As usual, when I make the rounds to check on the babies, five-month-old Bianca is forgoing her afternoon nap, preferring to wriggle and suck her thumb. She grins widely at me, and my heart melts. I have become quite fond of her, and affectionately dub her Sumo Baby. Bianca was hospitalized for six weeks of her short life before now, and the nurses at the hospital don't have time to hold the babies, so it is very important that they be held at the orphanage. I lift Bianca out of her crib and kiss her chubby cheeks so many times that her laughter nearly wakes her roommate, six-month-old Mioara. I cradle Bianca and softly sing her a lullaby until she relaxes in my arms and her little eyelids grow heavy with slumber.

For almost a month last summer, that description was my afternoon ritual. My mother, younger sister and I all helped take care of the babies at an orphanage in Romania. Life in Romania was by no means easy, and quite a culture shock for my sister and me. However, we found the Romanian people to be struggling but extremely. hospitable, and taking care of the babies was so rewarding. Psychological studies have shown that a person's environment from birth to one year old (the age range in this orphanage) has a huge impact on their latter development, so I really felt like we were having a positive effect on the babies' futures by loving them and being affectionate.

Thankfully, most of the horrifying state orphanages have been shut down in favor of small private ones such as the one we worked at. However, these are in need of funding, especially now that the Romanian government has imposed a ridiculous moratorium stopping international adoptions. (This is a real shame, as most Romanian families are not wealthy enough to adopt a child.) Institutions like this one are worthy of supporting, however, because the nurses are attentive and affectionate, the facilities are good, and the babies have excellent nutrition and access to medical care. Our particular orphanage was also well stocked with clothes, strollers and toys. It takes only $2000 USD to run this orphanage for a month, and it really is worth it. It would require more money but I personally hope to see the orphanage move into a safer area. Due to the low rent charged, it is currently situated in a very poor and filthy area. Donations would keep the babies in fresh diapers, help purchase formula, baby shampoo and wipes, and pay the nurses, rent, and electricity.

After having such a great experience last summer, we plan to return for as many subsequent summers as possible. If you would like to make a donation, please contact my mother, Larisa Lucaci, at colindatorii@braverecords.com.

Maya Lucaci-Vashee, tenth grade
Phillips Academy
Andover, MA
 


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