On the rare occasion that the children get a visitor to their remote village, they are filled with joy and pour their hearts out -- they want to love as desperately as they want to be loved. Some will cling to you tightly, some will run away and hope you will chase them, and some can only smile with their eyes… from their wheelchairs.
But they know that even the most well-meaning visitors only stay for a short time; then they have to leave… just like everyone else in their lives.
Except for a few special women. These women will never abandon them. They are there for them every day. They are the mother they never had. They are their guardian angels.
If it weren’t for these women, they could not survive.
Here are 6 facts about the caregivers who serve the special-needs orphans at Kalinovka. The quotes are from Albert Pavlov, president of Happy Child Foundation:
Fact 1: A caregiver is like a mother and teacher
“The nurses give the children basic care (feed them, clean their bodies and rooms). Since each nurse has to care for 9-12 children, they usually have no time for giving attention, or taking children outside the building. The nurses also usually have no special skills in helping special needs children.”
On the other hand, “… a caregiver will give development and love to children. Each child will have a chance to develop her/his capabilities as much as possible, instead of just lying on the beds or sitting whole day on the floor without any activity. Some children can start reading and writing, some can start taking care of themselves. Achievements of every child can differ according to their disabilities, caregiver’s skills and love.”
Fact 2: they give the children a happy childhood
Because of these women, the children will receive more attention and love. “Having enough caregivers means they can take more children and more often from their beds to the playing rooms and outdoors; the children who are able to learn will study many new things (some have already started to read!); more physical activity and fresh air will make children’s health better; it’s possible to visit seaside with caregivers at least 2 times per year.”
Fact 3: They do it for love
“The women are between 24 to 55 years old. They live a simple village life – they have a garden, grow vegetables, look after their own children, tend to their cows, etc. They live in 3 villages near Kalinovka (2-6 miles away). A small bus transports them to the orphanage every day.”
For all that they do for the children, their monthly salary is only $200 (37 percent below the national average of $319); so they don’t do it for the money. They also don’t get any fame or recognition. The director even restricts photos and videos, to protect the children’s privacy. They receive no award except for the love from the children and being able to help them mature into independent adults.
Fact 4: Not everyone qualifies to be a caregiver
“Kalinovka orphanage situated in the Zaporozhye region of Ukraine, 25 miles from the nearest town. Kalinovka is in a very rural area, so we can only hire caregivers from the 3 nearest villages.”
“We prefer to hire caregivers with profession of teacher or kindergarten caregiver, but it’s not always possible. We evaluate candidates on their responsibility, life experience, love to children; we check how caregivers work, collect response from the director and other info, especially during the first period of work.”
Fact 5: There are too few of them to care for many children
But they do their best.
“There are many children there (125). Most of them have severe disabilities, and need great efforts in rehabilitation, medical care, special education, etc.”
“Apart from the nurses, there are 4 full time care givers now, and 2 part time care givers (for crafts making and helping with the evening routine: preparing children for the sleeping and cleaning them).”
“Typically, for minimal care, 1 caregiver/nurse will serve 4-5 children. At Kalinovka, 1 person serves 9-12 children.”
A rare glimpse inside the children's home: there are no ramps or lifts; the nurses/caregivers have to carry every child up and down the stairs themselves
Fact 6: They need help
These are strong women, but they can only do so much with 2 hands and 2 feet. There are simply too few of them. Because of the number of children, they usually are only able to care for their basic needs… helping them eat, changing their diapers, cleaning them; and keeping them from hurting themselves and each other. But this is not enough for a child’s development.
“Old soviet-type orphanage system for special need orphans is very bad, and it’s like a warehouse for children. The system can’t change itself quickly enough to help the children in need today, so big efforts from the NGOs and public needed to change the situation.”
“We have some funding from several Ukrainian and foreign donors, but it’s not stable. Without extra help, many children will continue to live in bad conditions, with lack of attention of adults, with lack of love. Health of the kids can become worse; they will not be outside for months; life time of many kids can become shorter.”
One of the children here, Aloysha, speaks so indistinctly that almost nobody understands him. That is why he does not attract attention to himself, because he will not be understood by other people. But on the other hand, if you approach him and speak to him, he gets animated, showing with all his appearance that he is glad to see you and that he is happy to have attention.
Despite difficulties in speech caused by cerebral spastic infantile paralysis he can count and knows many letters. Tutoring and developmental support provided by an additional caregiver will help children like Aloysha tremendously.
“Let there always be sun, let there always be heaven, let there always be a mother, let there always be me”, sang the children, calling out the word “mother” very distinctly. At that moment, tears rolled down all of our faces, even the men. How could children who never knew a mother’s gentle touch, understand the word “mother”?! How could they know, whether it was important to know that mother was near? But, in fact, nobody knows it better than them.
To these children, their humble and dedicated caregivers are their mothers, teachers, and guardian angels.
Happy Child Foundation is hoping for 10 kind people to help sponsor one additional caregiver for the children at Kalinovka.
There is a saying, “Big doors swing on small hinges” — a small gesture from one person, when combined with 9 other people will bring another “mother” and teacher into the lives of every child who passes through the doors of the children’s home; and grow up into adults at Kalinovka.
If you’d like to be one of the 10 people to help improve the children’s lives permanently, please contact Maya Rowencak at email@example.com.
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Maya’s Hope is a volunteer-run non-profit with a mission to help children living in extreme poverty. Maya's Hope helps with basic necessities such as nutrition, medical care and education.
Maya's Hope was founded by Maya Rowencak after the unexpected loss of her mom in 2007. This ignited her mission to reach out to children who may have never experienced the unconditional love that can only come from a parent.