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Unique School, Unique Students
The traditional school year starts in September for traditional students but the Gypsy Smith School anything but a traditional school program hence the reason it’s opening session as in early November. The Gypsy Smith School, established in 1998, seeks to be as unique as the students attending it. The students range in age from 17 – 67 with one common purpose: to learn for themselves, their families and their communities. This transformational leadership and biblical training school meets three times a year during the winter months when these hardworking, Roma men are unable to find work in their primarily agricultural communities. In this November session, 9 Roma men were taught the Epistle of James and how it can be applied to their churches and Biblical truths that they can base future sermons off of by professors representing the Dutch Baptist Union. During this course, one student graduated from the Gypsy Smith School after completing 16 courses during his time in this program.
Back to School
Ruth School students had a summer to remember with sleep away camp, multiple weeks of fantastic summer club and countless hours using the recreational spaces at Project Ruth. Yet early September 11th, all those lazy mornings and endless soccer games came to an end as the 2017-2018 academic school year at the Ruth School began. Students came dressed in their best first day of school clothes with flowers for the teacher in one hand and new students clinging desperately to their parents. Headmistress Virginia Lela-Holban welcomed back returning students and gave a special word of encouragement to the first year students. Also welcomed was the new kindergarten teacher as this year a record breaking and classroom filling number of kindergarteners enrolled which allowed the Ruth School to instate two kindergarten classes!

Each and every one of the students received a back to school supply packet complete with all the notebooks, pens pencils, crayons and other school items that they need for the first semester with the promise that the teachers have plenty more notebooks once those are full of learning. Students in younger grades were provided with school bags on an as needed basis. Furthermore, quite a few little kindergarteners have received assistance from Ruth School social workers and staff to get no only their documents for enrolling in order but also their school wardrobes with new shoes, jackets, pants or shirts depending on their specific needs.
Camp of Dreams
Going away to summer camp is one of those things that children dream about during the frigid days of winter, the long days of spring and especially while doing countless hours of homework. For the average Ruth School student going away to summer camp is just that a far stretched dream. Summer camp would cost their families per child for a week more than the average household income. For 38 Ruth School students, their hours of efforts in homework, waking up early each day for school and exceptional behavior paid off when they boarded the bus to summer camp at Casa Elim. A week-long camp focused on arts and individual creative was organized and sponsored by friends of Project Ruth from Raleigh, North Carolina. The children not only learned new art styles such as Picasso and sculpting but were led in discussion regarding Biblical texts according to their age levels. Furthermore, like any exceptional summer camp, the outdoor games consisting of pool noodle hockey, water ball target practice, ultimate Frisbee, competitive volleyball and a myriad of others provided memories that the students will not soon forget.
New Community Center
Often times when visitors come to Project Ruth, they ask the leadership team “Do you ever think about scaling up your project and doing it in other places?” This question always challenges the leaders of Project Ruth because how could we take the 25 years of expertise in serving this people group to other communities in need while still providing quality services to our current beneficiary base. Thusly, when the opportunity came up to partner with the United Way of Romania to start community centers in rural areas outside of Bucharest, our leaderships brains started spinning as the determination to take part of the Project Ruth model into two rural communities set in.

