Saturday, December 6, 2008

Saturday at #4

Saturday, we spent the afternoon at Orphanage #4 with Sergey and his classmates. As the weather was nice, we spent much of our time outdoors. The orphanage compound is actually very large. There are two main buildings. The first one that you enter is administration, classrooms, and playrooms. Every grade has their own dedicated playroom. The second building is a large dormitory. The two buildings are joined by a connector building, kind of like a T. The orphanage has outdoor space around these buildings, the largest of which is in the back. There is a soccer field and running track, and more play space. There are also some outbuildings which they say are work rooms. I peeked into one of the windows and saw sewing machines in there.

At one time, the orphanage housed 1st grade and above. Now it is only 5th grade and above. There is old playground equipment on the grounds.

After we played outside, we went indoors to watch a DVD. They picked out Aquamarine, for our sake, because it is in English. It is a silly movie really designed for teen girls. But the kids were enthralled with it, and laughed along, even though most could not understand the dialog. The movie takes place in a beach community in Florida. I couldn't help thinking that this is a fantasy world for them.

We could tell it was hard for Sergey to see us go. I had told him that it would probably be another two weeks before he would be able to come with us. Those are the rules and we have to follow the rules. He understood, but it is not easy for him. He put his coat on and walked us to the front gate, were we all had a long group hug. And then we left. The place seemed like a prison under those circumstances.

Here are some pictures from the day.

This happened a couple of days ago, not Saturday, but thought I would mention it. I burned out this extension cord by plugging a vacuum cleaner into it. I didn't pay attention to the amp rating on it. I was vacuuming and saw the Christmas tree lights go out, then saw smoke and sparks shooting out of this thing. I turned it off and the cord was too hot to touch. I think every American family has a story to tell about some mishap with Ukrainian plugs. You may be interested in the way the plugs look here. They are big and round with two prongs.

On the way to the orphanage there is a pro-NATO billboard. The western side of Ukraine is pro-west and would like to join NATO. The eastern side is pro-Russia and communism and very much anti-NATO. My second post in the blog was when president Bush was in Ukraine talking about NATO. The sign says Ukraine + NATO = Safety.

Here's a picture of what I was telling you about yesterday regarding the paint on the orphanage. They painted the side facing the street, went back so far, and just stopped.

Nancy at the south side entrance that everyone uses.

The playground equipment. It is on the south side between the two main buildings.

Playing basketball with Sergey. We used a soccer ball. It was a little hard to dribble.

The east side of the dorm building as seen from the playground, looking west. It is the back building behind the main one. The wall on the right is the connector part that joins the two main buildings together.

On our way to the back. The large recreation field is on the west side of the complex.

Here is a puppy that lives at the orphanage. Actually, it looks like several dogs live there. In the picture above, you can see a doghouse in the distance, to the right of Sergey. We met up with some of Sergey's classmates, who joined us out back on the rec field. Here is Grisha. One of the workers in the dorm stood at the door observing what was going on. She is wearing house shoes, which are shoes or sandals you switch into when you enter a house. Our hosts here in Ukraine have several extra for visitors.

Out on the rec field. In this area, there is a soccer field surrounded by a 300m running track. My watch has a stopwatch and the boys wanted me to time each one in a race around the track. Sergey ran it in 55s, Grisha in 57s, and Marat in 42s. He is a quick kid. We also played soccer for a while. Kind of tough to do on a large field and 5 players. The boy in the red pants is Edic. Nancy is pretty sure that those are pants we sent back with Sergey last summer. No children have their own clothes. Every week the clothes are washed and the kids get a new set to wear for the week.

This is Grisha hanging out on the goal posts. The kids are very athletic and love rough play. Sergey ran a 15k race last Fall and got a certificate.

The boys will play with anything. I wanted to show you this picture because the boy with the coat sleeve pulled down on his left hand was hiding a cigarette. He didn't know that I saw it.

In these pictures, Sergey and Grisha showed us how they could swing from one set of monkey bars to the other one. They would swing like gymnasts and leap across to the other one, grabbing it by the hands.

There are a couple of old ping pong tables on the west side between the dorms and the soccer field. They are made of metal. I suppose on some document somewhere, there is a listing of the facilities available for the children and some bureaucrat notes with satisfaction or pride that the children have a wide variety of athletic equipment, including ping pong.

The dorm as seen from the far west end of the orphanage boundary. From the outside it is a mess. To their credit, it looks like they are replacing windows on the 4th floor. They sleep 5 to a room and I asked Sergey if his sleeping room was warm and he said it was.

