Friday, March 13, 2009

Temporary Improvements

This morning, we split into two groups. One went to the Placement Center, where they spent one-on-one time with children living with mental and physical disabilities. I went with the other group to the hospital, where we spent a few hours with a group of abandoned babies two to seven months old. I walked in and saw the cutest baby girl named Georgiana; she has big blue eyes and can’t sit still. It turned out that she was going to get picked up to go to her new foster family that morning. Hopefully it’ll go well, and she’ll have a new home. Then I held a two-month-old boy named Mihail who looked a little like a very contemplative and concerned old man. He was tired and before long fell asleep in my arms. Every now and then he would stretch out and smile, and it was adorable. I think that these babies get more one-on-one attention than children in other institutions, but all the individual attention a child can get is valuable since contact is such an important part of emotional development. I know that, due to our limited time here, we can’t have a lasting affect on the lives of such young children, but I’m glad that we are here to provide, in the very least, temporary improvement.
After a morning spent at the hospital, I went again to Open Door, the after-school program for Roma children. There, they are given extra work to help them improve in the subjects they’ve been studying in school. They are also given a hot meal, a shower, and clean clothes. Romas are discriminated against in Romania, and have limited opportunities to improve their quality of life. Hopefully, Open Door will motivate the children there to go on to receive a higher education and improve their lives. The kids there live in houses made of barbed wire, sheet metal, and wood, most without running water or electricity. Despite sub-standard living conditions, they’re absolutely hilarious and just as spirited as kids who have a stable home environment and an air conditioner. It’s an incredible program and a huge triumph for the amazing people who organized and run it.
Yesterday I spent the morning at the Placement Center. There are toys there and wonderful professionals who care for the seven children I met. But it’s still heartbreaking and difficult being there because all I want to do is help the children overcome these impossible obstacles. And I can’t. I realize that the six days I’ll be volunteering here will not be enough to make a significant difference to them, and that’s been the most difficult facet of this trip. In day-to-day life back home, I approached problems with a “fix it” attitude, and, of course, I can do nothing of the sort here. I want to make it better, and I know that I can’t.
-- Anna Cummings

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