Bujor was born in Romania to a large, poor Roma family. He never experienced any education as they could not afford to go to school.
He did some cash labouring in Romania and met a Roma lady who had 2 young girls from a previous relationship. When the girls found partners and had children, Bujor’s family grew even bigger.
Eventually, 9 of them were staying in one room in a dilapidated property in South Romania. The family struggled through freezing winters with no electric.
His focus was on surviving until the next day and not looking far ahead.
Bujor originally came to the UK in 2007 and was persuaded to come here by some of the Roma community who said that he can make money on the streets of the UK from begging, and can send money home to support his family. He had no addiction to alcohol or drugs.
In 2021, he wanted to leave this group and work independently and get a real job in the UK. However, as he is unable to read or write English or Romanian, Bujor struggled to do so. Every time he wanted to correspond with anyone he needed to pay cash to one of the Roma group as every interaction was chargeable including phone calls and text messages. The group controlled his ID, bank card, and pin number. He was not allowed to administer any of this himself and they regularly informed him that he has debts with them that he must pay. This terrified Bujor.
NOAH outreach team first came into contact with him on the streets of Luton in 2020. He was periodically sofa surfing and sleeping rough and did not know who to trust.
We encouraged him to go to the police to report the exploitation but he didn’t want to do this, he is often threatened and scared. His self-esteem was very low and he was always dependent on someone to help him. Even accessing public transport is very challenging.
This meant that he had been repetitively exploited by different people offering him high value cash work which he was never paid for and was always taken advantage of. He came to the NOAH welfare centre to get clothes, food, and have somewhere safe to talk through his situation.
We found Bujor rough-sleeping again in January 2022 and moved him into the NOAH Mi Job Project accommodation. NOAH helped him to apply for a national insurance number as well as arranged legal work for him at a local chicken factory.
However, he was offered a high paying cash job and left the chicken job, but once again he did not get paid for the cash work. He used the phone at NOAH to speak to his partner, she was crying and said that their sons-in-law were doing some cash work for the family, otherwise they would have no money and could not afford to eat.
She didn’t understand what was happening to him in England, and she said he should come home and somehow the family will survive. He was very upset and could not see a way out.
Bujor decided to try to find employment again and started work at the recycling site in Luton. He earnt a small amount of money but then decided that he wanted to return to Romania after he had an altercation with a neighbour.
On 8th March 2022, Bujor came to NOAH and we purchased him a ticket to Bucharest. The flight was the next day but because he was unable to read, we introduced him to the chaplain Liz at the airport to accompany him. She helped him to go airside and made sure that he got onto the plane. We spoke to him the following week and he said had used the small amount of money he had to buy a horse to collect and then sell scrap metal to make some money.
He told us his wife and children were pleased to see him and have him back with them in the family. They are determined to help him find meaning.