July 3, 2008

Young Children

26 June 2008
Day 4

Today we talked about food (before and after eating way too much, as usual) and then hopped on a bus to visit a Detskii Sad. The word is often translated as "kindergarten," but it's really a pre-school for kids from 2-7. It's comprehensive care that extends way beyond daycare and education - the kids eat 4 times a day and even get immunizations at the Detskii Sad. As is traditional, some of the younger kids performed a few songs for us. We reciprocated with "The Itsy, Bitsy Spider."

Then onto an orphanage. It was both very good to see the conditions in the orphanage and extremely difficult to experience this. The children performed for us and our group did an encore of "The Itsy, Bitsy Spider" and followed it up with "Where is Thumbkin?" All was well until we got to the "Where is Tall Man?" verse and realized that we were giving the finger (on both hands!) to a bunch of parentless Russian children and their teachers. And I'm sure we have it on tape. Sigh.

The children are very well cared for at this particular orphanage and seem happy and well-adjusted. It was a shock to learn that only one of the 23 kids was truly an orphan. Most of the kids have at least one parent who is unable to take care of them: they are alcoholics, or don't have enough money, or are in prison, or have given the child up because of health reasons (either the parent or the child might be sick), etc. We were touched to learn that the kids call each of the teachers/caretakers "Mama". The teachers - as is the case everywhere we've visited - are attentive and wonderful with the children. You can tell that they really care about the children and love their jobs in spite of the abysmally low salaries.

We brought lots of things for the kids, a few that we distributed right away - bags with juice boxes and apples, as well as the matchbox cars I brought. One of the little boys glommed onto a few of us and it was a real treat for us to have a tour of the facility given by our knowledgeable guide Sashenka. He showed us the big room with rows of little beds; the wardrobes filled with clothes of various sizes (shared by the kids); the playroom that also serves as a dining room. It was so hard to leave - I cried and cried, but it has burned a lasting impression in my mind. Poka, Sashenka - vsego khoroshego!

1 comment:

davidkmercier said...

Hi there.
I just returned from living in Vladimir for the last school year and working in orphanages in the oblast. It is great to that you and your group took some time out of your day to help brighten the day of a few orphans! Enjoy the rest of your time in Russia.