“As long as little children are allowed to suffer there is not true love in this world” - Isadora Ducan
Today I visited a little orphanage in our city. When you walk away from a Russian orphanage thoughts and feelings you never have had begin to emerge. "What if that was my son? What if James was the new arrival like Alexander who just got here, scared and confused? What if he didn't have pants that would stay up and was forced to sit on a toilet for 15 minutes every hour because he only had one set of clothes? What if he was constantly sick because there is medicine but no way to diagnose his illness?"
I feel like I have little to give or offer these children. My smiles do them no good, they don't reciprocate the gesture. They aren't happy. There is no joy in their hearts. I guess you might feel this way walking away from any orphanage. But, when you walk away from an orphanage in this Russian Republic where human development is the lowest in the country, these feelings of hopelessness are at an all time high in my heart.
As I walked into the room for 1 to 2 year olds, they were getting ready to leave to go to a music lesson downstairs. It was their time to hear something different then mere instructions given but the nursery workers, "Stop crying...sit down...come here!" With my arrival into the room they were prevented of leaving and the tears were falling and their protests were forthcoming. They look at me not only as a foreigner but also as if I were an alien from another planet. I felt their eyes examine me and I sensed that they could care less if I was there. They just wanted to get out of the room. Even at such a young age their body language was loud and clear as they questioned the meaning of why I was there. With their gestures of distrust they seemed to say, “What hope could you give me? What good are you to me?”
Among the children at this baby house are those disabled and too small to walk. Before I went to see them they made me put on a surgical mask, white jacket, and plastic over my shoes. They whisk a boy into the room and completely undressed him as if I will give him a full examination and prognoses. Kair-jik was his name. He has no use of his fingers or toes. They were stuck together from birth. His head is twice the normal size. His penis is inverted. His mother was a drug addict. She abandoned him over a year ago.
"There isn't a doctor who would operate on him", the worker says to me. She hopes I can find someone how can help him. She is genuinely concerned. He is a year and a half old but Kair-jik's life is over before it has had a chance to begin. I think, “What can I do, I'm not a surgeon? I'm not a doctor.”
Six to nine month old babies sit on make shift toilets that look more like buckets to me. They are just staring at me. Regardless if they need to go to the bathroom or not there they sit. If they would soil themselves there wouldn't be a set of clothes to change them into. With my voice and eyes I try to get a response from them but there is none. It's breakfast time for them so my time had to be short.
We met with the director of the orphanage who has worked at there for twenty plus years. She looked familiar to me. She is one of my neighbors who live in my building. She’s a kind lady but by the look of her eyes she seems to be carrying a heavy load, much more then she can handle. Michael asked, "What is the greatest need at the orphanage?"
She says, "The last ten years there have been a lot of changes that have taken place here. First of all, the birth rate has risen in our area. Many more parents abandon their children because they do not have the money to support all the children they have. The majority of women who are giving birth are sick themselves. They suffer from TB, syphilis, or they are drug addicts. The babies are born with many problems and many illnesses because of this. In the 1990s we had only a few children that were disabled. Now we have many children that have congenital defects (growth problems) from birth.
The government helps us and they take an active part in our orphanage but it’s not enough. We need help. We need medical exams done on the children twice a year but exams cost money, which we do not have. The State provides different medicines but we can not diagnosis issues and there is no money in the budget for analysis."
She continues, "We have issues with clothes for the children. Children within the first three years of their lives have great needs. They need lots of tee shirts, underwear, pajamas and toys to play with. We have no money to buy any of these things.”
Michael asked, “How much does the State government give you per child?” We have three dollars per day per child for food and only three dollars every three months for clothes. After money spent for milk, food, clothes and shoes there is no money at all for toys."
I live not more than a few miles from this baby orphanage but I might as well live a million miles away. I didn't know such a need existed.
Only one out of ten orphans will become a functional member of society. Only ten percent of the children I met today will make it. The rest will be lost. They will make wrong choices. They will fall to drugs, into prison and worst yet, suicide. I've heard it said that the test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children. Here I am, only a few miles from this orphanage and this is only the second, maybe third visit I've made. Really, how moral am I?
Of course, I brought many toys, clothes and shoes with me, three suitcases in fact. But, these children still don't have underwear, tee shirts, or even pants that cover their bottoms. They walk around in soaks. There aren't any toys in their playground. Why should they bother, I guess? The kids cannot go outside. They have no winter shoes or sandals for the summer for that matter.
But, what will they play with inside? I guess they will play with each other. Maybe they will fold a small blanket and pretend there is a baby doll inside as I have seen done by little girls many times. I tired to give them toys today but my question I have is about their tomorrows. What will tomorrow bring for these less fortunate?
Over 1 million children are living in institutions in Russia and 95% still have a living parent. Their parents can't afford them or they themselves are ill so they give the child to the State. Approximately 1.5 - 3 million children are living on the streets in this country. Maybe they started at an orphanage like this one.
I met a few children today they found on a street as a baby. No one knows who the mother is or the father. If they aren't offered something more when they are babies I fear they will go back to living in the street desperate of food, medicine, clothes, and most of all in need of love.