In 2006, I went to Russia and worked with a non-profit organization in a Russian orphanage. It has been one of the most profound things I've ever done. I was so saddened when I received news today that the organization that I was working with has stopped its program due to lack of interest. I know people want to spend their valuable vacation time at beaches relaxing, but it breaks my heart.
This is one of my favorite videos:
It's been a goal of mine to return to the orphanage one day. Now, I don't know if I will ever have the opportunity to work with it again. Also, I've always wanted to adopt from Russia, but currently adoptions to US families are still banned.
All of this today has brought a wave of emotions. It has been 6 years since I've gone back through videos or opened up the journal I kept while working there.
A friend gave me this beautiful journal and while I was over there I wrote in it daily.
And for the first time in 6 years, I opened it.
I don't know why I haven't looked at it more over the years. I think because while I have so many wonderful memories of my time there, I grieve for the children. Had I been old enough I would have taken some children home, or tried to. Two in particular, Natasha and Dima.
I think about all the children so often, more than I ever thought I would. The children in the video would be in their early teens now. Were they adopted? Are they ok? I probably will never know. Until the closing of the program, I have been able to follow-up with later volunteers and have particularly checked in on my 2, Natasha and Dima. At last check both were still living in that same orphanage.
My first day at the orphanage was a disaster. The orphanage I was assigned to was in a more dangerous area of the city and I was nervous. I'd been warned that volunteers usually lasted a day. I was told all these horror stories, but I figured if I came all this way I should go to where I may be needed the most. The first day was really awful. I had been kicked, bit, spit on. . . you name it. Kids push boundaries when they test you and boy did they test mine! But, I can't imagine being little and living in those circumstances. They have so little stability and I'm sure it is scary meeting new people, especially foreign ones. To add to it, the volunteers that came before me that never stayed, what did that teach these kids? It just reinforced abandonment, I think. So, that first day I was tested. At the end when I returned to where I was living I cried in my room.
I didn't know if I could go back after that. But, something in me told me that I needed to. I'm so lucky that I did. I returned day after day. As weeks passed, the kids would be waiting for me, asking their teacher when "their Katya" would arrive. I
loved love them all so much.
How could you not fall in love with these kids?
I look horrible in this video because it was so hot and I was exhausted that day. But, I will always treasure this video of me with my Dima:
I was so overwhelmed with how much of a change I saw in the children in those weeks. I'd like to think that by me coming consistently that they saw that I cared for them, that there are good adults in the world and so much love.
|Saying a final goodbye to all my little ones|
Leaving them was very difficult. I had the teacher explain that I had to go back home. I shared pictures of where I lived. Showed them on the map of the route of where my plane would need to go. The children, the older ones, actually asked me to think of them. They were curious if I'd remember them. I told them that of course I would and I've kept that promise. They are all in my heart.
As I get older and especially now that I have nieces, I see how much love children receive. How lucky I was to have my upbringing, how fortunate so many of us are in this country. I think about and pray for all the children, anywhere in the world, who are less fortunate and who are living in the thousands of orphanages worldwide. I'll always pray for the children I met and hope/imagine that they go on to lead wonderful lives. If you are the praying type, I'd love it if you'd keep these wonderful children in your thoughts and prayers. I'm heartbroken that the organization will no longer run, but I hope that with the difference it has made over the years that these children have benefited and will make it!
Thank you for letting me share some of these wonderful children with you all!