Each group sheds new light on something. Every time I am humbled by their desire for affection and love, and I am tremendously aware that they are without it. This group was no except but this group also reminded me that these orphans are in the poorest country in Europe which can barely provide enough to keep these children healthy.
When you first see M you can tell that not only is undernourished but he was born in a failure to thrive environment. He physically manifests the abuse, neglect, drug addiction and alcoholism that puts so many children in the orphanages. But he also manifested something else: spirit. The child was fearless (scarily so) and didn’t let his size or circumstances get him down. Can’t swim? Fine, he would learn. By the end of the month he was fine in the shallow end on his own without his life vest. He did that from pure stubbornness and determination. He didn’t let the other kids push him around. What he lacked in size he made up in bravado and they often left him to do his thing instead of teasing him. But he was loving and talkative. It didn’t matter if you didn’t speak the language; he would talk to you a thousand miles a minute and give you hugs every time you turned around.
A teenage girl was another reminder. I will never forget her lying in my lap during church after leaving Bridgestone at 5:30 in the morning. Her sister sat next to her, and I watched the sister walk her fingers across O’s ribs. I could see what she was thinking in her eyes; it was the same thing I was thinking. We both felt responsible for making sure she had enough to eat, to flourish. The sister has it the hardest as it’s her job in the orphan; I was just one of many that would help for a short time. Like M, O was determined to enjoy life. At fourteen she was a woman who had to learn to deal with her body and hormones as well as the difficulties of living in the orphanage. There were days where she was downright difficult but we could all see what she had inside her: a desire to love, to connect with others, especially female role models.
We took a trip to Virginia, and I rode with the children in the van with these kids were seating on the bench seat behind me. I would entertain us by singing and dancing along to songs on the radio. Our favorite was “Just like Fire” by Pink and we belted it out and laughed. It was a moment of pure happiness something I take for granted but huge experiences for these orphans.
Putting them on the plan this time was hard. Every time I turned around someone wanted a hug or to play a game. I have lots of selfies and even a loom band ring from one of the boys. They had beautiful souls like, just like fire, couldn’t be buried. I miss them so much.
I am in a gap of months where no children will be here. The next group will be here in December. Until then I have work to do and grants to write. I’m still busy and have to support myself. But I still feel their love and that is what keeps me going.
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