16 June 2007

visiting Lopukhinka

Yesterday I delivered clothes and toys that our school collected at the end of the school year (see political corruption). On the way Valentina, the co-ordinator who works with Bethany (I think) to supply needs to orphans in Leningrad Oblast, and I stopped for a blini and to buy some things for the children. (Note: they asked for a tea kettle for the infirmary, shampoo, sanitary pads, and candy. If you're thinking about a donation for older children, think hygiene.) It was a good thing we ate, because we didn't get home until well past seven last night.

This time we went to a different children's home near the village of L. (close to Peterhof). it was a very pretty drive with lots of birch trees and grazing animals. It's one of the prettiest parts of the country I've seen. There were even individual houses. I didn't realize how much I'd missed seeing those!

The children's home (they attend school in the nearby village, so it's not an internat) was by far the poorest I've seen. The paint was peeling from the walls. The floors were worn through. There was little furniture. But, the children seemed cared for, happy, and open. The caregivers were truly caring. They help to work on the farm and sold enough produce last year to send 30+ children to summer camp. They have woodworking classes. This is the only home I know of that has a significant amount of men on the caregiving/teaching staff. I think that is so important!

The children at Lophkhinka were aged 7-16. It was actually graduation day (from high school) for the older children. We ran into a group from Buckner (not my agency) who were there distributing "supplies" for the graduates. (They didn't know you, Becky. I asked.) I think the teenaged girls on their staff were responsible for all the French braids and beribboned pigtails on the little girls yesterday. I know there were responsible for some RED nail polish.

We delivered our toys and clothes. All the toys were greeted with enthusiasm. Little scrappy bits of plastic that I'd throw away as junk were treasured. The biggest hit was a doll bed that I had been tempted to keep for d2b. My car was packed solid and it was both cute and hard to fit in. I was so glad I hadn't given into that temptation! The little girls (maybe aged 10) were delighted with it. They were even happier when they found a doll (kookla) in the bag to put in the bed. I want to go buy lots of new dolls for this children's home! I'd love to make sure all of the girls in that groupa had their own doll.

One little girl, Veera, was new and a little lost. She was probably seven. She'd been brought to this home because her brothers had been here previously. There was an evident desire to keep siblings together here. It was easy to see family resemblances amongst the children. There were sisters who were tall with long, dark hair and a family of freckle-faced strawberry blondes. I admit to having my eyes open, searching for a lightening bolt, just a little bit. But, again, the fact that I was in a children's home that was older than my current age range made it a little easier for me to go. Not much though--it mostly made me want to increase my age range!

We talked to the assistant director. Valentina told her I was adopting and she asked me to come back there! I told her I would be happy to do that. Sadly, as in most of the children's homes, most of these children will never leave. V. estimated that 80 % of them were not available for adoption. Some occasionally see their mothers. Some occasionally leave for a visit. Most just stay there.

When we were leaving, V asked if it was okay if we gave the children a ride to the gate in my car. And, then, she added joking, we can just keep going. Little did she know how much Alias and 24 I've been watching! A daring escape was just up my alley. And, I was sure I could get some forged documents. Sydney always manages... So, Nastya, Katya, Veera and Dima all piled in the back seat. We drove them down the path. And, despite my recent CIA/SD6/CTU training, we stopped before the gate that led to the road out, dropped them off and waved goodbye. Won't it be a great day when the waving goodbye takes place from little hands inside my car as we drive through the gate together?


votemom said...

oh. boy.
this post made me really sad.
i'm furrowing my brow as i type this.


Anonymous said...

What a different world. I think the older kids get forgotten and I think it's wonderful that you were able to be there that day. What can I do to help? What do they need?

Rachael said...

So sad, but I loved hearing about your experience. I bet it was hard not to just keep driving!

I cried several times in the car leaving Katya's orphanage, just thinking about all the other kids we were leaving behind. I still think about little "Dennis" who asked us to please make sure Katya had a bicycle in America, and little "Lera" who clung to Katya in tears when we left. Oh man, I'm getting teary just writing this, and thinking about those kids getting transferred this August to the Internat because they have turned 7 now.

On a lighter note, glad you're enjoying 24. You will see, if you keep up with the seasons, that nothing stops Jack Bauer! ;>

Tami said...

While it is a bit sad...what an incredible experience! You brought some joy to their lives. I'm with Annmarie...is there anything we can do to help? I would love to help put a smile on their faces.
P.S. - Don't you just LOVE Jack Bauer?! I'm bringing a couple of season's with us to Ukraine to watch during the wait.

Elle said...

I can just picture their little faces light up as you unloaded the baby bed. How special for them. I would have wanted to keep driving too.

Jenni said...

What an experience. I remember feeling so sad as we left Vika's orphanage too. The kids there ranged in age from 4 to 7 or 8, and many may spend the rest of their childhood in orphanages. It's just tragic. I would have wanted to keep driving too.

It is wonderful that you were able to help bring some brightness to their lives though.

Anonymous said...

This brings tears to my eyes because of your last sentence. I can just see your sweet daughter driving home with you and waving goodbye to her past. Love, Nif
P.S. Notice I am totally caught up on the blog?!

Debi said...

man Kate..this was a hard post to read all those children hopeful for a scrap of anything..breaking my heart...you are a good person Kate...

Melissa said...

What a bittersweet experience for you. Reading this makes me want to open my heart and home to an older waiting child.