There are people sent on Earth to do good for others, every day – angels with wings on their heart, and Hermine Jinga-Roth (82 years old) is certainly one of them. Former director of an elite high school in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, Hermine invested all the money saved for the elderly to rent and renovate an old parish house, located in Rusciori, a small village where the Roma population is the majority. For more than 20 years, a Day Care Center works there, Roma children from very poor families get here a warm lunch, help for homework, the chance to take part in different educational activities, to learn and overcome their condition. And the results are amazing – from only 3 Roma children going to school to no school dropout in ten years. Their families also got a lot of help – from basic needs covered, such food or clothes, to so much more. Above all, is Hermine, living in an extremely modest house, with such a serenity in her eyes, so much kindness in her huge heart, speaking about “her children” – Roma children who come to the Center – and with a huge modesty. “This is God, it’s not me, don’t give me too much praise because I don’t deserve”. An incredible story about how unconditional love for others can really change a small world – and make it way better, every day.
I went to Hermine ready to talk for one hour – and we ended talking four and I would’ve stayed more, it was a meeting I’m extremely grateful for. She is simply amazing, modest, dedicated “up to the moon and back”, so generous, happy she can help, ready to do good every second, much more than she is asked for. And so happy for “her children” – Roma kids from small village of Rusciori who, due to her heartfelt efforts, succeeded in overcoming their condition and do something good and useful with their lives.
I had tears in my eyes while talking to her, we both did, and I’m writing this story with huge emotions – Hermine is amazing, this is her wonderful, inspirational story.
The life “before”
“I was a “convinced teacher” for a whole life”, Hermine begins the story of her life “before Rusciori”. She had graduated Faculty of Romanian Language, Literature and Civilization, was a teacher and, for many years, director of the German Highschool in Bucharest – an elite school where the most important members of high-class society had sent their children. She modestly speaks about that period, putting an accent on the fact that being a director was not her dream, that she loved teaching and her heart was there, with her students – the rest was just a job, nothing more.
In 1990, when the Romanian Revolution took place, Hermine was 50 years old – and felt that she needed to do something else, and do it in her country, although she could’ve easily left, like most German ethnics had done. “I had got to Rusciori right after the Revolution, just felt like doing this, all the German ethnics were leaving and I was wondering why now, when it’s freedom? My heart was awfully hurt when I had seen abandoned parish houses, a 900 years old culture that was falling apart. I couldn’t stand it anymore and I told my husband – let’s go back because my Ardeal (Romanian historical region) does not exist anymore”, she remembers.
Somehow, it was the right context for an old dream. Years ago, she had been a member in some commissions in the Ministry of Education – her dream was to find a way for the children born and raised in cities to understand the real life from the country, from the growing wheat to the peasant who is not stupid and doesn’t have an ugly smell. “A system that prepares you for life mandatory has to have some ecological education”, she says. So she wanted a place in the country where children could spent a few days and see what real country life means. What couldn’t be introduced in school programs became a dream came true like this – at the beginning, Hermine decided to have a place where children from the German Highscool can do this.
She had seen a few parish houses before choosing Rusciori – but she had chosen with heart, first of all. “My father was born in Rusciori, and as a student I came here to teach, I had lived in the parish house and kept a wonderful memory”, she says. At the beginning, the parish house was rented for children from the German Highschool – who came here a few times. Hermine rented the house and renovated it with all her family money saved for the elderly – “I had some money and had no time to spend them” she modestly tries to explain, today, the decision to put all her economies in a public service.
The house looked as if a war had passed over – the roof was broken, it was raining at the first floor, water was flowing through the floor. She remembers smiling how she had put a bed at the first floor, between the window and the stairs, and a curtain, and had slept there at the beginning – there was a lot of work to do.
The Day Care Center
After renovating, Hermine bought a few animals “ten cows, 4 buffalos, sheep, goats, gooses, ducks, turkeys”, everything necessary for a group of 36 children to enjoy the real country life. She and her husband had learnt agriculture “on the way” without having anything to do with it. And children came for a few years – she had never imagined she would do social work in here. “Orphan children had always been a wound for me, my mother died in Russia, I’m an orphan child, I never had a grave where to pray, I always told my chiefs never to send me to social cases”, she remembers.
