Post 54: Another Installment of – On The Road To Romania
SOS Children’s Villages is an amazing, fascinating, worldwide, non-governmental, non-religious organization which provides homes, foster parents, social services and education for children whose parents cannot take care of them. In third world countries, those children are usually true orphans. In other areas they are referred to as “social orphans”—children whose parents may be living, but unable to financially, socially or emotionally take care of them. (For additional information visit their web site: http://www.sos-childrensvillages.org.)
As we climbed out of the taxi, the Village Director, whose job was similar to mine back in the U.S., greeted us and gave us a quick tour of their Children’s Village. We visited two of the homes and met several of the ‘mothers’ (foster parents) and their children (some true orphans, others social orphans) in their attractive, tidy homes. We were introduced to several of the social workers and support staff. And, in spite of cultural and language differences, the atmosphere of this SOS Village felt familiar to mine and those I visited in other countries.
As we walked, the Village Director spoke through an SOS interpreter about Romania and its many needs, especially for children.
“In 1967, Ceaușescu, the former communist dictator, to increase a declining population, outlawed all birth control. No pills, IUD’s, or condoms were allowed. Abortion, which prior to that year was the most prevalent form of birth control, was also made illegal. Of course there was a rapid increase in the number of children being born.”
He paused to let the interpreter catch up, then briskly continued, “In a country already poor, many parents couldn’t care for their children and our orphanages became overcrowded. The number of street children became incredible and the number of children born with health issues magnified.Ceausescu was deposed and executed in 1989 but we are still dealing with many children being born whose parents cannot care for them.”
The young children we met were cute, bright-eyed, polite and curious about their visitors. I noticed several with what appeared to me to be symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome, something I unfortunately was acquainted with through my experiences with several of the foster children I worked with.
“What did you do before SOS?” I asked the director as we moved into his brightly lit, tidy office.
“Actually, when the SOS Village opened they brought their kids to see me. I am a medical doctor who served this area. I would examine the new children and treat them as needed. As the Village grew I became more involved, frequently stopping by to check on the children or staff, or help in other ways, which then turned into a nice, non-medical relationship. After several years, the original Village Director left and I was asked if I would like to replace him. I said yes. It was a great opportunity for me.”
At my quizzical, almost stunned look at this medical doctor becoming a Village Director, he added, “Bill, you have to understand, while I love working with kids and the SOS organization is wonderful, in Romania, medical doctors are employed by the government and their salaries are incredibly low. Barely enough to live on. I make several times more as the Village Director for SOS then when I was as a full-time physician.”
Now I understood one of the two reasons for our trip. Dr. G’s brother-in-law, an experienced physician, did not make enough money to own a car. It was a striking revelation. As we ended our short meeting, the Village Director invited me to return again. We made arrangements for me to return the following Monday to spend the day and night prior to our departure from Romania.
Next week: On The Road Again & Chiftea