Our First Full Day at the Orphanage
Apr 08, 2010
Another amazing day with the children in Slobodskoy. Just as intense and draining as the first few days…and even more rewarding. A quick recap of our day with them:
We arrived at 9:00 a.m. to set up our rooms for our activities and have breakfast at the orphanage. After breakfast, we were treated to an exhibit by a local artist who offered her stories through photographs and paintings. Her work was quite beautiful and we were very honored to have been presented with the viewing.
We were then taught a traditional Russian folk dance by a local dance instructor. It was a special experience as we tried to learn these dance steps, while the accordion played and the staff cheered us on. There is plenty of video to share, but let’s just say that none of us will be going on Russia’s version of “Dancing with the Stars.” Lots of laughter and fun.
Our hosts then asked us to teach them some traditional American dances. Without any music for a square dance, we were thrilled when Norma agreed to show us a traditional Lambada played to accordion music! Needless to say, it was a big hit. After showing them this traditional Mexican dance, our teenage girls rescued us by demonstrating some of the dances that kids do these days. I am sure we will show them a few more of our American moves at the Sock Hop we are throwing tomorrow night!
We then hosted a tea for the teaching and care giving staff at Slobodskoy. There are about 60 teachers and care givers at this orphanage, most of who have been here for 20+ years. They were very appreciative of the staff and we were so tickled to be able to spend time with them and learn their stories. They are truly the unsung heroes of this place as they spend day in and day out loving on these kids and trying to make an impact on their lives as best they can. Our interaction and connection with the staff has been a pleasant surprise for us and we look forward to more time with them.
The staff sang some traditional Russian songs for us – also accompanied by the accordion – and insisted that we sing for them. As if our dancing was not bad enough, they now wanted to hear our voices! They were quite insistent, but we struggled with what traditional American folk songs we could sing. We were tired and not in our best thinking place and we drew a blank on some traditional American folk songs…so we ended up belting out “Jingle Bells” and “Star Spangled Banner.” Lame, we know! We are hoping for redemption later this week where we will try to squeak out “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain.”
After a quick lunch and some time with the kids, we then headed to our activity stations where we would spend the next five hours. Those stations included:
Beauty salon with hair styling for the girls, hair cuts for the boys and manicures for all
Two different craft stations that included beads, stickers, pictures and popsicle sticks
A get-to-know-you station where we gathered information on each child (favorite color, favorite sport, etc.) to share with their sponsors/pen pals
Sports in the gym, including futbol (soccer), basketball, frisbee, and learning to throw an American football
Board games like Jenga, chess, checkers and others
The activities were all a huge hit as these kids love spending time with us doing anything. The pure joy on their faces during this time was remarkable. What is equally incredible is when you see the true personalities off these kids come out. Like Ruslan hugging everyone he sees, especially his pen pal Maddie. The way shy Natasha has come out of her shell and now actively seeks out Kendall and Kate. The connection Mark made with many of the boys during a spirited game of futbol. Each of these kids has a story – and little by little, we are getting the chance to get to know their stories by being a part of their lives.
There have been many humbling experiences here, way too many to recount in this blog. At times, tears well up in your eyes as you interact with these kids as you can feel the heartache and pain. And yet they are so full of love and generosity. Many of the children have offered us gifts to show their love – a stuffed animal, a cross stitch they made or a craft they just completed. The love behind these gifts is immense, especially considering that every possession many of these kids own would fit in the backpack of one of our children. They wear the same clothes most days, their rooms are neat but sparse and yet they are offering us – those who have so much – a gift of one of their prized possessions. Truly humbling, heartbreaking and encouraging all at the same time. There is no doubt that these gifts will hold a special place in our hearts and our homes when we return.
After dinner at the orphanage, we came home for a time of reflection led by Shay. We talked about what we are experiencing and what God is doing through this journey. Another huge blessing of this experience has been getting to know the hearts and love of our fellow travelers. What an amazing group of disciples that were pulled together for this adventure! These times of reflection are a great way to end the day and recharge the batteries for the next day.