Visiting orphanages must be the highlight of any of my international trips, and I certainly enjoyed today’s trip to meet some teenagers in Vratsa, Bulgaria. Meeting youth in each country, and discovering their unique humanity, inspires me. On the other hand, it is the absolute worst part of any trip.
Sometimes, let’s confess, we might prefer to keep children in the orphanage, tucked away in an institution dedicated to their care and development. Perhaps we like the idea of having a place to go and visit cute children who are happy to see us, or at least they seem to be. After a short while, we get to leave and go home. And (can we dare say it?) leave them there waiting our next visit.
I have previously been guilty of this line of thinking, and I am ashamed.
Children do not belong in orphanages, even though a great many of their caregivers are dedicated and compassionate professionals. I have met too many children whom we are leaving behind and quite honestly, I am so tired.
So, so tired.
I am done walking away, satisfied that they are in a “good enough” place. Where they are is NOT good enough. They are institutionalized. Children do not belong in orphanages. We at WACAP believe in the power of family to change lives.
Today in Bulgaria, we enjoyed “Baba Marta” Day, celebrating spring and wishing health and a bright future for new friends and old. I met many new friends today: Nicky, Victor, Sara. What will their future be like? They live with 47 other children in just one of Bulgaria’s orphanages. They are engaging teenagers who know communal living but have no idea what it’s like to have a loving, safe mom or dad. They have no one to be their champion, to commit to them as they grow into their potential rather than the donated, secondhand clothes that don’t quite fit. I believe that these teens, and the many more like them in Bulgaria and around the world, deserve families.
Nicky is learning English and proudly introduced me to his friends. Two adolescent girls I met are looking forward to cosmetology school, so that they can support themselves when forced to leave the orphanage, a back-handed ‘gift’ of independence awaiting their eighteenth birthday.
Today, I am haunted by the quote on one bedroom door which demanded, “Always kiss me goodnight,” to no one in particular.
Don’t you think we can do better for these children? If not us, then who?
About WACAP’s CEO, Greg Eubanks: Greg joined WACAP as CEO in December 2014. Serving children and families has been the focus and passion of his 20-year career in nonprofit executive leadership and business administration. With an extensive background in international adoption and foster care, Greg is committed to bringing hope to the children living without a family … and helping them home.