After several months of start-up work, Project Ruth has begun a Community Center in the community of Jilava in partnership with United Way in the local school. This Community Center will host an afterschool program for about 50 elementary age students, parents’ training sessions, tutoring sessions in specialized subject matter, and non-formal educational activities. The first non-formal educational activities were held on May 3rd and involved a lesson of abstract art and how everyone can be artists with a great group of 4th graders.
Investing in Teaching
Project Ruth invests in the future of more than 200 children per year yet this week Project Ruth through a partnership with the United Way Romania invested in countless children in the Ferentari community, village of Padureni and suburb Jilava. This investment was done through Teacher’s Academies lead by highly qualified educational professionals from Seneca, South Carolina. These sessions were attended by more 35 educators from these schools. During these sessions, teachers were taught group activity theories while also having a workshop to develop group-learning activities specifically to use in their classroom. Each teacher was able to leave the trainings with a practical teaching tool to use the very next day in the class
Making Ends Meet
Making ends meet is a vital skill in sewing; seams have to align properly for the perfect quilt. Since 2013, Beatrice has been finding solace in the companionship she found at the Naomi Center sewing club. After attending a week-long quilting seminar led by volunteers from Missouri on quilting, Beatrice really honed in her skills as a quilter and seamstress. In the 2016, Christmas season Beatrice’s quilted table runners, purses and other sewn items were among the best selling items from the Naomi atelier as she profited nearly 900 RON in November & December. In contrast to many of the other women in this program, Beatrice is a retiree trying to make ends meet on her meager state pension of about 300 RON per month which proves to be very difficult especially with her increasingly expensive health problems. Through making beautiful edging on quilted items, Beatrice is able to make her financial ends meet by using her sewing income to purchase her blood pressure and other various medications.
Always Their Advocate
The average Ruth School student seems more than 7000 hours in classes where they have been provide the supplies they couldn’t afford, the hot meal they were missing and an education without discrimination. After these 7000+ hours, our students go onto public high school where they often face challenges they never expected. Project Ruth Social Workers continue to be available to our graduates as they make that transition. They are welcomed back to the IT lab to write term papers when their teachers rip up their handwritten versions because they don’t have computers at home like their classmates. They are welcomed back to the library to borrow books that are required reading for 9th grade literature but aren’t available to them. They are welcomed back for words of encouragement. They are welcomed back to succeed.

During the fall semester of 2016, half a dozen graduates who began 9th grade came back to the Ruth School, one even in tears, for notebooks, for help and for hope. In late January 2017, Project Ruth Social Worker coordinated a meeting with a faith-based high school in Bucharest for four of these students who were unable to be successful in their current high schools because of instructional problems. After the meeting at this faith-based high school, all four students completed the documentation to transfer to this school where the headmaster shared with our staff that they would try to understand the hard situations our students come from, pray for them & their families and provide them with a quality education.

They may not always be our students but we will always be THEIR advocates.
Training for a Stronger Future
For many young athletes playing on the soccer field, dribbling across the basketball court or even spiking the volleyball over the net is a temporary escape in a healthy way from difficult home situations yet that is all it every is temporary. After a year of training with some of the best sports trainers in Romania at the Steaua Sports Club in volleyball, rugby, soccer and basketball, two young men for the Ruth School 50 Weeks program were selected to continue their training in Rugby. This invitation to extend their training has the potential to transform what was once just an after-school hobby and reprieve from their difficult home situations into the vehicle that could entirely change their lives. By continuing to train with Rugby trainers at Steaua, these two young men have a distinct chance to receive educational scholarships and financial stipends to continue their education and training to eventually be on the National team. One of these young men has committed to continuing his training with Steaua while the other young man is unsure because his mother wants him to be at home in the evenings to help with young siblings.

The Joy of Giving
Shortly before Christmas break, 10 Ruth Schools students who are enrolled in the Transitional Care Program which helps to delveop teir interpersonal and practical skills as they transisiton into adulthood had the opportunity for experience the joy that comes with giving especially during the Christmas season. These students visited Casa Agar which is a long-term shelter for women and their children who have been victims of abuse or human trafficking. The Transitional Care students enjoyed presenting the six small children currently living their with Christmas gifts purchased just for them. It was an excellent experience for these students who typically do not have the financial possiblity to give to their families to feel the joy of giving wholehearedly to others their city experiencing hardships. This joyful giving project was organized as part of the Transitional Care program developed in partnership with CERI.
Celebrating Christmas at the Ruth School!
The day of the Christmas Celebration is one of those most exciting and anticipated days of the school year aside, of course, from the first and the last days. The student gathered with their parents and loved ones in the Ruth School meal hall to sing carols, recite poems, share Bible verses and celebrate together. The older classes had been practicing their dramatic rendition of the Christmas Story complete with costumes since late November. After the school-wide celebration, each class went to the school library to see if they made the “Good List,” (top secret: all of our precious students did) and received their Christmas packages. For the past 19 years, a dear friend of Project Ruth from Germany organized Christmas gifts for each child but he passed away in April of 2016. His in lieu of flower gifts at his memorial services along with support from other friends of Project Ruth allowed local staff to purchase age-appropriate and needed gifts for each student. These bags contained several fun items such as dolls, Lego transformer, Christmas mugs with hot chocolate but also practical items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, washcloths & of course, Christmas sweets in high quantities so that students could share them with their families.
Project RUTH Presentation