‘Pentru Copii’ (‘For the Children’).

‘I have prayerfully set my heart to launch ‘PENTRU COPII’ (‘For the Children’), and in doing so, my life must portray my heart.  I must try to remove unfulfilled dreams, hurt, replacing these with a love that is deep and lasting’. (Blog. 30 April, 2021).

It is now three months since this resolve was published. My heart remains focused, filled with a compelling purpose of creating a ‘smile’ through acts of ‘simple things’, no matter how great or small. Today, is a new day. Psalm 126: 3 ‘The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad’. As I recount the goodness and the mercies of the Lord how can I not be glad and thankful?  Even in this broken world, I am offered a choice, as to how I embrace or make decisions, I must ensure they are meaningful.  ‘Lord, help me to show others a love that is rooted in you; teach me the pattern of love’.

His tears seemed to go on forever, with each tear another part of my heart broke in pieces.  Little K (eighteen months) had been abandoned by his mother. I watched her leave and as she closed the door, she did not even take time for one last look at those dark eyes and outstretched arms.  What triggered this change of heart, unfilled dreams, disappointment?  I will never know if the price she paid was worth the cost, or if in her moments of regret she remembers a little one who will grow never knowing a mother’s arms of security. I quietly determined that day, to try to bring a little joy through the One who holds all things in the palm of His hand.  In this sad world, love that is steadfast and lasting is lacking; biblical teaching is regarded as ‘Victorian’.  Lessons gleaned from the book of Ruth speak to me of a heart of love, kindness, concern, loyalty, respect.  With your help, Pentru Copii can show love and kindness to children, concern for families, loyalty and respect for our dedicated teams.  A journey we can take together.

I did not realise the hidden blessings in my life until I visited many State Orphanage Centres in Romania.  I came away feeling guilty at just how rich I was. Not rich in monetary terms but something richer than gold, I had love, security, shelter, food, clothing and loving arms to comfort me. Normal methinks, yet foreign to these precious children.  I never realised until spending time with my friend Dora who has worked with institutionalised children for many years, that love is the greatest need for these children as is food or breath.  A lack of love and affection results in the developing of a mental delay, behavioural delay affecting speech.  Dora works every day in the Centre in Oradea trying to improve the quality of life and working on a recovery programme.  No one is interested in these children. I was once told ‘They are not worthy of a smile’.  I still bear the scars from this remark.  

Pentru Copii will care for bereaved and terminally ill children, providing pastoral support, food, clothing, school necessities. Case Studies will be submitted by Casa Grace, Emanuel Hospice and Iochebed Foundations. 

Two categories of children are specifically chosen – abandoned and severely disabled children whose dreams consist of a smile, a hug, a kiss on the cheek or just to be held in arms of love – these are the children abandoned throughout State Orphanages.  Children who do not benefit from the love of a parent, living in houses of eleven to twelve children with two staff on shift duty.  Cleaning, laundry, reports, normal day to day chores make it impossible to spend ‘quality time’ with the children.  They are left alone!   A biscuit or wafer, watered down juice is ‘Christmas Morning’ to them.  Oops,  I forgot – they don’t have a Christmas Morning!  They didn’t choose to be an orphan – their parents made that choice.  Single mothers raising a large family, perhaps one child with a disability, the father has left home as he is ashamed of his child who is severely handicapped. Another single mother, again abandoned by the father, no money for food, her children remained in a State Orphanage for eight years.  When asked ‘why’?  ‘I had no other choice; my choice was made out of love’.  A wake up call for me was my first visit to Cighid Adult Orphan Centre where over fifty adult orphans live in the forest area of Cighid.  They run to touch you, unable to speak or communicate.  Over 3,000 unnamed graves … they were someone’s baby.   Today, as you take time to count your blessings,  please don’t forget those who are forgotten and unloved.

Dora is part of the six ladies who make up the team of Casa Grace.  Monika (Director), Berta, Neli, Dana and Mari reside in the office in the centre of Oradea.  Dora is permanently based in the centre teaching therapy to orphan, severely disabled and down syndrome children and abandoned babies.  

‘Sister Shirley, let me share with you’ writes Dora:

After the revolution (1990) approximately 660 abandoned children were in the State Orphanage in Oradea. The Kingdom Kids programme commenced in November 1999 when an Occupational Therapist from Bristol came to Oradea for 1 year to work as a Casa Grace Foundation volunteer in the orphanage. At that time there were more than 300 abandoned children. In the first year the activities were in children s bedrooms.  Consider why Casa Grace continues the program.

  • Healthy children were in the same bedroom with disabled children. The children spent all the time in bedrooms, seeing workers only when they were fed or changed (dipers). The normal children copied the bad behaviour from the disabled children.
    • Lack of stimulation
    • Lack of love and attachment
    • Lack of communication
    • Too many children – no professionals.

            All of this resulting in:

  • Aggressive and self-harming children
    • Stereotypes
    • Delays in physical and mental development
    • Nutrition problems. 

In 2000 Kingdom Kids received a room for making sensory stimulation. Since 2005 children from the orphanage were put in special homes with about 10-12 children in each one. Casa Grace continued to work as a partner with Child Protection operating in the original Ceausescu orphanage, where children received :     

– Love and attachment
– Tactile stimulation (they interact with different textures, different shapes vibration toys)
– Visual stimulation (changing the environment, interacting with different colours, fiber optic, mirror, lights)
– Hearing stimulation (listening to music, different musical toys, different sounds)
– Tasting stimulation (these children recognized only two types of food. We started to make them accept a spoon, water, introducing a new kind of food in them – puree until they accepted new solid food e.g., yogurt, fruits, chocolate and then teaching them to feed themselves with the spoon and not to drink the food
– Aroma therapy -Different smells and flavours.
– Developing coordination, refine motor skills and patience.
– Developing how to handle, explore and manipulate a toy,
– Developing coordination Visual-motor.
– Developing of attention and concentration,
– Developing of self-trust,
– Environment exploration.   
– Relax and fun time.
– A trusting relationship with people.

The scope of the Kingdom Kids programme is to improve the quality of life, to prevent the effects of institutionalisation and to develop the maximum potential of these children.

In the centre the beneficiaries are children with special needs from special homes and children with disabilities from families.

Both categories being marginalized: orphans (abandoned children) with disabilities and children from families where only one parent works because the Mum needs to stay with the child, or single mothers. Some families include Casa Grace clients i.e. families on the Feeding Programme.  Working with children or person(s) with disabilities involves: love, patience, repeating the same thing many times and working many hours until a small improvement is evident.

Thank you, Dora, in closing let me quote 2 Chronicles 16:9 ‘The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him’.  As I launch this new programme, I am persuaded in my heart there is no limit as to what the Lord can do through hearts that are totally committed to Him. My prayer today is found in the words of George Whitefield ‘Lord make me an extraordinary Christian’.

Shirley, July 23, 2021.