It takes a lot of hard work to leave all the ghosts of life in an orphanage behind and, in spite of the effort, some people are not so lucky as to succeed. Ilie Mureșan’s story is about a dream that he worked ceaselessly for. He ended up in an orphanage when he was only three months old and he was brought up by various staff members in placement centres. He went through all the suffering brought about by the absence of a loving, protective and helping family.  

Ilie’s dream to own a hairdresser’s shop started by accident, when he was 14 years old and he was asked to help give a haircut to the approximately 200 children in the orphanage. He went on to attend a vocational school where he was trained as a hairdresser. When he left the protection system at 18, he had to live on the streets and he had several failed attempts to find a job. Uncle Nelu was the first to give Ilie a chance, by hiring him as a hairdresser’s apprentice at his own place: this was the foundation for Ilie’s future. He managed to open his own place, John Style, a tiny but neat place on the outskirts of Iași. 

After the dream of owning his practice, he fulfilled his dream of having a family: he is married to Mirela, another orphan from the system, where she ended up after both her parents died. Ilie and Mirela have three children together, two boys and a girl.

But problems kept pestering Ilie and his family. Together with Mirela, he tried to provide his three children with a stable home environment and material safety. But two rents, one for the house, one for the hairdresser’s, are hard to manage, in addition to utilities expenses, payments to suppliers, the children’s needs etc. They had to keep moving around because they didn’t have a place of their own. The owner of the last flat they rented decided to sell it, so the family had once again to look for another place.

As Mirela is sight-impaired, she does not have a job, so the couple were unable to receive a bank loan for a house of their own; they applied at the local municipality for subsidized housing. But they ended up on a waiting list where they got stuck. After many appointments with the local authorities and joint interventions at the local municipality carried out by Hope and Homes for Children Romania and DGASPC Iași, the Mureșan family finally got the subsidized home they had been dreaming of.

Hope and Homes for Children continued to support the family, by refurbishing the place, providing the furniture, the home appliances (washing machine, cooker, fridge) and the other things a family usually needs. In addition, the Foundation granted them a monthly financial support amounting to 1,900 lei for a period of five months in 2017, to help them pay the two rents. The Foundation also allocated resources to buy school stationery and to cover other needs of the children related to school and kindergarten.

Ilie helps young people from the child protection system

As he cannot remain indifferent to the situation of young people who, like himself, have left placement centres to find themselves forced to live in a society not giving them much chance, Ilie trained a few such young people as apprentices at his hairdresser’s place and then hired them on contracts. But he couldn’t keep up with paying welfare benefits on these contracts, he has accumulated a 7,000 lei debt and additional penalties for late payment, amounting together to 16,000 lei, which is a huge additional burden on top of the other monthly expenses.

In spite of all this, Ilie stands as an example to follow. He looks after the homeless children, he gives them free haircuts, he listens to them, he encourages them and talks to them fondly. He offers food to the homeless, he helps people with disabilities, he shares the little he has with anyone in need and everyone has a place in his hairdresser’s shop. He knows that the most important thing in the world is for anyone to have someone by their side, a tiny token of help or support of some kind.

“I keep looking around me only to see too much sadness. There are thousands of miserable people and children whose eyes simply cannot see the light, and those who are not strong enough cannot make it on their own. I’ve had the chance to always be able to rise again and to find next to me people ready to support me whenever I lost my balance. That’s a lot! And for this I thank all those who believed in me, who gave me a chance and who continue to stand by me and my family. And now, more than ever, I will continue to fight for my wonderful kids and my darling wife”, Ilie told us.

For young people growing up in the child protection system, it’s very difficult to integrate in society when they leave the orphanages. Every year, 2,500 young people turning 18 risk ending up on the streets if they have no chance to continue with their studies. Out of the 2,500, only about 15-20 manage to integrate in society, to find understanding and acceptance. That is extremely little. It is very difficult for them to find jobs, badly paid as they are, and they barely manage to cover their basic needs. There is the odd happy case when these young people manage to develop their own business, to start a family, to own their home. But things could be different if, together, we offered these young people the acceptance, the inclusion and the support they need.