We were fortunate enough yesterday to make a visit with our friend Natalya to the older children's orphanage for non special needs kids nearby. This is the orphanage which allowed many children to come to Raleigh, NC last summer for an orphan hosting program which we volunteered a little time with, and this is the same Natalya we met there who came over with them as a translator.
The day was beautiful and sunny and one we had really anticipated. Especially Schuyler. She had been longing to see some of the kids she'd made friends with those many months ago and reconnect with them. Especially her sweet friend Dima--- a fun-loving, fiery redhead of a boy we had made friends with on a trip to the zoo. Such a great kid. I have to admit I have thought of him and the others often over these past months, praying for them to find families. One of the other boys there, Vanya, was also the one I had tried to raise some money for on my blog to help cover the costs of his hosting fees. Another great kid.
Soooo, we met Natalya at the McDonalds down the street and she helped us buy bus tickets-- it is a different bus than we usually take, and required a bit more Russian ;) so her help was appreciated. Then, off we went down the bumpy roads on the slower and much older electric bus which has probably been in use on these roads for over the past 30 years or so. Yes, it was very, very old.
When we arrived, we walked a ways down a gravel/dirt road, down a hill, past some houses, and over a stream to get to the orphanage. I am glad it was a beautiful day out, no rain and not too hot or too cold. Just perfect.
|These are some typical blocks used for building. You see them everywhere! Tim was curious as to how heavy they were. Typical construction man ;)|
We came upon the orphanage grounds-- no gate here, just some buildings and open fields, trees and lots of dirt. We noticed that there were many kids outside all busy with something to do. Some were pulling weeds, others digging up roots with shovels, some sweeping with their adorable old fashioned brooms or even with bundles of twigs, and still others whitewashing the planting urns. Yes whitewashing.... like from Little House on the Prairie. I loved it!
Some of them took notice of us walking down the path, others kept working away busily and responsibly. No one was hovering over them telling them what to do, no one was scolding them or "keeping them in line". They were all just performing their assigned tasks, seemingly very willingly. We later learned that it was a sort of orphanage "spring cleaning" that day and everyone was doing their part to tidy up. I marveled. I told Natalya, "Wow! All these kids working so hard with no one over their shoulder and sometimes I feel like a drill sargent just with my six!"
We walked a little further up the pathway but now were far from unnoticed by the children. Natalya has made quite a name for herself there with the children and they look forward to her weekly Saturday visits, or oftentimes Bible studies that she holds with them as well. Kids were running up from out of everywhere to greet her, hug her and kiss her. Boys and girls alike from 6 to 16 hugged her waist and smiled up at her or draped an arm around her shoulder (the older ones) to catch her eye and have a moment of her attention. You could tell how much they loved her, and that their affection meant a lot to her as well.
Still however, we had not seen any of the children that we had met from the previous summer. And we had not seen Dima. But then, as we were walking up a hill towards the main building and social worker's office Natalya said, "Oh there he is." He looked down at the four of us walking towards him and immediately broke into his wide, impish grin. He remembered us! I really hadn't known if he would, or if he did I wasn't sure that he would really care. I smiled and yelled out "Dima!" and went walking up towards him, and he started to walk quickly to me. His smile got bigger and he just threw his arms around me for a huge hug. Words can't describe how that made me feel. He remembered us and he was happy that we were there, in his country now, to see him. After our hellos, and of course a little bit of shyness too with the language barrier and all, we continued up to the main building to tell the director that we were there. She wasn't in, but Natalya was able to talk with her on the phone, and the social worker who we knew was there and came out to greet us and chat for a few minutes. She later came back for some pictures.
|Schuyler, Dima and I|
|The orphanage social worker with one young lady coming over for hosting this summer.|
While in the office we also saw Vanya! Sweet Vanya who I had advocated for on my blog. Such a wonderful boy, who like Dima
|Vanya and Tim|
We had brought all kinds of snacks for the kids to have during our visit-- fruits, cookies and candy which they don't get very often if at all, except from visitors. We had to wait until they finished their cleanup time though to sit down with the kids, so we walked to a beautiful grassy hillside to sit in the shade and wait.
Little did we know, as we sat there talking with Natalya, a certain someone was spying on us. :) Thanks to my husband's keen eyes, experience with hunting and tracking things through the brush, he saw a certain redhaired someone crouched behind some bushes watching us. He knew Tim saw him and made the sign for Tim to shush about it, but of course he told us. Dima wanted so badly to hang out with us that he had followed us to the hill. After awhile, as we descended to make our way back to the other kids, he followed us and we turned a corner surprising him! :) He walked the rest of the way back with us, talking a bit, and seeming a little more comfortable.
We gathered a group of kids together for some snacks, and a little question and answer session about their favorite subjects, things to do in their free time, and what aspirations they might have for themselves when they are older. We got some terrific responses. Some like Biology and Chemistry, some Math and Reading. One wants to be a cyclist, one a chef and another a hairdresser. They enjoy everything from swimming to soccer to running and reading. Just your normal, average children. In every way but one. They don't have families to do any of these things with.
|A couple of the teachers with the children|
No families to commend them on a job well done when they get a good grade on a test or to cheer them on when they score a soccer goal. No one to help them achieve those dreams and and aspirations of a career in their future. No one. NO ONE.
These children live for those Saturdays when Natalya and her other Christian friends come for visits and Bible studies. They hope and pray that she will bring letters with her for them when she comes, letters from people who they have met while here in the US being hosted, or friends from other missionaries. Anything to show them that someone loves them, is thinking about them. They crave those hugs she gives them like we hunger for daily food.
Can you imagine having no one in this world who loves you? Really? Can you imagine? Because I can't. The pain that must cause to those small, vulnerable souls. The heartbreak they must feel when they come back home from those hosting trips still no closer to finding a family. How they don't just shut down from all the hurt in unfathomable to me. Though some of them are beginning to. One boy in particular, a wonderful sweet boy according to Natalya and to his teachers, is so afraid of being hurt again that he doesn't want to even try. He holds out no hope for a family now. I think it would break his heart too much to be disappointed again, so he doesn't want to chance it.
These children are slowly slipping away folks! Their time is quickly running out. With every passing day, they are one step closer to living a life on the streets. So much for their dreams and aspirations for their future.
And these are AMAZING children! I mean amazing! They are sweet, kind, well mannered and loving. You should have heard all the pleases and thank yous we received for the treats we brought. And they even shared-- passing the things I handed them to the kids in the back who couldn't reach.
You know in my heart the love I have for children with special needs. Well there is no less of a need for homes for these children too, and their only need is their age. From 6-16 they sit there and wait. Hope. Long for a family. Someone to call Mama and Papa. Someone to call their own.
Please don't allow their hearts to continue to break. Please don't let these sweet souls just go unnoticed.
Fund an adoption of one of these children.
Adopt a child yourself.
We can all do SOMETHING.
As that quote that I love by David Platt says "It is a lot easier to pretend that orphans are not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes."
Well I am here to tell you that we have held them in our arms. We have looked them in the eye. We have seen them smile, we have seen their looks of anguish too. It cannot be ignored, and it shouldn't be. We need to stand up and be the hands and feet of Christ here on this earth for these children. If not us, then who? WHO?? Someone else? Someone more comfortable? More "chosen" or "gifted"? Someone more equipped?
Do what you can for these children, and please do it now.
If you would like more information on any of the children pictured in this post, I would be happy to put you in touch with the people you need to speak with. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.