Wednesday, June 8, 2011
The third day of orphanage visits
I am a day behind in reporting on our orphanage visits. Today we took a day off and spent the afternoon on a river bank with Masha and her children. Yesterday we went to Slavyansk.
If that name sounds familiar it is because I have written about Slavyansk before. Last summer. It is where Nastia is, and yes, we went to her orphanage.
The director of this orphanage has a reputation for being difficult (she is not the reason Nastia did not come home last year), but during our visit, she was open, honest, and inquisitive.
She asked many questions about HIV, how it is spread, how it is not spread, how long does the virus live outside of the body (it can't), what happens to HIV+ blood in water (it is too diluted to make an impact and again, dies outside the body) and we discussed how in spite of the fact that HIV is rather difficult to contract, it is spreading at an epedimic rate in Ukraine. After I answered all of her questions, she agreed that what I said concurred with what she knew to be true. She admitted that while she knew it to be true, the workers who cared for the HIV+ children were not as informed and were reluctant to take her word for it. They wanted the children's dishes specially sanatized, they were afraid to wash the children well for fear of catching the disease and wanted many other special precautions that were time consuming and ultimately would make no difference.
I explained that part of Project HOPEFUL's mission was HIV education and told her about our seminars through the University. She and I agree that a dvd of this would be very good for her workers to get over their irrational fear and fight stigma. I told her that this was something we could try to work on.
The children in her orphanage stay there from ages 4 or 5 until 8 years old. After they turn 8, the children are moved to Internat. She became very grave when discussing Internat. She said that while a facillity like hers housed 35-40 children, Internat held 200 ranging in age up to 16. She expressed concern for the children leaving her in August. She has 4 children who will be leaving her in August. She said she was sad to send them there and commented that she would never want to work there.
We then got to visit the different groupas. She knew that I had been there last year for Nastia and took me to her groupa first. Friends, Nastia still looks so happy and healthy. We did not go out of our way to talk to her seperately, but when ever I caught her eye I would wink at her. This was often. I could tell that she recognized me but didn't know why. She was full of smiles. The children showed us their favorite toys and Daniel recited a special poem. We weren't allowed to take individual photos, but we have a group shot of each groupa. Hanna and Sveta are in Nastia's groupa shot and Nastia is right next to Sveta.
Before we left, we brought in the 4 giant duffel bags of clothing. She was so thankful. She spoke candidly about the finances of the orphanage, that they had enough money for food and necessities for the children but they didn't have enough clothes when the children went to camp. If a child was sent to the hospital, they never got the clothes back. She workes hard to carefully budget care for the building. The roof replacement was to be the next big project.
I found her to be economical and practical. One of the groupas was at camp, so the workers who normally took care of that group were busy deep cleaning and painting their area. She chose pleasant, happy colors for the children's area. Next she showed us an indoor playroom. The orphanage had received a gift of $1000. She used it to buy toys and sports equipment much like the large vinyl covered foam shapes found in gymnastic gyms. She explained how each groupa had it's own play area like this one, but only this one could be improved in this way.
Before we left, she gave me a booklet about her orphanage and thanked me for advocating for the children and for bringing her the clothing. She said she hoped I could find famiies for her 7 year olds before they were sent away. I said that was my prayer.
Tomorrow, we visit 2 more orphanages before getting on the overnight train to Odessa where we will visit 2 more orphanages and then get back on the overnight train to Kiev.
Once back in Kiev we don't have any more scheduled visits and will spend the days prior to our flight with newly arriving families showing them the good inexpensive places to eat and where to buy gifts. Generally answering their questions and calming their nerves before the SDA and travel on to their various regions.
All in all, it has been a great trip. We are blessed to do this and I pray that we shine God's light.