12 January 2009

simple wishes

edited to remove details

I'm sure all of you know about Rachael's" little happiness project" and her Simple Wishes store on etsy. This year, inspired by the new hot water heaters and the reaction the girls at Lapouhinka have to shower gels and lotions, we bought lots and lots of shower gel gift sets and lots of chapstick. (Chapstick is always a big hit. I was able to use the handy Russian phrase for "as many as you have" when purchasing it!)

I have delivered her gifts! The first was the "Ikea" orphanage. There were about 15 kids there--the rest were at camp. One of the girls told us that she didn't go to camp because the food is bad--the bread is so thin you can see through it. I don't know if they got to choose whether they went or not, but that was her story.

So, while the kids responded with sleepy (we woke them at 10:30) teenaged indifference, I know they were glad. The boys were excited about the dragon kits until they saw the Spiderman and Pirate of P sets. They LOVED those. I left some dragon kits for the youngest group.

Next we went to the orphanage where the little girl was that I just wanted to put in my pocket and take home. I really like this orphanage. When you walk in, you're greeted by the mural on the left. Upstairs you'll find the mural on the right. It's clean and fresh. Again, the kids were at camp. When they returned that night, instead of there being 27 kids, there would be 45! A nearby orphanage was closing and the kids were going there. The director was nervous, the kids (I'm sure) were nervous...I left a gift pack for each of them. Although I didn't get to give it to them personally, I think it will raise spirits all around for them to come to their new home (or to the home that is now filled with strangers) and find a gift waiting. The new rooms are painted, furniture is bought, and now Rachael has left each child a welcome home gift.

Here is some of the children's holiday artwork displayed. Can you find the bull? (Umm...it's not hard. And apparently it's the year of the ox--not bull. I guess oxen aren't as marketable as cows and bulls.)

We got to visit with the littles there. We walked in to find them eating an enormous lunch--big bowl of soup, kasha with cheese, sausages, bread and a fruit drink. I might have gotten them in trouble by making faces at them while they ate if the caretaker hadn't been talking to V. I just wanted them to eat so we could get to the presents and chocolates. Apparently my miming of spooning soup quickly with a whispered Russian "Eat!" was hysterical. Personally, I took it as an encouraging sign that this elicited giggles so quickly.

Only three of them were in the orphanage. The rest had been taken in by families or returned to their relatives for the holidays. These three were so precious! But, their stories are heartbreakers. One boy was brand new. He had only been in the orphanage for a few days. I wonder what his holiday was like this year. He's four--old enough to remember whatever it was. He clung so tightly to my hand as we went to choose a toy. But, he didn't take anything.

The little girl had been taken into a family (for fostering or adoption...) after a thirty-minute meeting. She went "home" with them on 30 December. On 4 January she was returned. She's a cutie--blonde pigtails--and very clever. She recited such a long poem for her gift! She got stuck part way through, gave an "oi", thought about it for a few minutes, sighed and said, "vsyo"--that's all.

Our last little friend looked like a little boy I taught from Georgia--all sparkly brown eyes and good humor. He is a charmer! He and I played with his truck. The only "guy" I could find who would fit in the driver's seat (we were disappointed the door didn't open) was a Viking warrior. Who knew Vikings were such good drivers? He was so tickled when the truck would jack-knife. Yes, I think I need more pockets for these three. (My little friend, K, we were told, had been taken into a family. I'm hoping it's the right K...and that she's safe and cherished.)

After leaving that orphanage we went to a children's home in an OLD building (Twenty years ago they decided that a new building was needed. It's still not completed. Every year they just paint over the cracks and crumbles and hope it holds together a little longer...). The kids there are teenagers. V remembers bringing backpacks to some of them for their very first day of school! They've been in this building their whole lives. They were all pleased with their new shower gels. There was such a difference between these children and the first ones we saw first. Yes, it was later in the day. Yes, you could easily see that some of them were...engaging in inappropriate behaviours. But, somehow, this last orphanage had more hope.

Oh--recently a child was adopted from this orphanage! It's nearly unheard of there. The girl herself didn't even know that in the US a family in Texas was patiently working on her adoption, I think for several years. And now, "little fish" is home with them.

So there you have it! Simple wishes granted once again. Well done, Rach! Besides creating happy children, the fact that their gifts were shower gels and shampoos means that those things (well soap and shampoo--she doesn't usually buy shower gel but the tweens and teens feel much more grown-up when they have it) won't have to be bought out of V's budget this month. That frees up money for medicine and other needs. The goodness multiplies!


Tami said...

Thanks so much for being Rachel's Snow Maiden. What a blessing it must be to see the look on those precious children's faces.

kate said...

You know, Tami, there generally isn't "a look". There is no moment of joy. There is just a stoicism. Sometimes with the littlest ones you see a spark, but not always.

It's sad. I know they are appreciative. I know these are things they need and want. But, in front of a stranger, there is not much expression of that--particularly with the teenagers. If you sit back and are very, very quiet, you can chat a murmur in the chatter. And that little murmur is what I seize upon as a sign of hope.

With my girls in 3.10, it's different. They trust me now and are willing to let me see more of their joy. I just wish that the other children didn't feel the need to be so guarded. But, I think that's how you survive.

Rachael said...

This post simultaneously makes me happy and breaks my heart.

Again, Kate, a million thanks for being my Simple Wishes side-kick.

Jim said...

I can't say it any better than Rachael just did. I am so glad that you are able to be at least a temporary light in these childrens' lives.

kim said...

I agree with Rachael... happy and heartbreaking. Your timing did seem to be really good though. Can you imagine going from 27 to 45kids? I will be sending prayers and good thoughts their way.

Thanks for keeping us updated. What a great thing you and Rachael spearhead.

Tina in CT said...

Why don't children from that orphage get adopted?

So unfair that you have been waiting so long and in the same city there are children living in an orphage!!!!! Ridiculous!!!!!!!!

Francie said...

Thank you so much for doing this with my sister, Rachael. So bittersweet.
It's so hard to picture those little kids in that condition and understand what they experience; I appreciate your pictures and descriptions.
Can't wait to see what can be accomplished THIS year!

Suzanne said...

I'm all weepy now. Did I tell you that the caregivers left me 'unguarded' for a minute with all the kids - it was snack time. They mobbed me! Arms up. Crying MAMA MAMA. They knew I was taking two kids, why not take them too?

Oh so sad.

Thank you for being a blessing.

Leslie said...

What a beautiful expression of love. So glad I found your blog through Rachael's!

Maggie said...


In response to your comment about the stoicism, I SO know what you mean. When Vladimir stayed with me for a summer he was the most joyful, emotional, and effusive child. But when you'd get all the kids together, they'd go into "orphanage mode" and become utterly stoic. It was shocking at times.

In any case how wonderful of Rachael to raise the funds and how wonderful of you to facilitate all of this.

Natalie said...

When I heard you guys had decided to buy water heaters for the kids I was so surprised that they didn't ALREADY have them. That was a great idea for those kids. something they can enjoy all year long.

Annie said...

Ah....How I want that little girl...just on your say-so. Another little girl would make my home perfect!

Jenni said...

You and Rachael are both amazing. I agree with Rachael that this post is heartwarming and heart breaking all at the same time.

sandy said...

Thank you for your post and telling us about the simple wishes gifts. It was so encouraging and eye-opening. Kate, despite not having your daughter yet, you are bringing hope and comfort to the ones you take the time to visit. I'm going to have to start shopping Rachael's shop!

Anonymous said...


How can we send stuff to you for these precious children?