Overall, I would have to say my general impression of the place is that of a prison. For the children it is a safe haven. Yet, it seems so lonely. Not all of the children there can be adopted, but many can. Send me an email at my Yahoo address at the upper left of this blog if you would like to know more about them. You can adopt specific known children if you have some prior relationship with them. Every official we have met with so far has asked us how we know of Sergey and Valya, but it has been no problem whatsoever.


Diana said...

The building is in about comparable condition (maybe worse) to my older son's internat, but the playground equipment at your place is MUCH nicer than what my son had. Ours was even older than what you pictured (more like the monkey bars), but all the bolts meant to secure the stuff to the ground were rusted out, which left every piece of equipment rickety as all get out. But, I saw a few future Olympic Gold Medalists (literally) navigate that stuff with ease. As for the paint job, it doesn't surprise me in the slightest. Anything to keep up appearances, right? If it looks good from the street than all is well there and the locals don't ever question what goes on or how well the kids are being taken care of. It is a very sad situation for these kids.

I'd admonish you to pay close attention to how all the kids there interact with and to the dogs. It will give you much insight as to what really goes on there. There were some dogs and puppies that lived at my older son's internat as well. Let's just leave it at some of the kids weren't very nice to them. It was also not uncommon for the older kids to deliberately hurt the dogs just to get "a rise out of" (aka traumatize) the younger kids. My son still fantasizes about being able to save those dogs. He also remembers the director getting mad and killing some of the puppies in front of the kids.

Anonymous said...

I am glad to see one side painted and possible work on windows. I think, from previous blogs of #4, it looks like they have done some painting in the last year. One thing we noticed in Ukraine were many things half-finished. We learned from my husband's first mission trip that the churches build as the money comes in. Our friend (a young family) was building his house little by little and living with his parents(and sister and brother and sister-in-law) until it was finished. As they have money, they build. NO CREDIT! That's a concept we Americans can fathom. So much of what I saw was people trying to rebuild from post-Soviet days. By the way, I laugh because we have one side of our garage that didn't get painted because the weather turned too cold.

Conethia and Jim Bob said...

I am so glad that you are forming a great bond with Sergy. Perhaps you will at least get to have him at home with you during Christmas.

MamaPoRuski said...

Thanks for the pictures! It really does complete the "picture". I would laugh at the paint job but know it was all they could probably afford to do!
Give extra hugs for us for the children! Thanks again for being the arms and feet of Jesus to these children! God Bless!

Annie said...

Hello Alan.
We not met, but I just came over your blog, and I'm so excited because I grew up at orphanage #4.

I'm so happy for Sergey and what is another boys name? I knew Sergey from the art class. He always was there, as long as I can remember. He was doing crostiching, and did pretty good.

Ashley said...

When I was there, the front was painted and the rest wasn't. That was nine months ago. Maybe they can finish it soon. It is weird seeing the other side looking so much uglier...hehe

Thank you for taking all of these pictures of Grisha. It is so nice seeing his face and knowing that he is okay. I never saw him playing with the dogs while I was there so it is nice to see that he does indeed like them. We have three dogs and I was hoping he liked dogs. :)

I am glad you mentioned how athletic the boys are. I have never seen boys as strong as these boys are. They were doing things that I would cringe in letting my boys do. I am going to have to lighten up a little when Grisha comes home. He is used to all of this and it will certainly take some adjusting on my part.

Debbie said...

I love seeing the pictures and hearing the stories. I can't wait to visit there myself and be able to spend time with the children who have captured my heart. I'm praying for them to have families! Please greet our sweet girl for us the next time you visit.

I'm following your journey closely and am praying God will complete your family in the best possible way.

Ashley said...

I know it is hard for Sergey that you cannot take him right now. I pray for peace for him as he waits for everything to be finished. He is such a sweet boy and I know he is so excited that his forever family has come for him. I praise God for this!

Kevin & Pam said...

Love the pictures. I thought I had fried my computer one day. Luckily it didn't completely burn up. It smelled bad and was getting really hot. It turns out the circuit blew in time!

Anonymous said...

Great pictures! I'm really glad you are getting to take so many. As you know from my posts on the subject, my girls would not let me take many pictures of the Internot while we were there, out of embarrassment I suppose. They didn't want to acknowledge or remember how difficult or how bad it was there.

You described it there as "lonely." I completely agree. Nothing says it better. These kids are truly alone, and what could be worse for a child, for anyone, then to find oneself in life so alone.

Keep taking pictures. Document as much as you can. It tells a story better than anything else can. It will also hold a memory that so many do not want to remember, at least now. Some day they might. Then your pictures may prove valuable in a new way.

Can you get into the dorm rooms for a look, for pictures? Our girls wouldn't even consider the possibility.

Janell said...

I laughed at the extension cord. When I gave them to Nancy I said, "you probably won't need them both" haha I guess I was wrong. Hope you took them both.