There is a girl who had to leave Savva Orphanage several years ago because she had reached the maximum age allowed there. She was 15 years old. She was then moved to a local technical school to study a trade. These schools are over crowded, understaffed and not safe places for the children. The orphanages are trying to track down families to take children back. Some families gave up their children as enfants because a doctor told them it was best for the child and them due to a malformation of the child. I some cases these children didn’t die and later the families were told the child lived and then were given the child back. This after the child was 8, 9 or 10 years old and spent those formative years in an institute. Families, single parents, or relatives who had their children removed due to abuse and neglect are asked to take children back or sign off legally as their parents. All in all a very difficult situation.
Shortly before “Anne” (not her real name) “aged” out of the orphanage her grandmother was found in Russia. The grandmother came and visited “Anne” and even took her for a visit. “Anne” is a very beautiful girl of Gypsy descent was scared and reported when she returned from the short visit that she did not want to go with this grandmother. The grandmother made no secret that she thought she could make money with “Anne” and planned to take her back to Russia with her. By the time it finally came for her to leave she was 17 years old and living at the technical school. I and 2 Kazakh women were spending time with her and talking through her options. The technical school is paid by the government per child. With a family willing to take this child they would receive no more funding for her which then made it impossible for her to stay. There was no other place for her to go at that time. Some national friends and I gave Anne a card with our numbers on it before she left and told her not to forget that we would be here if she needed help after age 18. (Until that age, legally we could do nothing.) It was an awful feeling for all of us when we could offer so little to a young woman of 17 who didn’t want to go into an unknown future in Russia.
Good news is recently she showed up and asked for help from one of the women listed on the card. “Anne” had been married off to an older man who was unkind. This man and his family abused Anne, stole her documents so they could get a loan, and treated her in a demoralizing way. Currently, she has a place to stay at the Youth House here in town and someone bought her some new clothing. We also learned that she may be pregnant, which means she will be choosing between aborting her child in order to stay where she is or she will have to leave. Of course, we desire for her not to end her baby’s life We are looking for a house to rent so we then could offer her a place to live. Her spirits are low and she is struggling emotionally. The Youth House has more than 80 children crowded into a very small space.
I am happy to know she is back, but my heart breaks for the trauma she endured these last couple of years on top of what she faced growing up in an orphanage. Can you imagine how difficult it is for her to trust? How difficult it is to believe there are people who truly care about what is best for her? People who desire to help her to grow into the capable young woman she was created to be.
Another young woman – 18 years old – has been calling us since we saw her several weeks ago and gave her our telephone numbers. She lives at the Youth House but has no job and doesn’t study at any school. Her days are filled with nothing to do and no safe place to go. She is scared and doesn’t know what to do. We were able to sit and talk with her last Sunday. Through tears she said, “I have good news. I am getting married Dec. 14th.” I was confused and asked why this was good news, how she knew this man, and whether this was what she really wanted. Since she was crying and seemed in great distress, it was obvious she wasn’t truly happy about this plan. It wasn’t clear how she met the man but he lives and works in Almaty and is 30 years old. “Mary” (not her real name) has mild cerebral palsy and limited education. Because of her mild cerebral palsy, when she came to the orphanage at age 3 she was labeled mentally deficient. Recently, the director and vice director at the Youth House advised her she could either marry or be moved to the home for invalids. She is terrified of going to the invalid home and with good reason. The choice to marry this man in Almaty is a way to escape that home.
My heart broke as tears streamed down her face while she tried to share the details and answer questions. I shared with her why Beth and I had come back to Kazakhstan and that we would let her come live with us once we found a place to rent. I asked her to be patient and trust us. On the phone several times before we could sit and talk she has asked to come live with us. I explained we didn’t have a house yet but expected to have one soon. I asked when she needed to be out of the Youth House. This all seemed too overwhelming for her. She said she had already told the orphanage administrators that she would marry so she must do that. I asked her to give me some time to find a place and to find out from some locals what could be done to help her out of this situation.
We were able to bring another friend into this conversation but I could see this young woman – a child really – was trying to figure out if she could trust any of us. I could tell she wanted to trust us but her life experience had shown her no one was trustworthy. There were two nationals there plus Beth and me, but she still didn’t know whether she could trust any of us or who she could trust in her life.
She knows she does not want to move into the invalid home but believing that there might be a good option and holding onto such a hope is a foreign concept when all you’ve experienced has taught you there is no hope. Hope is such a fragile commodity. How does hope grown in a barren heart? How do you give hope to someone who doesn’t know how to trust? Someone who has never experienced stability or security or bonded with anyone who could be trusted to care for the simplest of human needs?
I’m thankful to be here as much as my heart aches for these precious children I know. I’m thankful Beth is here with me and together we are meeting others who share our desire to care for these precious children. That desire to give them a safe place where their hearts and souls can be nurtured and begin to heal.
I have heard so many times through the years from these orphans: “Do not forget me!” “Do not forget my name, my story, my face!” The desire to be known and to have someone in our lives that is willing to go out of his or her way for you is in each of our hearts. Babies long for their mothers to look into their eyes, to comfort them, to feed them and care for them, to be there with them. When this doesn’t happen in a child’s life, the hole that is left grows deeper and wider with each passing year. These children cannot become a successful part of society without people who are willing to invest in their lives. They each need people willing to take the time to build lasting relationships with them. People who will teach and model family for them. To love and care for them so they can begin to heal and overcome their past hurts and then begin building a positive future for themselves.
Thank you each for joining with us in this journey. We are thankful to see how the community of those committed to care for these children is growing.
Grace and peace be yours in abundance
Victoria for J127 Ranch