Monday, April 16, 2007

Visiting the "Baby House"

Our two boys were older, but we wanted to visit the orphanage where they were kept until age 3. We turned it into a service project by delivering some baby blankets made by a church group in Moscow, Russia. The boys didn't really understand the concept of doing something for others, but they were both obedient and hard working. As they carried the large bags of blankets, some of the care takers recognized them from when they were younger. One obsessive worker immediately began picking through their hair as if she was looking for lice.

We saw a play room, about 30' x 30' with a throw carpet covering most of the floor. Toys were stored on various types of shelves and in cabinets around the room. There was a long sofa along one wall on which sat 6-7 toddlers. Each of them sat perfectly still, watching us intently as we delivered a large number of blankets and took photos of the room. Again, this was where our boys were raised and this would be our only chance to see it and take pictures.

A set of double doors opened to the bedroom. A dozen or so cribs were placed around the room. Our hearts dropped as we imagined the hours of pain, ag
ony, and crying that must occur in this room. A dozen toddlers in one room!

The "baby house" was clean. Staff were clean and groomed. It was definitely cleaner and better kept than the orphanage where the older children stayed.

While the orphanage wasn't "hiding" any of its conditions from us, the facilities for visiting parents were very different from those of the normal play rooms. The number of toys, the manipulatives, and the art on the walls gave a completely different impression of the facility.

The disparity was so striking that we found children somewhat stunned and uncertain about how to play with the toys in the "visiting" rooms. They were completely over stimulated by the abundance of toys and activities. Of course, the orphanage provides such a room so that parents and children have activities and can bond by playing games and engaging in interactive activities. Since children and parents don't speak the same language (even if children don't speak, Russian is the language that they've heard all their life), the ability to interact is primarily physical rather than educational.