On Saturday morning a group of 11 of us visited the orphanage. There were three people from Down Syndrome Education International, four from Connecting the Rainbow, Amy and I from BRIGHT, and two moms with children with Down Syndrome from Sofia. We had been told that there were some allegations against the orphanage and that they may be stand offish. Who wouldn't be with 11 people visiting your facility even if you didn't have any allegations.
We spent some time talking with the standing director, the orphanage psychologist, and another official person from the orphanage. They told us about their orphanage and answered questions of what some of the needs of the children were. This particular orphanage is both a daycare and an orphanage. Many of the baby houses are being closed due to lack of money so many orphanages opt to also be a daycare. We heard how many doctors were under the philosophy that it is better to terminate than to have children with disabilities. 88% of pregnancies that indicate any issues with the prenatal testing are terminated. Their prenatal testing is not as accurate as ours so there are probably many pregnancies that are terminated that may have been typical children due to many false positives. People don't want children with Down Syndrome but don't know anything about it and wouldn't even be able to identify a child that had it when presented with a group of children. So many are operating on lack of knowledge and lack of acceptance of anything different. It breaks my heart the children who are not given a chance because of a disability or the # of chromosomes. Children are children and should be loved as that, period.
We were told that there were 100 children at the orphanage. We were offered a tour to see the children. However, we only saw maybe 30 and some of those were a very quick glance. There were rooms that we were not allowed into as these were isolation rooms as the children were returning from the hospital or just new to the orphanage. We were told we could not take pictures.
The experience of the tour will always be in my memory. I wanted to gather all these children up and just give them hugs and tell them that someone loved them. Almost a month later, and I can still see the children's faces in my head and feel that tap on my shoulder from those that just want some attention and love!
The first room we went to was one of the daycare rooms. There were three girls in this room, it appeared one was receiving some type of therapy. The other two were just sitting in chairs. One was in a wheelchair and we were told that she was four years old. She looked to be the size of a four year old. Has anyone ever seen a four year old with at least four, if not, eight permanent teeth? This child would hold our hands and smile with any bit of attention whether through talking or touch. The other child in the other chair was definitely overwhelmed by new people and attention and would scream when anyone came near her. However, she did calm when I sang "Itsy Bitsy Spider" very quietly and helped her do the motions. The third little girl was a spitfire. She was given a break from the therapy that she was receiving to interact with those of us in the room. She thoroughly enjoyed hugs and talking with us even if we just nodded and smiled. While we giving her hugs and talking with her, the person giving us the tour said "she can walk". As if to say, put her down and then she took the girl to the parallel bars and had her show us how well she walked. The orphanage worker, I believe the psychologist, told the girl, "If you walk to me I will give you a kiss." The girl began blowing kisses and walked as quickly as she could to the adult. However, she didn't receive the kiss that she was promised. We continued to hug and interact with her. At one point, one of us put her down and the girl went over to the orphanage worker and asked for a hug. The girl was immediately put on time out, this just about killed me.
We then moved on to a group of four rooms that were all connected by half walls with windows from waist to ceiling. The first three rooms had two or three children, many of whom were infants that were just laying around looking at the ceiling. The fourth room had about nine small cribs lining the four walls. This room had children who were a bit older up to four or five, I would guess. Children with hydrocephalus, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and other medical conditions. There was a play mat where two children were out playing, one of these his family was in the final adoption stages through Reece's Rainbow. The care provider for this room just sat in the corner with no affect. It was evident that many of these children did not move from their crib. There was a boy with hydrocephalus towards the entrance to the room but every time the care provider walked past him, she turned her back to him as if purposefully not to look at him as she may get what he has. These children reached out of their cribs to get attention and were as darling as could be and were thriving on the attention with giggles and smiles. As soon as the tour guide saw this, it was time for us to move on.
We had tried to schedule a music time with the children but this was not an option as it was visiting time for some children and then it was lunch time. We did donate instruments to the orphanage. After the tour, we returned to talk again with the staff and told them about our donation. The psychologist's eyes got very big when she saw the gathering drum and other instruments. She said that many people make donations but typically of stuffed animals. The stuffed animals have no purpose and do not teach the children anything. She was excited that this was something that they could utilize. Let's pray that they do, the children need some interaction and something to brighten their days.
After we exited the orphanage and were deciding what we were going to do for the afternoon while standing outside the orphanage, we heard them playing the drum in the office where we had been. I guess they were excited about the drum.