started collecting information about this place, I contacted the local city hall, I wrote the first draft of the Habitat Oarja Neighborhood Project, and in one month, with the support of my colleagues from Habitat for Humanity, we were able to start this project that was ongoing for the next six years.
In the summer of 2005, we started with three families that were living without running water, electricity or sewerage. By the summer of 2011, 47 families were already living or preparing to move-in to the same neighborhood, in decent, clean and healthy two room apartments.
To obtain these results within just six years we initiated and signed partnerships with the local authorities, fundraised and managed a budget of over one million dollars, organized and hosted over 1000 international volunteers from all over the world and over 2,500 local volunteers, aged from 16 to 87.
The families that moved into this revitalized area were all families in need of houses without any other possibilities to buy or build one without our help. Now they are all working and the children are going to the local school or kindergarten.
In the first year, I managed to convince the owner of a neighboring farm to give us, free of charge, a broken water tank so we repaired it and redid the entire water installation in the area. After the first results were visible and the area started to come back to life, my approaches to the local mayor became successful and we signed a partnership contract with the city hall of Oarja. With this contract, the town of Oarja gave us two plots of land free of charge in the same area to build two new blocks with 16 apartments.
The two new blocks were built starting in 2009 using almost exclusively volunteer work made by the partner families along with students, bankers, teachers, clerks, business people, managers, engineers, etc. from Romania and over 30 other countries in the world.
We developed a Homeownership and Community Leadership Training program for the families that were moving into this area, by teaching them family budgeting, establishing credit, being a first time homeowner and the importance and role of a homeowner’s association.
We managed to obtain a grant to build a playground for the more than 100 children that were now living in the Habitat Oarja Neighborhood and we convinced the city hall to repair the streets in the area and to make a new bus station.
This project was very challenging for my team and I and required a large amount of work but I am more than happy and proud that the final result was a reborn community that is called “home” for more than 200 people.
You can watch a short slideshow about the renovation works for one of the apartment buildings in this neighborhood.