03 July 2008

Gruppa Patru aka Group Four

Ladies and gents, meet Group Four:
the celebrities of the Hincesti Orphanage and Outreach Moldova.
Group four is a happy happy place.

They are mostly small and young, ranging between ages 6 and 12, with a lot of little down- syndrome angels. They demand, and get, loads of love and affection from anyone within their grasp. Step into their day-room and they swarm you, climbing legs, arms reached out, chattering, laughing, bonking you on the head, handing toys, grabbing your fingers and leading you somewhere. I dare anyone to enter their sphere of influence and not be smiling and laughing within 30 seconds. Group four were the first group I visited, led by some of the repeat volunteers. It was a good introduction to the next two weeks.
(Nicoleta above)
So group four are everybody's little darlings. I found it a good group to visit when I felt I had less to give, emotionally speaking. A good group to cheer you up, a good group to see after you had visited one of the tougher groups or experienced some other girl struggle so much it made your heart break.

(Me and Madalina above)

Maybe I should take a minute to explain how the orphanage is organized. There are 350 girls divided into about 20 groups, each group is made up of 15 to 20 girls
of roughly the same capabilities and functionality.
Some groups give you a lot back for your efforts,
others can't, but they are no less deserving of love,
attention and affection.
Most times you visit with the less glamorous groups but
sometimes you are so emotionally wiped out
you need some giggles.
(Olga above)
That's when you pop in to group four and laugh your ass off for a half hour. Then you can leave rejuvenated and get back to 'work.'

Each group gets two outings a year, both are during the summer when the volunteers are there to lend extra hands. Each volunteer group does two outings a week, one on Wednesday and the other on Saturday. We were lucky enough to have group four on our first outing. Yay!! Above is Filipenco, but they call her Julia (Yoolya) but all the repeat volunteers call her Angelina Jolie because she is SUCH a drama queen and media hound. This little bit will wrap you around her finger so fast it'll make your head spin. And you'll love every minute of it, until she cries cause she doesn't want you anymore and has transferred her affections to someone newer and better. Sigh. A real heartbreaker this one.

Before each outing the volunteer coordinators (Liz and Mercy, my heroes, more on them in another post) assign each volunteer one child to watch, take care of, hang on to, to have and hold and not let go of. It goes without saying that each child is a treasure, but still I felt lucky and blessed to get this little lady: Anna Banana. Here she is rocking my shades in the bus to Chisnau (Kishnow) the capital city where we all went to the zoo and...
Anna is tiny, at age 12 she's about the size of a skinny little 5 year old. She is dainty and delicate but also likes to rock out to any kind of music. She's partial to hip hop and can throw some ferocious gang signs. She also LOVES to be in control of the camera. As you can see above she is less than impressed with my photography skillz not to mention me showing my fillings in our self portrait. She never spoke a word to me but this little chick is downright elegant in her ability to communicate with her hands. After her initial grab at (and my speedy withdrawal of) my camera she made it clear she understood the concept of the wrist strap and proceeded to take about 100 pictures. Watching her have such a blast with it would have been worth the price of the camera had she broken it.

Needless to say, I came back to Anna and group four again and again. Here we are with another little sweetie, Sasha (whose real name is Alexandra, I don't know where they come up with these nick-names for them, though come to think of it, maybe I was just getting all the names wrong? After all, there WAS a rather large language barrier.)
Lilia above...couldn't you just get lost in those eyes?

When you do go visit group four and they grab and hold and cling and drag the absolute GREATEST thing you can do is take a few of them out for a walk and end up at the trampoline. Oy! I loves me some trampoline but I ain't no youngster anymore. It was absolutely exhausting, but worth the effort, to get the laughs and give them the thrills. Here I am above with a very demanding Anna (why oh why is the trampoline more fun for her atop my shoulders???) and Sabina. Sabina can't bend any of her limbs and I swear I thought I was going to fall and crush her a hundred times but we all managed to survive and have a blast.

Actually I think I was the only one to come out of this half hour a little worse for the wear.



beckajane said...

holey moley, i know you dont mean to but when i read about what you did i feel like such a parasite. i need to get invovled in something like that. not just to make myself feel better cos thats just way to selfish but to know that i could help put a smile on someones face...miss you chicken
kell bell you are my hero

Anonymous said...

Thanks kel, keep the Moldava postings coming.
Love, Helen

Becky said...

What little angels! I can see how it would be hard to leave them after growing so attached. They are so lucky to have experienced a dose of Kelly's cheerfulness and love. I want to go with you if you go again! Proud of you Kell, miss and love you.

Debbie said...

Hey Kel & Chris - This is Becky's mom, Debbie. What a wonderful experience for you and for those children. I have worked Special Olympics and you leave a situation such as that -- interacting with children & adults that do not know the meaning of hate - they just love you for who you are. Good for you - you're making memories that will never fade. God bless you! They are truly God's children. Love you guys!

Debbie said...

Debbie continued - I meant to say...that when you leave those children, you are a much more rounded and fulfilled individual - you are truly blessed by them. God has a purpose for each of these children - they are able to teach us so much! Enjoy and treasure your time with them. God Bless!