By Oksana Shuliak
I am so thankful to God for guiding MTU to the Romaniv Orphanage a little over 10 years ago to care for the boys and young men there. My heart breaks for orphans in my country, especially those with disabilities. Far too often they are left in the care of underfunded and untrained governmental staff. These orphans are isolated, lonely, and in pain.
Orphanages such as Romaniv are still viewed by the big system as a ‘survival’ place for ‘almost humans’.
We dream and pray that one day these young men will live in loving families. It hurts to see how voiceless they are crying out for love and care right now. That’s why our primary goal is to meet their basic life needs in medical care, healthy feeding and drinking, toileting, sleeping, washing hands and other self-care skills. We strive to to change their environment to stop abuse and neglect, make it a safe place of development and in and through all these efforts - reveal the love and care of Christ to them.
Over the years it has been shocking to see that the critical need #1 of our boys has not been met – feeding and nutrition. Seeing them eat would always bring tears to our eyes. Some of us couldn’t take it…Some of you have seen this firsthand and can testify to that fact.
Imagine: Hungry young men rush as a crowd of 30 people into the feeding hall, throw their clothes on the floor, some of them crying and screaming. It creates a sense of chaos, fear, and anxiety. Smell of food and excrement make you sick in the stomach.
Two untrained caregivers are feeding at least 5 boys unable to feed themselves independently, watching the rest of the boys not to hurt each other, steal food or run away. So they just stuff the mouth of the young men with a mixture of courses with the speed light. Some young men throw food on the table and lick it like animals. Others eat from the plate with their mouth. Most of the boys swallow food in big lumps. You turn around and you see a boy vomiting, another boy falls on the floor screaming. At the same time another one is having a seizure. Still others take a chance to steal food from their neighbors. Everything happens in a big hurry.
My heart was broken that the first thing to be of pleasure was a horrible and stressful experience for our young men. As a result they experienced aggression, diseases, physical and emotional pain, tears, creaming, constant feeling of hunger, absence of self-care skills.
I was overwhelmed with shock, hopelessness and frustration, but the desire of change was stronger.
A few months ago a team of MTU specialists and orphanage staff developed a plan how to make feeding a process of pleasure.
Now our youth come to the canteen in groups of 15. Caregivers, teachers and volunteers, when being in Romaniv, help feeding the boys. All involved are watching the texture of the food, the speed and teach the boys to hold a spoon and feed themselves. There is peace and quiet in the canteen. No hurry, no fear that your food might be stolen. Strangely enough as a bonus - there is only smell of food now. It does add work to the orphanage staff, but everyone agrees there is no way back.
So the boys are still in the institution. And we want to make everything possible to change their lives for better.
Pray with us to change the young men’s living environment, so that there would be no abuse, no isolation, no pain. Pray with us that the love of Christ is evident in our lives as we minister at Romaniv. Pray that the boys sense God’s presence!