Sam Alston reflects on the Fellows’ fourth day in Budapest.
On Day Four of the trip, we met with the Charity Taxi Project. We had heard about the Charity Taxi Service Project and indeed a number of us had been involved in similar projects, collecting mainly for refugees in the UK.
We helped to set up their goods market and met some of the community leaders. We then spent some time drawing with some of the children as members of the community went around and collected items out of the leftovers, with shoes and toys proving particularly popular. The remaining resources were stored for future use, when more might be able to afford the nominal price.
“a compassionate and admirable response to the needs of a struggling community”
We then met with a community leader and community organiser, who answered our questions about their experiences. We tried to understand their stories – despite the language barrier they were very frank, and answered even the most precise questions fully, providing additional details and speaking openly about disagreements over issues such as relations with non-Roma in the community.
Many of us felt that we learnt more when we went to the Roma residential areas with food parcels, and talked to families and children about their lives and saw living conditions that by most modern standards would be considered inadequate. We also thought interactions with people on the street revealed the complexities of the process of handing out food parcels and goods in a village where there is so much need.
“despite the language barrier they were very frank, and answered even the most precise questions fully”
The taxi project is a compassionate and admirable response to the needs of a struggling community. It does a small amount to make the recipients’ lives better, and it simultaneously inspires and is dependent on a continued spark of humanity. Hopefully, the ideas that we heard about to expand the project can help it to become even better suited to the community’s needs, and therefore able to make even more of a difference.
For us, the day was a learning experience that brought us much greater understanding and connection to the communities involved. However, it left us feeling uneasy and with more questions that we started with. In some ways this may have been a good thing – these processes should not make us feel comfortable, nor that the problem is solved. We are a Jewish group, and there is a strong Jewish tradition of questioning, uncertainty and debate creating chances to find new paths and make the world a better place. So maybe this was for the best, or maybe not.
Sunday 27th May 2018