It’s the kind of misfortune you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Nobody deserves to be cold, alone, and struggling to find food in a dangerous neighborhood as they live out the final chapters of their life. Sadly, that’s exactly where this elderly man in Bucharest, Romania, found himself.
Living on the fringes of society, Ion Negrila was basically homeless. He’d taken up residence in an abandoned, dilapidated structure. There was no running water, no plumbing, no electricity, and no way for the defenseless senior to protect himself.
The shelter lacked any locking doors, and the land he inhabited was frequently being used for drug use. He said he feared for his safety. To top it all off, there were no windows. The winters in Bucharest are brutal, often reaching an average temperature of -4 degrees Fahrenheit.
With no protection from the elements, an average winter night would chill him to the bone and push him to the brink of death.
When a group of good Samaritans caught wind of the conditions the old man was living in, they sprung to action. The started a Facebook group and set about fundraising 1,000 euros ($1,160) to help the old man.
The structure he was already living in was beyond repair. There were large cracks and gaps in the wall, and the foundation of the building was hanging by a thread. If they were really going to help him, it was going to mean finding something new altogether for him to live in.
Through the use of social media and calling in a number of favors, they were able to secure a shipping container free of charge. The container itself wasn’t in the best of shape. There were rust spots and it needed to be painted. Thanks to the volunteer efforts of a team of skilled laborers, they made the old container a viable living space.
The container that would be transformed into Negrila’s new home was donated to the cause, free of charge.
But that was only the start. The team proceeded to add wood flooring, a kitchen, electricity, plumbing, and heating to the container. But their work wasn’t only limited to the structure itself. The surrounding property was overrun by garbage and litter from people who used the site as a dumping ground.
They cleaned and cleared the property that the container was going to be situated on. A number of tree stumps had to be removed, and post holes were dug with the intention of putting up a fence.
Negrila was overwhelmed with a sudden swell of emotion for all of their kindness. Having no personal connection to any of the volunteers who were so generously volunteering their time and effort, he couldn’t help but feel incredibly lucky. A man of a few words, he expressed his gratitude while speaking to one of the volunteers on site
“I’m glad you came,” Negrila said with a smile.
After the container was completely renovated and the land was cleared, it was time to transport the container to the site. This required the use of heavy machinery and a team of people working in unison. A large crane lowered the new home into place, sparkling white, with a locking door and windows.
“When he first entered the home, he put his hands on the heater and he started crying,” said one volunteer in a video.
The old man says he hadn’t felt heat in a very long time and couldn’t believe all of the generosity shown towards him. Those who were there to lend a hand noticed a change in his demeanor as well.
“He’s a lot more sociable. He talks to everybody. He’s smiling,” said a volunteer who noted a change in his behavior.
Since getting a new home, Negrila doesn’t have the same worries he used to have. With a locking door, access to clean water, and a place to get away from the bitter cold, there is far less stress in his life.
The volunteers who helped him went back to visit him some months later. They said he was in good spirits and was keeping his home clean. He invited them in for dinner and expressed his gratitude for all they had done.
“Good deeds bring fortune,” said Negrila. “When I was a young man and I had money, when people needed help, I would help–just how you good people are helping me now.”