We had a busy week last week with the kids. Many were in isolation because of colds so the volunteers would take turns going in to play with them and try to relieve their boredom. Several parents came to visit last week. It is always so wonderful to see them with their children and very emotional when they have to leave them. The six remaining team members took a van to Bucharest for the weekend. Three of us left for home, which means this week will be crazy with 21 babies and only three of us left!
A little background on the kids that come to the Failure to Thrive/Pediatric Recovery Clinic. When Romania joined the European Union in January 2007, the EU named the county that the clinic is in, Vaslui, as the poorest county in all of the EU countries. It is a rural area, where some people still get around with horse and cart. Actually, it is quite lovely to see…you feel like you have stepped back in time. In Barlad, the closest city, there are excellant schools that lead most kids to a university education. However, in the small villages that surround Barlad, it is not uncommon for kids to drop out of school at a young age. Many times to work the land or to get a job to help the family. Often when a child is born with a disability in these small villages, the family doesn’t have the education or financial means to take care of their child. At the clinic, we have kids with Down Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Autism, club feet, cleft lip and palate, brittle bone disease, heart disease, malnutrition and neglect. Surgeries are performed on the kids that require it. Many kids are brought in voluntarily by their parents because they can’t care for them. Families do visit as often as possible- around once a month to once a year. The poverty level in the area is high so it is difficult for parents to take time off of work and to pay for transportation to and from the clinic. Other children are brought to the clinic by Child Protective Services because they have been abandoned at the hospital or taken from their home due to bad living conditions. Currently, the age range for the kids at the clinic is four months to six years old.
People often ask me if it is sad volunteering in Romania. Yes, it is sad that these kids aren’t growing up in a healthy, home environment but the clinic and Global Volunteers does the best they can to make it a positive situation. The clinic is bright, with cheerful drawings of cartoon characters on the walls. The metal cribs that many of us have seen from TV shows in the 90’s are now bright cribs of blue, yellow and red. There is lots of laughter and fun. When a child runs into your arms, excited to see you or you soothe a crying baby, you know you have made the right decision to come here.
One of my favorite quotes is, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, then you have never been in bed with a mosquito.” Our help may be small and for a short period of time but it makes a difference in these children’s lives.