Welcome to Part 2 of our series on the time we spend at a rural institution each week. You can read Part 1 here.
When we share about these boys and this situation you must know we hold Bonhoeffer's words in highest esteem. There is no place you can point a finger in blame without realizing that the injustice, the inhumanity, people suffer is at every level of this problem.
Caregivers, who need a job to provide for their families, are required to do a job that cannot be done with the lack of staff, resources and education afforded them. We watch them do their very best and you can see in their eyes that they wish to do more.
When it comes to food, shelter and clothing, they are doing good work, but there is no one-size-fits-all protocol to address the physical, mental, emotional and institutional disabilities these boys face every day.
This is why MTU and volunteers have faithfully served this institution for the last 5 years. And, it is why God has sent us to help; working to make wrong things as right as we can, this side of heaven.
We enter the building, a long hall with rooms off to each side. Each of us volunteers goes up and down the hall, greeting boys, hugging, and holding their hands.
Working to make wrong things
as right as we can, this side of heaven.
We help each of the boys in the hall who is able, to walk or crawl to the room where we meet. After that we go from bedroom to bedroom, fetching the boys who are able to participate. Some can walk, some we bring in wheelchairs or strollers.
A couple of the boys shy away from our touch, too overwhelmed by the stimuli to leave their beds. Zhenya had a seizure earlier that morning, so he sleeps in his bed, unable to be roused. A couple others sleep hard in their beds, maybe a medicated sleep, or maybe those particular boys don’t sleep well at night? I’m not sure, but we let them sleep, wishing they were awake to receive love this morning.
Three boys are tied to their beds with strips of cloth. We ask the caregivers if we can untie them and bring them to the main room, promising to watch over them closely. My heart breaks at their situation- the boys’ and the caregivers’. How would I feel if I were a caregiver and I had to tie a little boy to his bed, just to keep others safe from him, and to keep him safe from himself?
I try not to judge, knowing I have absolutely no idea what their days of work truly consist of, knowing I have absolutely no concept of how difficult their job is. They don't have the resources they need or the number of staff they need to give high quality care. I can't even comprehend how difficult their work is. Every time we are there I see caregivers working hard just to keep the boys fed and diapered. The sheer amount of work they have to do for the physical care of the boys- moving, lifting, wiping, drying, dressing, feeding...- leaves almost zero time for meeting emotional and cognitive needs.
And for the boys, to live a life where they are tied to a bed, unable to make themselves understood, unable to regulate themselves in their environment, again, my blessed life has no concept of their reality. It is truly heartbreaking from every side. There is no simple solution, and that is why God has put us in this place. He wants to change things, and He is the only one who can do it.
I look from room to room, on the search for my Seryozha. There is just something special about Seryozha. He has wise eyes. He doesn’t speak, but I know he understands. Finally, in the last room I find him, behind a closed door all alone in the room in his wheelchair. “Oh my dear Seryozha! Why are you in here all alone? Priviet (hi)! I’m so happy to see my sweet boy! Kak de la? (How are you?)” He is restrained into his chair. I wipe tears out of my eyes, wondering what goes on in his little mind when he’s all alone. I try not to dwell on it and thank God He has brought us here today to show Sergei His love. I pray that while we are away angels minister to my sweet boy. I wheel him in to the meeting room, the last one to arrive, and we begin.