Friday, October 15, 2010

A place Darya will never have to see

Darya is amazing and adjusting wonderfully to life with a family. She has bonded well with Joel and me and is warming up to her big brothers (though she smacks them if they get too close to her face!).  She is a great sleeper, loves bath time, and enjoys being outside.  She is a snuggle-bug and loves lovin' on us.  She is thriving and learning so much potential in such a little peanut!  We are so blessed to be her family.

While I was in Ukraine, I had the opportunity to visit the older girls' mental institute in a village outside of Odessa.  It stands in stark contrast to the lifestyle and people of the city.  I haven't shared this publicly and will be careful of what I share, but I am just so thankful Darya will never have to set foot in those doors.  Ever.  Our translator in Odessa, Alyona, is such an amazing person and has such a heart for the orphans. She and her husband visit the institute regularly and do crafts/songs/puppet shows for the girls there as a ministry.  While in Odessa, I asked her if my sister and I could join along one Saturday morning.  We were able to visit and help out.  Several young college women came, too, to help out.  It was a fun time with songs, dancing, puppet show, clowns, crafts, and balloons.  The girls absolutely loved it!  I can't even describe the blessing it was to me to even share in that little bit of joy with those girls among the dreary routine they face day in and day out.  It was such an amazing and emotional opportunity for me.

There are 143 girls at the institute, from 4-18 (actually some were older than that but haven't been transferred to the adult facility yet). We only saw about 50 of them who were in their teens or early 20s.  About 3 or 4 of them had Down syndrome.  Our translator asked one of the girls how old she is and she didn't know (how would she?).  I know many others who are bedridden or more severely disabled were not in attendance.  After the time with the girls, we were able to see a bit more of the facilities (but were told not to take pictures, though I was allowed during the activities).  We were shown the mess hall, which was clean and I saw loaves of bread on a table.  There were several fly strips hanging as well (all full, mind you).  We saw a few play rooms which had a few toys, and some of them displayed some amazing art work by some of the girls.  Outside the back window there was a playground and some covered shelter areas for the girls to spend some time outside.  We were not allowed to see any more of the institute.  The smell and noises coming from down the hall told me why.  These girls are in such need.  Like the orphanages, the institutes rely heavily on donations.  Darya's orphanage seemed to have quite a bit, no doubt from donations of adopting families and local people and businesses.  But this institute which was tucked back in a village outside the city is poor.  No children are adopted from there, so there are no donations from adopting families.  It is not in city limits, so few or no local families or businesses donate there.  There have, however, been some donations like the renovation of the hall where we did the music and crafts.  There was a television donated to them.  Alyona and a team were able to take about 50 girls to a dolphin show and out for pizza a while back and the girls had the time of their lives and are begging to go again!  Mind you, the average household income for Ukraine is about $250 a month, so a trip like the dolphinarium and pizza which cost about $1000 is pretty much a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these girls.

I would eventually like to figure out a way to serve the girls in that institute.  The staff is in want of proper training on how to best serve the girls.  I would love to be able to send them on another trip to the dolphinarium.  I would love to eventually see this place empty and no young girl ever have to be transferred there.  My sister and I are trying to figure out how to do some sort of missions trip back there.  Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

This is home for some of these girls and the only life they will ever know.  But it doesn't have to be that way.  It is my heart's desire to never see any little ones (just babies at 4!) be transferred there. I can't even imagine what it must be like.  I am so thankful to God that Darya will never have to go there.  Here are a few pictures:


  1. Though that institute is a harsh place - PRAISE GOD THAT THEY ARE OPEN TO HAVING OUTSIDE HELP! The pictures you took shock me to be honest because they present hope. There is joy on the faces of the girls. We saw nothing like that at Aaron's institute. It grieves me even more. Having the institute you visited so close to a big city is a BLESSING. It is a sad place but there is hope for those girls. We need to pray hard that the church will raise up and minister in these places. We also need to pray that we can find those who would be able and willing to go in Aaron's place. It is so remote it just almost seems hopeless. They are so closed to foreigners.... oh that the doors would be open wide!!

  2. Thanks for sharing. If you can make this mission trip happen in the next year and a half we will be there. Thinking about going to Odessa for a long weekend next weekend. I'm so glad that Darya is doing so well! Too bad we didn't get to meet up, but I'm thrilled that your turnaround in Kyiv was so fast...I've never heard of one happening even close to as quick as yours, so what a blessing! Enjoy sunny FL! Our heat finally got turned on today! :-)

  3. Julia - I thought about Aaron's institute when I wrote this. There is more hope at the girls' institute and it sounds like it is quite a bit "better" than Aaron's. The director does not allow adoptions and is suspicious of some foreign help, but thank God he allows teams to come in and volunteer with these girls!

