Through this couple I found out about a mental institution in a remote part of Zaporozhye region. Years ago it was a large and prosperous Mennonite farm. After the revolution in 1917 the family was forced to leave and I imagine that the farm was collectivized. The missionaries also put me in touch with an American Mennonite man who is a descendant of the owners of the farm. I'm not a cultural Mennonite, but I do belong to a Mennonite Brethren church, so I was quite interested.
(You can read about the history of Kalinovka HERE.)
The children of Kalinovka are so beautiful and pitiful at the same time. When I asked about the possibility of adoption for these children, I was disappointed. The attitude at the time was one of resignation, that these children have been institutionalized for so long that they would certainly not be able to function in a family. Is that true? If it is true, how sad that they were never given the chance. If it is not true, how sad that they will never be given a chance.
(And, by the way, this is the type of place that Alec and Zhenya would be sent upon reaching the ripe old age of four.)
I'm certain that I will one day visit Kalinovka. If we had not begun the adoption process for Alec and Zhenya it might have even been this summer. Many improvements have been made there over the past three years and visitors are now welcomed. Part of my long range vision is to bring a work team over there once a year.
Lately there is good news from Kalinovka! The Happy Child Foundation, a regional Ukrainian children's charity, is encouraging foster parents and adoptive parents to come forward and give some of the children a chance to live in a family setting. They are also developing an idea to equip a separate home on the property for some of the children to live in a family-like setting, where the children would have their own room and a "mother" to love and care for them.
This is Zhenya, (it is a common nickname for boys and girls!) one of the children for whom foster/adoptive families are being sought. Isn't she pretty? She would be so cute in pigtails, but all the children have close cropped hair to keep the lice down. You can see some of the other children with profiles linked HERE.
There IS an orphan crisis. It is real. It is so easy to lose heart because the problem is so big. Things are getting better in some places, though. And groups like Happy Child are making a big difference. It is something to be glad about.