1.08.2009

Orphanage Visit

Hey Mom, this post is for you and your Friday shop ladies! I have been having a hard time e-mailing photos, so I decided to post them to the blog.

For my other readers, I thought you also might like a look at a little orphanage in Ukraine that I visited with some Embassy folks right after Christmas.

The American Embassy community donated gifts for each of the 52 orphans at Otchiy Dim (translated "Father's House" in English) during the Christmas season. I mentioned this project to my mom and she and some extended family stuffed stockings for each of the orphans to add to the gifts.

The children at Otchiy Dim are either genuine orphans (whose parents are both deceased) or else children whose parents could not or would not care for them. Many of them were rescued from the street and are now in the care of the orphanage, which provides clothing, shelter, food, and school for them.

Otchiy Dim is actually a brighter and more pleasant place than I remember orphanages being. I think it is because it is run by individuals who genuinely care for the children (they were so genuinely tender and kind with the kids) and it is funded not by the state, but by private donations. This kind of charitable organization is actually becoming more common, but most people still believe it is the state's responsibility to take care of such things. Fund raising is very difficult and is neverending, so it makes the work of orphanages like this a daily miracle. The bottom line, however, is the state can never do what a real human being (or many together) can do. I certainly believe that the state would never do what the workers here do for these children.

Here are lots of pics from the day I went with the group to deliver the gifts. I didn't realize until too late that my camera was on a setting for night pictures and so it was focusing relaly slow and took very blurry pictures. Bummer. But you get the idea.

This is what the orphanage looks like from the outside:





This is one of the bedrooms (a little set of bunks on the left, a closet, a toilet room and a pair of sinks on the right). -



This little girl opened her gift so carefully. She pulled off each piece of tape individually from the seam and kept them, then folded the wrapping into a nice little square. Later, when she had her stocking, she pulled one thing out of it at a time, admiring each piece of candy and each little toy, asking questions and playing with one things for a few minutes before she took the next thing out. -



This little boy captured my attention and I got quite a few pictures of him because he was so fun to watch and I was on the same side of the room with him. I think I just loved his red hair. He also enjoyed each and every item in his stocking. And he could not get over how many matchbox cars were in the package he got. He just kept saying, "Look! So many!" And he carried the box around without opening it the whole time we were there. One of the guys even joked, "Do you think he knows he can actually open that box and play with all those cars, or does he think it's just for carrying around and looking at all of them together?" It was adorable...



This boy was the first one to receive his gift and he took it and sat down to watch and wait until everyone else got theirs. Each time a new name was called, all the children cheered for the recipient. We told them that they could open their before all the gifts were handed out, which some of them did. Others were just happy to watch and wait while everyone got presents.



This little girl jumped up into my arms the minute I walked into the room. I had never visited before, and she didn't even know me, and she gave me the biggest bear hug a four-year-old could give. She smiled like this the entire time we were there.



A few more pictures of my little red-haired boy...







And a few more pictures of the children enjoying each other and their gifts...









These are the older boys at the orphanage. They didn't peak in their stockings or open their gifts because they wanted to save them for the New Year, which is actually the big gift-giving occasion here in Ukraine. We delivered the gifts on the 27th, so they were going to wait a few days just to have something special for the New Year!



This little boy is named Misha. He sat so expectantly for a looooong time while lots of other children received their gifts. Every now and then Santa would say, "Who's next?" And Misha would answer, "Me!" Santa would say, "And who are you?" And he'd say, "Misha!!!" The helpers were scrambling to find the gift with Misha's name on it even while Santa handed out more for the other children. Finally, Santa read, "Misha!" And everyone in the room clapped and shouted and laughed and little Misha jumped practically across the whole room from his teacher's lap where he'd been waiting so long. It was so sweet because everyone was waiting just as expectantly as he was for the gift to be for him!



This is probably my favorite picture of the day, although a lot of the pictures captured the same idea. I was amazed and touched by how excited each of the children was, not only for their own gift, but for what others received. They cheered and were in awe when someone opened something. They waited expectantly to see what was in each present. And of course, I don't know how the ensuing hours or days were, but just the initial reaction of excitement for others' joy and great gifts was so tender and sincere. Even children who hadn't been called for a gift yet were interested in the joy of their little friends and rejoiced with them. I didn't see any jealousy or sulking or grouchy impatience or resentment over "different" or "better" gifts. I didn't see anyone hoarding or refusing to share, either. They were happy to have and happy to share. They were all just happy because everyone around them was happy.



Being happy for others was my take-home lesson, from these little children who don't have even a fraction of the advantages and joys that most of us do. They seem to know intuitively that someone else's gift or happiness or success or luck doesn't mean that there is less of it for them. They are hopeful and giving and content and loving and enthusiastic about everything good. I'd like to be a little more like that.

12 comments:

Aimee said...

What a wonderful experience and lessons learned. Wow. Thanks so much for sharing!

Janelle said...

I'd like to be more like that too! Thanks for sharing about such a wonderful place. And so beautiful!

Nobody said...

A big ol chunk of my heart just fell out onto my keyboard. What a precious group of children!
I don't know that I ever could have left. I'm glad you go to go do that.

Kelsey said...

Wow! That looks like quite a nice orphanage! That's so sweet that you all did that, too.

In case you're wondering where I came from, I sort of stumbled across your blog while link-surfing. I'm an expat currently living in Korea, and my S.O. is a former FS brat. I like your blog, and I was wondering if you would mind if I added you to my blogroll? You're not obligated to add me back, but you are welcome to.

tara said...

that is the sweetest blog post I have read on the internet anywhere in a long time. I am going to read this to my daughter and the little girl I watch after school when they get home tomorrow (as well as my 3 1/2 and almost two year old). We are so blessed.

Anonymous said...

I had pictured this day in my mind for a month now, and the reality of it is just exactly what I had pictured. Thank you SO much for giving us the opportunity to do this. I wished for one thing that wasn't possible, to "hear" the joy in that room. Thanks to your pictures, I have received the most precious gift this whole season. I will share this with all of our children/grandchildren so they may see the TRUE spirit of Christmas. Thank you...Aunt Lis.

Camille said...

That was so sweet it made me cry. Thank you for sharing that.

Michelle said...

Thanks for sharing! I'm all teary eyed reading it.

Anonymous said...

The little girl who jumped into your arms when you arrived, and kept on smiling, reminds me of a really young CYM, or really, really young,(before Target and probably even before...Can I say Gibson's Discount?) CYGM!!! (Code Yellow Grand Ma) That's a "I'm genuinely happy, and you don't why, but you can't catch me even if you do!" smile, if I am any judge of such things.

Jen @ Amazing Trips said...

I am so glad that you had that opportunity. What a gift for both you - and the children. I wish I could take every single one of them home with me.

Jen @ Amazing Trips said...

PS: You mentioned that this orphanage is funded by private donations, as opposed to State funding. If someone was interested in contributing to a private orphanage >> how would they do it?? Is there any way to find out a listing of "reputable" organizations?

by Deterlou said...

I am Detra, one of your mom's friends. She is always talking about you and wanted me to share in the pleasure of your blog. She showed me the stockings before she sent them to you and I know it meant a lot to her to see this blog and how much the children enjoyed them. It was wonderful to get to read about the joy of these children. Great lesson...I think I could be more happy for others and more grateful for what I have. Thanks again for sharing.