As summer comes to and end in Seattle we prepare for another visit to see our kids. Winter is on its way and this trip will be primarily spent getting them stocked up and ready for the next six months. We have lots of great things to take to the kids on this trip. An Origami Crane Mobile, made by the 6th graders (Katharine Finks class) at Overlake School in Bellevue, WA. It is an incredible work of art, hanging 6 feet from top to bottom. The colors are magnificent! It has been hanging in my living room since school's end and I will really miss it! I ordered five fire escape ladders, one for each bedroom, and our friends in Fairbanks, Alaska sent smoke detectors for the orphanage. The third graders (Trina Rubel's class) at Custer Elementary- in Lakewood, WA and the fourth graders (Christina Shore's class) at Bennett Elementary in Bellevue, WA raised money for us to buy bicycles for the kids. My mother and sister have been busy knitting blankets for the children's beds. We have 7 to take on this trip and they plan to eventually make one for each child. We are taking the standard vitamins, toys and of course, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Tom is anxious to get back. He plans to check in with the Adoption Center to see how things are progressing in regards to adoption and he is anxious to see how the remodeling projects are going. When he left last time they had big plans to remodel the bathrooms, the kitchen, install the washing machines and maybe remodel the school. He left some money with them in February so they could get started on these projects this summer. There will be six people traveling with him this trip. Two families who hope to adopt some of the children and a couple that has donated to our Foundation and really wanted to see the work first hand.
The first call that I get from the travelers confirms that this is going to be another remarkable week with the Russian children and orphanage staff that are now like members of our family. Upon entering the building the children and orphanage directors push Tom down the hall to see his reaction when they open the doors to the NEW bathrooms. Well, I can just imagine the look on his face when he looked in at 3 NEW FLUSH TOILETS, shiny new white tile walls, floors and brand new sinks with hot running water. This was the girl's bathroom. The boy's bathroom also had 3 toilets and a urinal. An adjacent room that was previously vacant, is the new shower room. It has 2 shower stalls an on demand hot water source and SOAP! The tour continued into the kitchen where Lubov, (the orphanage cook) was busy preparing dinner. Over the stoves was a new fume hood. The crumbling tile walls had also been repaired as well as the decayed flooring near the refrigerator The huge washing machine and spinning machine were now housed in a room next to the kitchen. The director had receipts for all work expenses and some money left over too!
Tom and his traveling companions had spent the evening playing with the kids and were back at the comfortable intourist hotel that is usually home base during our trips. Unfortunately they would have to find another hotel to stay in because there was a local gathering and the hotel was full for the entire week. The next call I received was the following evening. Yes, they had found another hotel. But, it had not been determined whether the place had hot water or heat. I asked, "Is there heat?" Tom's answer was "maybe tomorrow". They had a good day at the orphanage and plan to do some shopping for food and bicycles tomorrow.
During the next several days Tom was able to find 18 new bicycles, a TV and VCR and a whole bunch of Disney Movies in Russian. He found two couches and a rug for the TV area too. The children were excited to have so many visitors. The families that are hoping to adopt spent their time at the orphanage while Tom and the others, Volodea (our driver extraordinare), Gary Marshall and Kathy Meyer from Wolcott, New York accompanied him on the buying trips.
It was determined in a short period of time that there was NO HEAT and NO HOT WATER at the new hotel. There was however a MOUSE (no, not the kind attached to a computer) in one of rooms. Luckily our travelers are hearty and flexible but they really do not have many options. Sooooo - . they put on their hats and coats and climb into bed every night. I am grateful that it is only September and not the dead of winter! Despite the less than perfect conditions they never have a complaint and eagerly await their next visit to see the kids. One of the orphanage staff offers them use of her sauna and a few of the travelers happily follow her across the field to her home.
One day is spent handing out the "Love in a Ziploc bag" that have been donated by our friends in Fairbanks, Alaska. The kids try on their new polartec jackets and down vests. They oohh and ahhh over the 6 foot Origami crane mobile sent all the way from school children in Seattle. The suitcases are stuffed with puzzles, games, tennis balls, polished rocks, hand knit blankets, candy, Reese's Peanut Butter cups, Barbie dolls, bicycle helmets, vitamins, smoke detectors, fire escape ladders, and CDs. The children are happy and CLEAN. They are getting taller, their hair is longer, the girls are getting more beautiful and there are a couple new faces at the orphanage this trip.
Another day Tom takes flowers and chocolate to the director of the Adoption Center. He goes to check on the registration status of the children. She is pleased to meet him but her assistant is not available and she is the one with the information we need. (This probably means the children are not registered yet). Tom tells her we are going to have a licensed American adoption agency follow up on the details and she tells him that she has worked with this agency in the past and she will be pleased to work with them again. He has made his point - .we are still interested in adoption of these children and we are NOT going away!
The orphanage director tells Tom that he wants to put a new roof on the main building next summer and also remodel the interior. Tom tells him that we will get busy raising the money to make this happen. The school remodel has been started and Tom left some money for the remainder of the work, school furniture and books. Tom is very happy with the quality of the work that has already been done and it is exciting to think about the possibilities of remodeling the entire place. (Be sure to see the pictures under, Trip Photo Journal).
On the last day at the orphanage the children plan a picnic for everyone. They all hike out to the woods and start campfires. When the fires are ready they bury potatoes and while the potatoes roast they play games and sing songs. We have some wonderful pictures of the tug-of-war and many little smiling faces covered with charcoal. Amidst tears and hugs they say good bye - until next time!
Jan 19, 1999 Oct 18, 1999 Oct 23, 1999 Oct 31, 1999 Feb 14, 2000 Sep 14, 2000
Trip Photo Journal
Foundations for Russian Orphans Home Page