Horticulture and the Roma
By Andrew Saxton, Life to Romania
The distribution of food parcels in the Roma enclaves of Tinca, Tarcea and Vasad has been sustained for several years in partnership with Pastor Gavril Covaci and Andrew Saxton, who leads Life to Romania in the UK. It’s an all-too-familiar pattern of need as some of Europe’s abandoned communities face the freezing conditions of winter. Parents give what food they can to their children as they cry in hunger and hopeless desperation. The pandemic restrictions of 2020 took away many opportunities for seasonal work and foraging. This winter is looking even worse than usual.
Something different is taking place to try and break the cycle of poverty and hunger. It’s the vision of Andrew Saxton in partnership with Pastor Garvril. Growing fruit and vegetables is new to these communities but has the potential to transform lives.
In September 2020, amid the pandemic, Andrew took the decision to establish a mission base in Tinca to provide accommodation and a large 2,000 square metre (half an acre) plot of land suitable for gardening. The plan is to grow winter vegetables and cash crops to fund winter food whilst providing the community with opportunities to learn about growing food and resourcing them to do it themselves.
Community Gardening for Winter Food is a project where Andrew will be based for the foreseeable future and will work to develop the garden project in partnership with the church and community.
“In addition to growing vegetables, we plan to grow materials to support handicraft activities like dried flower arranging and basket weaving. In the spring, there will be teaching about growing veg at home with resources to enable and inspire people to engage and prove to themselves that they can do it. We expect this to be a long-haul project and we are committed to decades of working with these communities.”
The provision of winter food parcels over these years has provided many opportunities for prayer and ministry in homes and led many towards God and the church. The transformation can be seen through visible changes in lifestyle, scores of baptisms as well as increased church attendance. Our hope and prayer is that God will use this gardening project to inspire and equip these communities. We want them to live their lives to the full as promised in John 10:10, and no longer may the ‘thief’ take away their hope for a better life.