“I always liked to work, not to receive charity”
Author: Petru Zoltan
Huedin – Romania. Natașa Kallo goes every morning into the small park situated in the front of the City Hall, where she meets “the patients”. After that she goes inside the institution, trying to solve most of the social problems that she heard about.
She is a middle-aged woman, always wearing the same clothes at work: a black skirt with a matching gray blouse and black shoes with low heels. On the blouse, a cape and on the right shoulder a black purse. From her left hand never lacks a lit cigar.
Every day, Natasha Kallo meets the people in need from Huedin who tell her the problems they face. Most of them are Roma. The health mediator resorts to the services of the Municipality to make birth certificates to the children and identity documents to their parents. In the same time, she registers them to a family doctor and facilitates their access to public health services. For her it is normal to help all the people in need, regardless of their ethnicity.
At her 45 years old, Kallo is responsible for the Roma from Huedin and from the villages surrounding the town, even if she has no office in City Hall. She knows everyone by their nicknames. For her, the city’s landfill is a public health problem, especially as children living in the area are sicklier: “It’s full of rats and snakes there. One child died because he was run over by the garbage truck”, the woman tells her trouble. But, for her, the biggest problem is that many children are born with disabilities: “I have in the community four children who were born with the Down syndrome. It’s a genetic thing. The children marry each other and during pregnancy the Roma women don’t really take care of themselves”.
For 20 years, Natasha Kallo delighted the people from Huedin area with her voice. She was called to sing along with her family to most of the parties in the area. Her father finished the Music school in Cluj, studying the violin. Her grandfather also played the violin and her grandmother was on drums and vocals. From Natasha’s repertoire didn’t miss the folk songs, nor the pop songs. But she had to give up music because she had a jealous husband. She sang for the last time at her son’s wedding. Since then, the music remained only a sweet memory. Shortly after, she divorced her husband, being forced to raise by her own the children. She found a job at Dania mushrooms green house, where she was working from spring to late autumn. She was paid by the day, working without a contract, although she was coordinating two to three hundred women, with whom she worked. “In August 2006, I started the course for health mediators. In the night I was going to work and in day time to courses. The courses were held in Cluj, at 50 kilometers from Huedin. I was arriving home, ate something and I leaving for work. I wasn’t sleeping for one week in a row, I was drinking coffee and blueberry and blackberry syrup. My children had been affected a lot, because I haven’t been all the time with them. My children were missing me and they were coming with me at work. I had to take more care of them”, the woman tell hers story.
In October 2006, after completing the training for the health mediators, Natasha Kallo was hired by the hospital from Huedin, where even the cleaning lady had a higher salary than hers. Neither the hospital’s director really knew too well what health mediator supposed to do. Shortly after she started to work, she realized that the Roma didn’t have a family doctor and children weren’t vaccinated, because they parents had no possibility. “By 2009, I’ve registered over 400 people to the family doctor”. In the same time she was trying to obtain all documents needed by the pregnant women who were to give birth. Also she mapped 1,100 people at Huedin, 300 at Săcălele, 300 and 150 at Săcăieni and Poieni. When she had a few free minutes, she was calling the Retirement Commission from Cluj to schedule the people with disabilities to obtain a pension.
The doctors from the Huedin Hospital appreciated her work, this being the reason for which they put every time in their reports the way they were helped by the health mediator.
But the situation changed starting July 1, 2009 when the health mediators have been passed under the local authorities. At first her salary was reduced by 25%. Moreover, Natasha Kallo unhappily considers that the social workers benefit from her work and disregarded her.
While talking to us, Natasha calls his son to go with her to Săcăieni village where a Roma family needs her help. When he arrives near the park, she says that she can no longer chat with us. In a hurry, she raises a little her skirt, sits on scooter, behind her boy and leaves for work.