    Tara - I'm sorry I missed you!! We were in and out of there so quickly. Thank goodness your heat is on! It was so cold there that I am so glad to be back in sunny warm FL! I will definitely keep in touch with you about Odessa if/when we are able to do something. If you ever want to go any other time, I can put you in touch with my translator there as I'm sure she'd be glad for any help any time :-)

  4. That is so good that you got to go there. Alyona has sent us pictures of the orphanages for awhile now, and she has asked us to show them to the church and others to please help donate money. I do not know if I could have gone inside as you did because I would have broke down. Elisa our oldest that we adopted was on her way to this orphanage. This is why we decided at the last minute to adopt because we had to act very fast to save her. Now she and Eli, and Nessie are the best gifts from God. I hope you can inspire others to adopt by showing them these pictures and how sad it can be there!! I hope all is well at home!

  5. As much as I think adoption is an honorable act , to empty the orphanages is not going to solve the problem of abandon DS babies in Ukraine.

    I always believe in giving the poor the tools to fish instead of just giving them fish. We have seen it fails in Africa.

    Coming from a 3rd world poor country, I witness the good jobs that had been started by foreign missionaries add the works have been carried on by the locals for generation.

    I knew a American Christian family who went to Thailand to rescue the prostitutes, they did not bring the prostitutes back to the US but they share the good news to them.

    After these prostitutes became Christians, they equipped them with various skills, this family bought a land and started a tea plantation.They have created their own line of tea and exported back to US. The $ they earned channeled back to the prostitutes rescue work in Thailand.

    Beside the tea plantation, the ex prostitutes who have became Christian started their own mission work, they share the good news with the prostitutes and the pimps.

    I heard they even started an HIV clinics.

    The work is still going on in Thailand and apparently it is very strong.

    Just my 2cents.

    Jamy Tan

  6. Jamy, I whole heartily agree with you. There is work being done to help train, educate, and equip parents in those countries to raise their children with DS. But for the orphans there NOW adoption is the best option. There was absolutely no way that Darya's birth parents were going to take her home with them. Reece's Rainbow's ultimate goal is that the parents will choose to keep their children and be able to raise them in their own countries. As far as the older orphans, such as the teens at the institute, I think adoption of them would be very difficult for them, so providing opportunities for them while they are living there is a good option, and that includes equipping the staff (ie: training them) so they can best serve the girls in their care.

    Here is the link to Reece's Rainbow's other site where they serve the families in Ukraine and other countries so they will ultimately choose to and be equipped to raise their DS children:

  7. Yes, that is what I was thinking "There is work being done to help train, educate, and equip parents in those countries to raise their children with DS." The work in the URL's that you have shown is great !

    Beside a Christian, I am a true blue capitalist, I believe this kind of works if leave to government is not going to work as efficient as private. Just my experience.

    I agree and disagree with you on this : "But for the orphans there NOW adoption is the best option" Sorry !

    The fact that when the mom could not take care of their babies and the babies being taken away from their culture/country and move to the US gives me ... I do not know how to put it in words (esp. in English)...

    I know how hard it is in 3rd world, my dad was nearly sold for a bag of rice. My grandmom ate what left over by the Master's pig,

    Hope you are not offended by my difference in opinion.


  8. I think this may be a comparison between apples and oranges. It's not a question of choosing between Ukrainian parents and foreign parents. There is a legitimate argument to be made that a priority should be given within the home country first in order to maintain the biological culture with the social culture.

    But with these kids the choice is very legitimately a choice between death in an orphanage or adoption by foreign parents. So while keeping the kids in country may be a most favorable option, it is culturally not an option and therefore the best option now for these orphans is to be adopted by foreign parents.

  9. Maryanne- You set up the trip and I will be there if I can (1 yo daughter still BF, so if you can wait another few months..?). If you find a way to send funds directly to this orphanage/institute post it and I will send as much as we can as many times as we can. I am also thinking of printing out your post and showing my church, is this ok? I'm not going to do it unless you tell me ok. We have no orphan's ministry and little outreach in my very old church, my husband and I are trying to do God's work and this post plucked at my "prayer thread" as I call it for myself. God tapped me on the shoulder in other words :)

  10. HIV and AIDS are very prevalent disease in prostitutes life in Thai. The average life span of these women are not even 30's.

    Guatemala adoption door used to be wide open and so are China but after American exodus, G's door is almost close , could Ukraine be next ? We do not know but ? ....

  11. HIV is very prevalent in Ukraine and Russia, too. It is very sad, though medicine has made incredible strides in managing it. There is, of course, no cure for HIV, but hopefully it will one day soon be a thing of the past!

  12. Can't wait until you hear on how to help - would love to go, too, one day!