When the COVID-19 pandemic struck Romania, the staff at the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) recognized that distributing masks and hand-washing supplies was not the only way to protect their fellow citizens against the virus. Faced with a strict national lockdown, ADRA psychologists battled less obvious threats to people’s well-being: isolation, anxiety, relationship conflicts, and depression.
“To protect the immune system, physical hygiene is not enough,” said Adina Mușat, a psychologist for ADRA in Romania. “The fight with stress is just as important. Our immune system suffers if, during this time, we lose ourselves in the swamp of worries.”
In light of the growing mental health crisis, counseling and emotional support formed crucial components of ADRA’s COVID-19 response in Romania. Mușat and other ADRA psychologists provided counseling via telephone for vulnerable clients. They also visited clients’ homes, offering food and hygiene products to those who needed them.
The lockdown caused a noticeable increase in requests for help from victims of domestic violence. “We are almost daily contacted by women who ask for our support, telling us that it is increasingly difficult for them to live under the same roof with their abusive partner,” says Mariana Roș, an ADRA psychologist. “The victims, in addition to the terror at home, are afraid of getting sick if they run away. Even their relatives avoid receiving them because of the fear that they may carry the COVID-19 virus.”
Since 2009, ADRA has operated Casa ADRA, an emergency shelter for domestic violence victims, in Bucharest, Romania. Thanks to its experience helping women escape from abusive relationships, ADRA was well equipped to handle the surge in cases. During the pandemic, ADRA helped 24 women and children find shelter, specialized counseling, legal assistance, and the support they needed to begin a new life. This represented about twice as many families as they typically assist.
As the Seventh-day Adventist Church's global humanitarian arm, ADRA is working in more than 70 countries around the world to fill the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of people affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
“In special times, ADRA in Romania has a special purpose,” said Gabriela Istrate, a social worker and project manager for ADRA in Romania. “We can live without caring about others, or we can live by leaving beautiful marks in their lives. It’s time to live beautifully, like Jesus — today, tomorrow, and always.”