Friday, March 22, 2013

Debra and the Orphans of Iasi

Well we've had someone else join the Longboard For Love project. I mentioned her in the last post. A little over a week ago I got an email from a girl named Debra. She had just returned from a study abroad in Iasi, Romania where she worked in the orphanages. She was wanting to help and found Bridge of Love. They directed her to me and we are so grateful for her help.

I met with her the other day and she is going to be good enuogh to be in charge of contacting schools and places along the route where we can stop and share the project. This is a HUGE help for us. She was also kind enough to write about her experience in Romania. I'm including it below. It really is amazing. is Debra!

Hello all. Debra here. Just a short blurb about me: I’m finishing up my third year at university studying human development, and I had the AMAZING opportunity to go to Romania for three months and volunteer in an orphanage, abandoned infant clinic, and children’s hospital. It’s been a few months since I've come home, and I’m excited to be involved in such a great cause again. There is so much to tell about the experiences I had in Romania that I couldn't possibly write it all here, so I narrowed it down to just a few things that I hope convey the importance of Bridge of Love and Longboard for Love.

The orphanage I volunteered in split the children among five different sections. I was assigned to help out in Isolation where the infants and children with the most severe health issues and disabilities were. Because there are a very small number of workers to such a large amount of children, the children have spent the vast majority of their lives in their cribs. Another volunteer (Moriah) and I tried our best to give each child quality one-on-one time every day, but with as many children as there were, it was a short 15-20 minutes a day that each child was taken out of their cribs for play time and just to be held.

Me and my roommates walking home
from the hospital.
Since my kids in Isolation require a lot more care than a lot of parents in Romania can provide, I didn’t get to see many of them go into foster homes. I did however, get to see kids in other sections of the orphanage enter into foster care. It was always such a bitter sweet experience, because the child would be missed terribly, but they were going into a loving home where they would have much better chances of thriving and growing up to become successful adults.

The abandoned infant clinic and hospital were very similar to the orphanage in that there was a poor ratio of children to workers. As a consequence, the children were rarely taken out of their cribs. Often, in the hospital, the nurses wouldn’t allow me to take the kids out of their cribs at all, especially the infants, because it frustrated the nurses when the kids would cry after we left.

 The hospital in Romania was so shockingly different from any hospital I had ever been in before. The rooms and halls were often dark and dirty, sometimes crawling with bugs, and privacy was essentially non-existent with multiple families staying in the same small hospital rooms. Parents were also expected to provide all of the essentials for their child’s stay in the hospital including food, diapers, and clothes. This meant that the hospital had to provide all of those things for the orphans, which often meant that these children went without because the hospital had such limited resources. 

While I did have a lot of heartbreaking experiences in Romania, I have a lot of good memories as well. I was so blessed to be able to see the children I worked with progress in leaps and bounds during my short time there. There is one little boy in particular that comes to mind. I’ll call him Sam for the sake of the story.

Sam was 1.5 years old when I met him on my first day volunteering at the abandoned infant clinic. He never cried (or made any noise for that matter), never smiled, never played with the toys the workers would set in his crib. He didn't even know how to be held; he would sit, stiff as a board, in our arms for the first days and weeks of our visits to the clinic.  It’s so strange to think of him as I first met him, because by our last day at the clinic, Sam had transformed into such a bright, happy little boy. He loved to babble at us and play with us and scoot around in one of the clinic’s baby walkers.

View of the city of Iasi
Moriah and I worked with another child in the orphanage. I’ll call her Ella. Ella was three years old and a very energetic, mobile little girl. Sadly she was still holding onto the walls and our hands in order to walk around everywhere. Part of the reason she wasn't walking on her own yet was because she was behind in her development, and the workers didn't have the time to teach her to walk independently. Another part of it was her attachment disorder. She really liked being able to hold out her hand to us and know that we would most likely drop whatever we were doing to walk her wherever her little heart desired. And I’ll admit that she usually got her way. Cute little stinker. However, Moriah and I knew that she would have so much more fun if she could run around all on her own instead of depending on other people to walk. We started working on walking with her, and she fought us most of the way.

We finally figured out that Ella loves bubbles. I would stand holding the bubbles five or six steps away from Ella and Moriah and say, “Hai la mine Ella!” (“Come to me Ella!”) She’d take the few steps to me on her own, I’d let her blow some bubbles, and then I’d pass the bubbles over to Moriah, and she’d walk back to Moriah to blow some more bubbles. By the time we left, Ella didn't need the bubbles to decide to walk on her own anymore. She was cruising through Isolation, helping us soothe crying babies, bringing toys to the other kids, and causing lots of mischief. One of Ella’s favorite games to play with Moriah and me involved Ella walking around the room, stopping at each crib, and then holding her arms above her head. We would then lift her up so she could plant a kiss on the child in the crib she had stopped at.

I guess the main reason I tell you all of this, is because I imagine how different these orphan’s lives would be if they could be placed in foster families, and that future is so much brighter than the one they have now. That’s why I love what Bridge of Love and the Longboarding for Love team is trying to accomplish for the abandoned children of Romania. They’re really changing the world for the better one child at a time.

1 comment:

Sora Lundberg said...

This was beautiful, Debra! I could picture it all. Thanks for loving those beautiful children.