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The Lion’s Roar, A Community and Compassion Initiative tells a sad story.

In 2005 Laura Simms, a US storyteller and activist,  faced with the tragic reality of caged starving animals in a Zoo from a small Romanian town, had a plan:

“within four years the zoo will be up to EU standards, the animals will be healthy and Buhusi itself will have a practical and self-sustaining plan for industry, cultural activities, tolerance and tourism.”

After a few months the project initiators learned first hand about “greed and a kind of pride that stood between change and comfort” of local people responsible for the zoo. Players and partners were reevaluated in 2006 only to be challenged again in January 2007 as Romania was entering the EU. The Buhusi Zoo did not meet the European standards at that time and was closed down.  The initial dreams had to be reduced to a main dream of finding new homes for the animals. Two years later the last of the initial 45 animals found a better place to live.

The Lion’s Roar shared the story of this project and stories about the animals with love and compassion. Bella’s story is just one of them, one that has a happy ending.

The four-year plan was successful. At least for most of the animals. It took the hard work and the dedication of passionate people to save the animals from a reality that was killing them.

The questions that I have now are: who has the plan, how many years and where we could find the passion to fight for the people in Buhusi (and other places in Romania) whose lives during Communism and after resembled, in so many ways,  the lives of caged creatures.

Laura Simms tells stories on “How to find Romania“. I don’t know if she adds anything from The Lion’s Roar experience to her grandmother’s stories but I am very interested to listen to the (human) stories that she collected during her work in Romania.

IREX Romania is the lucky organization that was chosen by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to plan for a program to provide public access computers with Internet access in Romania’s public libraries, as it is stated here. This is a five year program and we are approaching the end of the first year.

As a mean of communication with librarians involved in the program and not only, a web page, a forum and blog were developed. After a couple of months of healthy conversation on their forum  IREX Romania decided that critical messages are not welcomed there anymore. Four of my messages are gone and at least two other people experienced the same treatment on biblioteca.ro.  While trying to find my posts I managed to come across a reply that was posted on the blog by veveritablonda, a critical voice on biblioteca.ro.  Because there is no public access to that message anymore I will post it here.

This is very nice, Shannon, finally somebody who appreciates the progress we’ve made and the potential we have. Still, because the title of your post is “Return to Romania” (taking from another famous project initiated by IREX Bucharest) I would be curious to find out how many Romanian graduates who studied in the US, are working now for you, in this Global Libraries Project. As far as I see, none. Don’t you guys put your money where your mouth is? Is IREX now the cemetery of old employees coming from USAID, CHF, WORLD LEARNING and so on? It is very disappointing to see how all our youth emigrates, because at home nobody needs them, not even those who trained them to be “the future of Romania”. Don’t you think this situation is very sad and proves rather poor strategic vision in terms of investment return? Why is the US training so many Romanians, who come back with stunning degrees, when none of them is needed in your own organizations? 🙂

As you can see there were several questions asked on this reply from May 2008.  Not only that nobody answered them but they cannot be accessed anymore. I do not have any kind of prove to sustain veveritablonda’s statement but it sure sounds interesting. Since it got such a reaction from IREX team…it must have touched some sensitive problems. Don’t you agree?

On December 5th, in Bucharest a Christmas Tree Festival took place. Wealthy Romanian business people gather together and held an auction for Christmas trees by famous designers. The money are to be used for educational programs for children in need.  Altogether the event was a  success and raised more money that a similar event held a day before in London.

However…those people  acted more snobbish that I could have imagine they are able to.

Cristian Mungiu(THE movie director Cristian Mungiu) donated a Christmas tree that he designed using films and film reels. I read that he used even film from 4,3,2 for this tree.  How do you think the auction went?

I would have expected that business class to appreciate first the artist and then the fact that he donated his own work for this. I would have expected them to pay a lot for Mungiu’s tree. They did pay some but it was the smallest amount that was payed that night for a tree. Roberto Cavalli’s Christmas tree was five times more expensive then the film tree.

Maybe Mungiu’s Christmas tree was not as beautiful as other “brand” trees but it was, for sure, the most valuable. It was in the same time art and Romanian Cinema history. Investing in it would have been a gesture of support for young Romanian artists, for local values. Can anybody tell me what was on those people’s minds when they failed to do so?   

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