But God had other plans – wonderful plans, knowing for sure that she was the right one to put them in practice. “I was only “the tool”, I had never thought of social”, Hermine says. The teacher from local school got sick – and she was asked to replace her until she gets better. “The catalogs were full of names, but only three Roma children present”, she remembers, in a village where Roma people are 84% of the population. All three children were from the same family, and after classes she went with them to their home. “That was the moment I’ve had the shock of my life. The room was ¾ meters, 2 beds, 2 chairs, a cardboard shack, a few bricks, a window with plastic and 8 people, 2 parents and 6 children, living all there. I asked them if they had food and said yes, we do, and the little girl took a bowl from under the bed, with 6 boiled potatoes. I came home sick, I couldn’t even tell my husband, I took the girl and gave her everything I had – bread, food. It was the moment I knew I had to do something”, Hermine says.
And “something” began in with a warm lunch, offered only to those Roma children who came to school – an idea of a good friend, teacher at an elite highschool from Wien and also member in the foundation that manages the center. “First time I had made some sausages wrapped in dough, and I went with them hot, smelling, and the children told other children. In less than 2 weeks, all Roma children were at school”, Hermine remembers.
That was the beginning, more than 20 years ago. The Day Care Center grew little by little, from one year to another. It was formalized in 2006, after getting a financing through a Phare program. People who understood their admirable work, their efforts and all their heart put in there came to support. Hermine has so many stories with moments when she thought she had to stop, because had no money – and exactly then donations came in the most unexpected ways. From daily lunch the services developed to help for homework, with paid teachers, then educational activities made with volunteers, a psychologist, a social worker.
From what was produced in the farm, the social activity was supported. Hermine never took a cent from the foundation – on the contrary, supported with everything she could. Almost 50 children come to the Day Care Center every day, for so many years, and the results in the educational fields are absolutely remarkable – from only 3 Roma children going to school at the very beginning to no school dropout in ten years. Some children also got to highschool in Sibiu, a city nearby. Their families also get a lot of support – from basic needs covered, such food or clothes, to so much more.
Because of unconditional love
“This is God, it’s not me, don’t give me too much praise because I don’t deserve” Hermine tells me during our long talk. Everything is normal for her – the fact that she had taken a loan she had paid from her own money, for 5 years, just to be able to pay the teachers for the children is just an example – there are so many more. Nothing is too much for “her children” – she is so grateful, every single day, for this chance – because she was the one chosen to be there for all those children. “Three children stayed at my place – their father left with my cooker, they were 4, 6 and 8 years old, what should I have done with them, I could not give them to an orphanage”, she says.
She laughs remembering a moment in the train, when a lady asked her if she had children and naturally answered “Yes, 47”. And all have with them a part of her heart.
“But there are Roma children, that a big part of society rejects” I tell a painful truth that we all know – there is still so much discrimination regarding Roma people, we are all aware of that although many don’t admit.
“You know, above our school is written “Leave the children come to me” – it’s not written anywhere Roma children not. Children are neither Roma nor Romanian or anything else – they are children and that’s all”, she says.
Instead of epilogue
“Our theme is friendship. We went on a trip to the library and Zoo. At the library it was very interesting. I had never seen so many books! There were very many books put on many shelves. They were colored and had many pictures. We played with other children, they had been the jury for us then we had been the jury for them. We were split in girls and boys and had to choose wild and domestic animals. Boys had won, but we were all rewarded and applauded. It was such a beautiful day”, Ionut, pupil in the 3-rd grade at Rusciori elementary school.
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Do you know a very special person? Someone who has followed his dream, built it piece by piece, with passion, energy and lot of soul? An usual, simple person who did something in life, who you can identify with, who can be, for others, a source of inspiration? Tell me about that person and let’s tell the others his/her beautiful story. Write me at email@example.com, here, on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.