Orphan Days: every Tuesday during May & June*!

May 5, 2011

Marina, the 5 year old little blond girl at the Tulchyn orphanage in Ukraine, (second row of photos below), will not be there when we return this year. She will have “aged out,” and have been transferred to the next level of orphanage, where her chances of being adopted lessen.

The special needs residents (2nd row, middle and right photos) are in a Level 4 orphanage, the lowest level, and they will die there, since no one from those orphanages is ever adopted. Some of the residents “have a life,” though, (which you can see from the pictures), either because that’s all they know, or because mental impairments color their world a bit brighter than the residents who only have physical disabilities.

For these others with physical needs, though, the orphanage seems to be a bleak place, with few staff to help them, and with simply no opportunities to develop within the scope of their limitations. My nurse friend saw a 6 year old blind girl at this same Level 4 orphanage when her team went. The child was inside of a crib. She and the team couldn’t find out her story, but it appeared that she was a child who had fallen through the cracks–a wasted mind and a lonely, dark life. But there is an up side. Since she won’t leave at age 18, she’ll never be in danger of falling into prostitution or crime, which does claim many orphan-“grads”‘ lives.

So. How did we get involved in this story? Our entrance began with a single picture–like the ones below. The picture (the impetus for the relationships among our church, some Ukrainian social workers, Maria, an orphanage director and some Ukrainian nationals whose home holds about 10 orphans at this writing) was of Roman, a Ukrainian orphan without arms. Roman (and Nicholas) were adopted into our pastor’s family, and it was their part of the story that involved more of us, in the ways that relationships often begin and continue, with messiness and ugliness and loveliness as well. You know how that goes.

How, specifically, do these subsequent chapters play out? Mainly, our role is to encourage them, which means different things at different times: providing the funds for a social worker’s part-time salary, for a child’s surgical procedure, for diapers, equipment, digging a septic trench, providing medical teams to help, etc. But each time we go, it’s really just to cheer them on because their work is hard, and their job is big. This summer our team of 12 will be helping the Ukrainians to do a 4-day camp for at-risk kids (children “at-risk” of being placed in an orphanage.) And what will this look like? Well, part of the answer is, “Who knows?” Oh, we’ll make plans and we’ll take craft stuff, and we’re learning more words and phrases, but we really won’t know what we’ll be doing until we get there. Stuff happens and plans change. So I guess the bottom line is that we’re going to love them. Look at their pictures. It won’t be hard to do.

*On Tuesdays, at Simply Bed & Bread, half of the cost of a one night stay will be put into the “Ukraine pot.” Do you have a couple of vacation days that you’re not sure what to do with? A Tuesday just might be the perfect time to get away….


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