We just got another sponsor for our Guardian Angel program at Kalinovka!
Read Taylor’s story!
After following Maya’s Hope for forever, thinking about my sweeties at Kalinovka, I finally took the plunge and set up my monthly donation. Its not much, but I wanted you to know how thankful I am for your constant voice for them!!! So glad the event went well, wish I loved closer to NYC so I could see it all in person!!!
“We’re going to the orphanage tomorrow. Prepare yourselves, its going to be bad.”, Anya said. My mind swarmed with questions, “How bad is ‘bad’? It can’t be too bad, we’re in a modern country, right?” The last ten days of my life had been a whirlwind. I left Atlanta on July 7, 2010 with thirteen other Americans, including Anya, one of our leaders. We travelled to Ukraine, and dove headfirst into a week of children’s camp. When Anya broke the news to us that our work was becoming much more difficult, I was afraid. I was terrified, actually.
In Ukraine, children with disabilities are left in the hospital at birth and sent to orphanages where they receive minimal care and food. They are despised by society because they are not “ideal”. Half the children die every winter for lack of warm clothes. It was these children that we were going to visit.
The night before our trip we didn’t talk or laugh like before. We looked at each other with eyes that told the fear in our hearts and tried to stay occupied. Heidi and I wrote furiously in our journals. Chelsy, Sarah Grace, and Marcie packed, and Susanna gazed towards ceiling from her bed. Falling asleep wasn’t easy.
That ride on July 20 was tense. I distracted myself by practicing Russian with one of Ukrainians with us that day. The knot in my stomach tightened when our driver said we were getting close, and everyone grew quiet.
When we got out of the bus, I looked at Marcie. Tears flooded her eyes. I gave her a tight hug. “No tears,” I said, “We have get through this, its why we’re here.” We squared our shoulders, and walked around the corner to the first “play area”. It was a dirt patch, with little children crawling around. Many couldn’t walk, but some toddled up to the fence, staring hollowly. They couldn’t process these people in their environment, since no one comes to visit. They are the lepers, the outcasts. Josiah, one of the American guys, pulled a tiny little boy with Down’s syndrome into his lap, hugged him, and started feeding him the ice cream we brought. It was like he came to life with human touch.
Inside, the children were wasting away. Their bones stuck out awkwardly, mangled by the world’s neglect. The stench was overpowering. I choked down my gag reflex and sat next to a “baby” on the floor. We sang little songs, and I reached out to touch him. His body felt like it would snap like a twig, and he shrank away, shaking. He was so stiff. Never touched or moved, my touch overpowered him. Some of them screamed loudly. I have never sobbed the way I did over one baby I held. I couldn’t stop the tears, my heart broke that day. We stayed for an hour, singing, holding them, telling them someone cares, although they couldn’t understand our words. We learned they were anywhere from age 9 months to 8 years old, which was surprising since they were all relatively the same size. I left that room scarred by what I experienced.
We walked down a windy path to another yard where the children’s functions were higher. Many of them had Downs syndrome. One boy had no legs, but he loved to talk through our interpreter. They were covered in their own waste and flies, and some babbled on and on. I asked an interpreter what they were saying. “I don’t know,” she replied, “This isn’t Russian. They never learned language.” We blew bubbles with them and made balloon animals. They were soaking in the attention, and couldn’t quit smiling. This was a little easier, I thought, because we could see that they were happy. When it was time to leave, the tears came. “Mama, Mama!” they cried as we walked away. They were abandoned all over again. My friends and I held on to each other and cried, wishing there was something we could do to give these children a better life for longer than an afternoon.
The tears flowed the whole ride home. Now was the time for tears, but it was also the time for action. The wheels in Marcie’s head were turning, and as soon as we were back in the U.S., the Ukraine Project was launched. It is a successful awareness and fundraising group that provides for basic needs and special trips to visit and care for these “forgotten ones”.
That morning, I was afraid to see suffering and pain. I was afraid it would be too much, that I would be paralyzed by what I saw. By the evening when we left I was no longer afraid, I was angry. I was sad. I was hurt. Nobody should suffer that way, so we did something. My fears were real and justified, but I made a conscious decision and through God’s grace chose to be uninhibited by them. I poured all I had into the hours, and it changed my life. I learned to do things that push me out of my comfort zone, because that is when personal growth happens. I am excited to grow and teach others, because a life changing experience is not something to keep to yourself.
Contributed by Taylor Bronson.
That was pretty amazing… Do you want to be like Taylor and become a Guardian Angel too? Click HERE!