December 11, 2008
I don't want to complain but my heart is heavy and I think I will feel better if I write a little. We went to visit a Hospice Home with two women who are from a large Humanitarian Fund here in Donetsk. During the hour long car ride we had an opportunity to talk about various organizations that we have both worked with. They asked us about our impressions of Ukraine. I found myself reflecting on the difficult things I have tried to understand about this Country. I shared my impressions of how the Elderly and the people with Special Needs are not treated with much respect. We were soon deep in a conversation about "invalids" (which is the word they use for anyone who is handicapped in any way, even the elderly). They wanted to know how the "invalids" in America are treated.
It made me reflect on what it was like for children born with Special Needs when I was a child in school. They did attend the public schools but they had their own "special" classroom and we never interacted with them. I remember they were often referred to by a term by mother never allowed us to use. Retards. I remember that they always rode a special bus to school ever day. Sometimes children would make fun of them as they walked to their bus after school. It brings tears to my eyes to think that this is how we treated children with Special Needs in my elementary school. There really was no mainstreaming. There was no Americans with Disabilities Act. We really had no opportunity to interact with these children and had such strange ideas and beliefs about their mental and physical capabilities.
Which makes me wonder about the way people here in Ukraine view the "invalids". Maybe things will change here someday.
So many times I get frustrated that the people here don't understand the capabilities of these so called "invalids". I can't understand this mentality of "shipping them off" to homes to be forgotten. I am appalled that the "invalids" in the orphanages and baby houses have no toys. There seems to be the belief that they are not "teachable". For example, we are going to visit an Orphanage with the missionaries for Christmas and want to bring games to play and leave with the children. When Olga, (our interpreter) asked what the mental ages of the children were we were basically told "they are mentally delayed so they won't be able to interact with you".
In a facility of nearly 100 children the Director felt that only 30 of the Children could play with us
Long Sigh here.............................
Maybe there is hope......
As I reflect on what life was like just 40 or so years ago in America I am amazed at how much has changed. Having worked in the field of Special Education I have seen how from the moment a child with any type of disability or delay is born the parents are given options that were not offered to parents 40 years ago. Maybe there is hope that one day things will change here too. I thought about the day I saw a mother struggling to get off a Marshruka with a very large child who clearly had a cerebral palsy in her arms. There are no accommodations anywhere in this country for wheelchair or strollers. So a trip to the doctor requires that a parent carry their handicapped child to the bus stop and hold them in their arms on a crowded bus and then walk to the doctors office.
I have a whole new appreciation for the "Americans with Disabilities Act".
So, that is how our day started........
Then we arrived at the Hospice Home.
It is a home for the Elderly and people infected with HIV or people who have cancer. It is run by the Provaslavic Church. We were greeted by a Priest who volunteers his time at the Home. He introduced us to some of the guest. One elderly woman was brought there after a severe beating by her son that left her with broken arms and legs. Another lady was dropped off at the front door by her children who took her belongings and her passport so that they could continue to collect her pension. Another persons family who left him at the home never came to visit however after he died they came to collect papers that would allow them access to some property the man owned. They didn't even pay for his burial. In the winter the Home opens it's doors to people to come in out of the cold during the day. These are local residents who do not have heating in their homes so they just come to sit and stay warm.
Perhaps that is why I have been feeling like I have this incredible weight on my shoulders. Feeling like I just want to cry.
Today was another day that I found myself just wanting to sit and hold someones hand. When I found myself walking with Angels on earth. I am filled with gratitude for the people we have met here who are committed to making changes even when they have so much resistance and so little support.
Today was a day I found myself filled with gratitude for the loving family I grew up in and the family I have waiting for me at home.
Some days I look around and I feel a bit overwhelmed. There is so much pain and suffering. I feel frustrated because the numbers of people who seem to be involved in trying to make Ukraine a better place just feel so small and insignificant. I feel like I am once again looking at a beach filled with starfish that have washed ashore and I desperately want to save them all. I want to call out to the strangers walking by, "come, don't you see, they are everywhere, come help, please, they are going to die if we don't do something,"
So my plead to you this beautiful Christmas season is look around you. Find someone who needs your love, or your time, or talents and reach out in Christlike love to them. We can't save the world but we can make it a better place by reaching out to one another. If you would like some ideas of how to do this go here. This is a new sight I found and it is filled with wonderful service ideas. Bless you all.
Health Fair click on the photo to see what is coming up
|From Health Fair|
To listen to this talk you will need to put the music on pause first
Sometimes we forget what divine gifts we have been given. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints