“A step towards trust” – Menschenfreude e.V. brings electricity and light to Romanian slums


At the end of May 2023, a team from Menschenfreude e.V. loads a van for the two Romanian slums visited the previous fall: Patarat, a slum on the outskirts of the big city of Cluj, and Tinca, an already more developed neighborhood near Oradea in the west of the country. On board: solar panels plus technical equipment for installation and a ride-on lawn mower.
Menshenfreude Rumänien Mai 23

Partner companies support our commitment

Solar panels and equipment were donated by our partner company Hündgen Entsorgung in Swisstal.The overall setup unit contains 12 solar panels with 2 big truck batteries, and further material, such as a charger controller, an inverter, metal frames, wires and a plan for the local electrician.

The setup is good for an output of 3 KW and is meant to be a sustainable energy power source for the kindergarten in Cluj, Patarat.

We also bring a lawn mower for the school in Tinca, which is run by the People to People Foundation from Oradea. 

The lawn mower was purchased at a reduced price due to the charity.

A special “Thank you!” to Remy and colleagues from the company Breen from Schoorl in the Netherlands!

On May 25, after crossing Germany, we arrive in Oradea, spend the night in Altlengbach near Vienna, pass Budapest and cross Hungary via the M3 route towards the Romanian border.

Handover of the lawn mower and other donations in kind in Tinca

On May 26, we unloaded the trailer at the kindergarten and school in Tinca, which we had described in one of our earlier reports. The way to school is still an adventure, as you can see in the video.


The lawn mower is received enthusiastically and is a great addition to tool set of the school maintenance team. 

The firsts results after some work with the new equipment testifies the excellent fit of the new asset.

Installation of solar plants in Cluj, Patarat

On May 29 we drive to Cluj. After an overnight stay we try to install the solar panels. We are at the premises around 0930am. From Patarat 31 families recently moved into some newly created flats into the city, provided by the government, purchased by funds of Norway for the Roma community (4.5 mill. EUR ). 


We come to support the kindergarten with donated solar panels and truck batteries…. 
… as well as an inverter unit and a control unit.

Currently the kindergarten is locked. We found that the kindergarten is operated from container units across the main road due to the electricity situation. An electrical counter unit on the top of the mountain is switched off due to constant attempts to steel electricity via tap in constructions from some of the households. As soon as the counter unit has been moved to the kindergarten, or alternative local energy sources are installed, the teaching from the original building can continue. The donation of the solar panels might be an early additional fix for some time as long as the panels can be installed in the next days. And: If they subsequently remain intact.

Responsibility in the community?

Meanwhile, the ordered electrician does not show up at the agreed time. The bathrooms and the shower unit containers close to the kindergarten are not appropriately maintained, water is constantly evaporating on the street, the buildings are in a condition close to disaster, more  than ever. At the same time the climate between the remaining members of the Community is deteriorating over accusations of missing metal panels and construction materials from donations and over discussion of outstanding bills. While there is no apparent willingness to contribute work for the environment.

We fear that there’s a chance the panels are destroyed by throwing stones within days. Two blocks further a big building donated by the European Union to promote business in the region and available for renting is looking like after a war bomb has exploded. Almost all windows are broken, the entrance door has been ripped out, the roof damaged, and a security guard in a small hut is waiting in front of the building to protect the rest of what is a testimony of an investment of the European Union.

Deterioration of the situation – focus on educational opportunities

Since I have been here last time the situation has significantly worsened. At first, I am not sure anymore how the engagement in infrastructure is warranted to enable a future for the local community.

The only obvious anchor is to continue with the state funded and state supported educational efforts for children. As long as there’s a functional building.

We will need to have intense discussions with the locals to get their commitment to do something beyond what was done before: Actively engage in the care of their own environment.

We probably also need to engage by more focused initiatives, such as organizing a workshop for local businesses. After all, trash has value, a perspective to be further discussed in a business context.

The donated Norwegian money was used to give an exit for some families which are now having a chance to live along with others. For the rest of the families on the campus the destiny is still unknown. However, it is possible that the families are returning to Patarat soon, for various reasons. Whether or not the money from Norway was wisely invested will be a moment of truth.

Discussion about legal status of the shelters

There is progress in the afternoon. The electrician shows up after claiming that he had to fix an emergency in the morning, and the lawyer of people to people arrives to hold a “town meeting” together with Nicu on the street, to once more explain the local legal situation of the kindergarten and the legal status of the temporary houses on people to people premises. Vivid discussions follow. Apparently some alignment happens and some commitments are made by local leaders of the community.

Open talks and installation of the solar plant

One day later we return. After some open talks. We decide to take a leap of faith and proceed.

The installation team arrives and the work starts.

The panels are installed professionally on the roof, and the wires arranged inside the building in a cabinet with state of the art security installation provisions.

The proof of concept works, both lights run, inside and outside. The panels produce 190 V loading current on a cloudy day. Perfect. 

The local Pastor Mihai is impressed and gives expression to his gratitude and appreciation. 

This “All Stars Team” is good for another round, if donations come in. The team has a great day, and yesterday is forgotten.


Even a cleaning up process in the village started.

But this is another subject and should be discussed more systematically and maybe addressed as part of local workshops. Everyone is invited to help in a future cleaning up workshop in Cluj. 


Being on the way aiming for perfect performance is a good target, work hard, play hard, fall, get hurt, try again. Charity work remains a test and a constant tryout and at times requires a leap of faith.

Dr. Matthias Straub

Further information about Menschenfreude e.V. for Romania


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