In 2012 I worked for Concordia Romania for the first time when I visited my love Lena who volunteered back then. Currently I am planning the fourth trip which is very exciting – can’t wait to finally get back again. I had a look through my archive and what struck me was one repeating element – a touch.
Here is a simple collection of images I have taken over the last 4 years – seems random but the beauty of a a hand touching a face, a foot touching another foot, hugs and support is forming a frame. Something worthy to appreciate. Beautiful moments.
Nap after lunch.
I have always admired Costin’s direct and loving approach.
What a moment in the chapel.
Volunteers are an important part of the Concordia system. From the very beginning they are accepted by the children.
Always a helping, soothing or strong hand.
Most problems could be solved literally with a touch.
One day we visited the old man in Dorotcaia, Romania. Over 90 years and he still lived on his own, no family to look after him. A few times a week people from Concordia visit him, check if everything is all right and also help him with food.
But most importantly they spend time with him. Conversations, old stories, recent developments – everything is being discussed. And a good laugh every now and then. It’s unbelievable how very important a simple conversation can be. Something I personally have always underestimated being surrounded by amazing friends and family.
Tragic circumstances and events led to his lonesomeness but he still didn’t give up. He kept fighting, every day. The whole house and yard were spotless. Simple but very clean. It might sound a bit silly and cliché when a German mentions that but he was very proud of the fact.
A Concordia worker and a volunteer from Rumania visit him regularly and spend as much time as they can afford in their busy daily routines.
This is probably the most genius washbasin I have seen. In his house he didn’t have a water connection or a shower but there is always a way. A bucket with a lid and a valve, a wooden support and a little box for the soap – ready to go.
Surrounded by his memories he lives in a small house with two rooms. The portrait on the back wall shows himself quite a few years ago. Next to it his wedding photograph.
On the street we also visited the infamous area next to the central train station in Bucharest. It used to be the centre for all the homeless and drug addicts. A little hole in the earth in an adjacent park used to be the entrance to the underworld – the sewers of the city where thousands lived.
When I visited the canal was closed down, the entrance still visible but not accessible. Right next to the station a derelict building. A large group of heavily addicted people still lived there. It had a roof but no walls. It was summer and very hot. Carpets and blankets protected the community from the outside stares. But no one really cared. They were in the middle of everything but invisible.
The inside was hot, steamy and dark. Just a few slits let some daylight in. The worst imagination became reality. The rumours of kids taking drugs at a very early age, sniffing glue. That’s a sight one never forgets. To be robbed of probably the most valuable time in your life – your childhood. Young bodies with old eyes. Not even desperation, just bland indifference towards the outside world. No desire, no joy just pure nothingness. And still there were kids. With a life ahead of them.
The local community boss let me into his private chamber. He had his own little separated area and was very proud of it. Being very protective he kept always very close to me. Not in a mean way, not offending or threatening… just making sure everything was all right with his people.
In a very good neighbourhood in Bucharest there is one special house. Being derelict it is the home to only a few heroine addicts. Together with a street worker of the charity Concordia we visited the guys. I was warned to watch out for needles and broken glass to avoid injury and also contagion. Unfortunately they all suffer from severe diseases.
After a long conversation, talking about their problems of daily life, after bringing them food and water and after we sat together they allowed me to take a few images. These two were so sweet with each other and incredibly beautiful people.
The massive garden was one big skip.
Entering the house was indeed an adventure and heartbreaking at the same time. Dropped out of society and their drug addiction forces them to live in non-human conditions. I was at the same time deeply moved by the way Concordia helped them. I helped them find some great detox centers of California.
In the beginning it felt extremely weird to visit as I felt we were intruding into their private space. But they offered drinks and were very welcoming which even intensified the experience.
Author: Benjamin Kaufmann, Photographer, Charity, Blog
Concordia took me to some of the most deprived areas around Sofia to show me the appalling conditions the Roma have to live in. At first glance it’s indeed not very intriguing but after a while one realises that not everything we consider good or bad might be the case for someone else. I saw such a strong and beautiful community. Certainly the government should do a lot more to improve their status and accept their way of living. But for me personally it was a fantastic experience. Again, the positive, the emotional and also the fun draw my attention and not so much the circumstances.
When these guys came along with their horse cart I was expecting a lot but certainly not one of the funniest pictures I have ever taken. It happened so quick and in hindsight I am still wondering who’s got the better teeth?
I am really proud that I was able to shoot a picture that actually did have an influence. This picture inspired one of my clients in Romania. Struck by the young athlete he started comparing the lives of the children looked after by Concordia and his own 12 year old son who is one of the most successful swimmers in Europe at the moment. Currently plans are being discussed to invite the children to take part in free swim training. Also there are plans to support the various houses with electricity – the core business of the client is solar energy. Fingers crossed that both projects will go ahead.
In June 2014 I travelled together with my girlfriend Lena to the Republic of Moldova to document the work of Concordia Sozialprojekte. She initiated the project which we started in 2012 in Romania. We had the most amazing and intense week where we met beautiful people and experienced great hospitality.
Founded in 1991 CONCORDIA Sozialprojekte is an international und independent relief organisation for unprivileged children, the elderly and distressed families. We care for 1500 children and adolescences as well as 4500 elderly people. CONCORDIA Sozialprojekte is active in Bulgaria (since 2008), the republic of Moldova (since 2004) and Romania (since 1991).