Casa Neemia

Casa Neemia

An initiative from St Peter’s Aid to Eastern Europe, based in Essex, has led to the possibility of Asociatia Neemia obtaining premises to house people like these on a longer-term basis. There would be savings on room costs if they could be accommodated in one place rather than being dispersed throughout the town in short-term lets. Facilities such as clothes washing and the safe storage of personal possessions would become available. They could also develop their social skills in a controlled environment and contribute to their keep by growing some of their food in the land adjoining the new house.

A suitable plot of land was purchased, a building designed and building approval processes were completed. Work on site began in April 2015 with the sinking of a well and we have now finished the structure. Interior fittings and services have been substantially completed. Much of the building work was undertaken by AN’s team of experienced workmen, under the supervision of a master builder. This team has built several sponsored houses for families previously. Working in this way provided an opportunity for local employment and training and, as building progresses, the potential residents themselves became involved, as labourers at first and then moving on to helping with decorating the rooms. Primary water heating is via a solar system offered by a local supplier, supplemented by a gas boiler as necessary, whilst space heating uses a network of under-floor piping. Each bedroom is protected by an adequate fire door and has a second means of escape via an external balcony. Final approval of the building was granted in May 2018, and the first residents have enjoyed warmer conditions this winter.

Each resident has their separate room, with bed, table, chair and cupboard and with secure storage. Each bedroom has a simple bathroom with toilet, hand-basin and shower. This arrangement addresses one of their main complaints – that their present accommodation offers no privacy or security. Communal facilities will include a basic kitchen, a laundry area, and a common room with tables and chairs. A rota system for cleaning the communal areas should encourage co-operation but one of the first challenges will be learning kitchen etiquette!

The new house does not just address the accommodation requirements to the exclusion of other needs. The house has a large poly-tunnel and sits in a plot of land that is worked by the residents, to grow fruit and vegetables for their own use. This will also teach them some marketable skills and help to keep them occupied (another important consideration). In due course we would like to add a small workshop, with tools for such activities such as bicycle repairs or simple carpentry, to allow a wider variety of skills to be learnt.

The selection of people to be residents is not a simple process. In most cases we have known the aspiring residents for some years and the decision to offer them a space is straightforward. However, many people in their situations have deeprooted problems, some of which may render them unsuitable for living in this type of community, whilst others may simply need some time to adjust. In these cases the decision is more difficult. AN continues to sponsor accommodation elsewhere in the town for those who cannot be accepted into the house.

Although it is intended that the residents will become largely self-sufficient, one of the AN team will take responsibility for resolving any problems with the building or its services. Another volunteer visits the house regularly to help the residents adjust to the practical aspects of caring for themselves and their co-habitants. In the longer term, there will be a need for someone to take overall responsibility for the new community, ensuring the proper care and maintenance of the property, and persuading the residents to abide by such rules as are necessary. Such a person will need skills in managing inter-personal relationships and be able to encourage the residents in the development of their social skills. The selection of a suitable manager will be a major factor in the success of the project – the most likely candidate is someone with pastoral experience and a motherly wife!

So how can you help? Well you’ve probably guessed that this is leading up to an appeal for help to raise the funding necessary to maintain this facility. But it is not just that. Our residents and others like them are grateful for the knowledge that someone is taking an interest in them, and having someone who asks about them or who prays for them is very encouraging. If you feel able to help or want to know some more then please get in touch via our addresses below.

Updates on recent progress on the house are available by following these links:

Construction update, May 2017
Activities update, January 2019

Expansion of Facilities, March 2022

Another generous donation, this time from south Wales, has allowed the AN team to start work on expanding the accommodation facilities. In the first instance this is intended to cater for more refugee families escaping fro the war in Ukraine. More details about how we are helping these displaced people is on our “Assistance for Refugees” pages. A summary is below.
Expanding capacity, March 2022

Further info:

– A letter from Richard Burgess, one of the founders of RoAF.

– An introduction to Casa Neemia is also available as a downloadable pdf file which can be printed as a double-sided A4 leaflet.

– Photos showing progress on construction of the new home are posted on our gallery site.

– A dedicated form for UK donors containing a bankers order and gift-aid declaration is available for download. Alternatively, details for international bank transfers can be found here.

Contact details and addresses

Published, 23 Jan 2019: Page updated, 15 Mar 2022