It’s not easy living in an orphanage

March 16, 2007 at 6:28 am 13 comments

As happy as some of my feelings have been while being here, I have to  tell you that some of the things I’ve been experiencing while visiting Isabel have been hard to fully absorb, let alone write about.  Kyrgyzstan is a third world country and has not really come into its own since the collapse of the Soviet Union.  It does not have the benefit of natural resources like other former Soviet states.  Thus, there is a lack of some basic infrastructure.  It is hard to reach out of poverty here. 

The orphanage reflects all of this.  There is no shortage of caring there though.  The nurses and caregivers are very responsive and take their duties very seriously.  The children get massage and have a cheerful play area.  But still, it is an orphanage.  A child living there has no worldly posessions of her own.  She has no privacy.  Even the clothes aren’t really belonging to any one child.  There is a lot of structure, but not enough love to go around, and certainly not a family’s love.  There is a gross lack of fresh fruits and vegetables.  The children are fed according to schedule, not according to hunger.  They are told when to play and when to sleep.  If you are pushed down by a peer, there is no motherly love to brush you off and send you off with a kiss.  The babies really don’t cry in the nurseries because they have figured out over time that their cries will not be answered immediately, but rather when the nannies are able to come.  And this is life for the healthy ones.

If you are in an orphanage and you have a disability or have special needs…life is almost unimaginable.  These past 11 days I have seen babies and children with different levels of disease and permenant learning disabilities.  It is sobering and painful to witness.  Some of what I’ve seen is even too hard for me to write about yet.  I’m still working through all of the images in my mind.  I just keep thinking how every single one of these kids just need a home.  It doesn’t have to be fancy or tidy or perfect.  It could be in Kyrgyzstan or the United States or anywhere.  They just need to have a home that is theirs.  They need a bed that they can call their own.  They need to know that they don’t have to fill their bellies to brimming when food is given to them because there will always be food for them.  They need to know that the world hasn’t given up on them, even if they feel that way.  Being an orphan, living in an orphanage, despite the good that these people do for these kids there, is not the way to grow up.  And while that seems like a ‘no brainer’ I just had to get this all out tonight.  My heart is so full and yet so broken.  I have never felt so many conflicting emotions in all my life.  I am so mentally exhausted and ready to come home.  Yet, getting on the plane without Isabel in my arms is something I am dreading.  It will be about five weeks before we’ll see her again.  She is so tiny.  When we come to see her, she is awake and the nurses say that she wakes up just a few minutes before we get there because we arrive at the same time every day.  The other babies sleep most of the time.  There isn’t anything else for them to do.  She smiles when I first hold her and look at her.  She looks at me the whole time I feed her.  We’ve got something going on, Isabel and I.  I don’t want it to stop for a second. 

So, as much as it is hard for me, it is much harder being a kid there.  And that is what I will remind myself when I am boarding the plane for home.  I will be brave, because they are ten times braver than I will ever be.


Entry filed under: adopting, Adoption, Daughters, International Adoption, Kyrgyzstan.

Slowly but surely It’s just the beginning

13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Amira  |  March 16, 2007 at 7:08 am

    I am so glad you have been able to be there. Even though it will be hard to leave her behind for a few weeks, at least she has had you there for a little while. I know that even these few extra weeks of being with her will make a difference. Even a little bit of extra attention is huge for those babies.

  • 2. imhelendt  |  March 16, 2007 at 7:27 am

    Tear jerker. Seriously. I haven’t even had coffee yet and I’m crying. And I want to take 10 of them.

  • 3. Hunger Blogger  |  March 16, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    I commend your bravery. Sadly, those kids don’t even have choice about being brave. They have to be, and my heart goes out to them to.

    You might want to check out the Hunger, Poverty, & Homelessness Forums.

  • 4. Amy  |  March 16, 2007 at 5:47 pm

    I look forward to reading the rest of your blog. Beautiful baby, beautiful smile on you.

  • 5. Kristin  |  March 17, 2007 at 9:54 am

    I read your blogs and it is an amazing story. I actually just watched the documentary “Born into Brothels” and I couldn’t help but want to travel to a third world county and adopt a child (even though I am only 19!) I am a freshman at the University of Nevada, Reno and a journalism major. My next project in my Jour 102 class is to interview a blogger. I would love to interview you via email if at all possiable, about your experience. Please get back to me letting me know if you are able to help
    My email is
    Good luck with everything & I hope to hear from you!

  • 6. Cindy La Joy  |  March 20, 2007 at 8:15 pm


    I know. I know what you are saying and I know what you can’t even put into words yet. When Matthew came home he was the most silent infant I had ever been around. He had a flat head from laying for hours in his crib unstimulated. He scratched and scratched at every new texture he touched. He self-soothed by rocking himself to sleep with his head rubbing on the blanket so hard he was raw skinned. He was starving and would eat until he threw up if we didn’t stop him. It has become such a part of our family with both boys, and soon our new son, that I sometimes forget about how deeply institutionalization affects a child, sadly it is almost normal to us. Your post brought it flooding back. For me, it was life altering and the gratitude for the smallest things in life will never cease. The efforts to help other children who can not be adopted increase. They are forgotten. The scent of Matthew’s orphanage, although not at all unpleasant, will be with me forever and I was sent reeling when we walked into Josh’s orphanage. It was the scent of starkness, of abandonment, of sterility. It was NOT the scent of home, yet you know that is exactly what it is for those children, their home. You are now a changed woman because of this experience, and there are moments it will haunt you as you recall the others left behind. But your daughter has a family now and soon she will be embraced by them forever. One more child is not lonely or unloved. It may seem small in the face of the insurmountable fact of so many others who need the same thing. But a journey begins with the first step. Someday maybe Kyrgyzstan’s orphanages will be bulldozed due to lack of occupants. We can only hope…

  • 7. Louise  |  March 21, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    You are such a good writer…I can picture this perfectly, and it makes me very sad. Wishing you and your family all the best,

  • 8. Margie  |  March 30, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Tina, this post has hit on something that needs serious discussion.

    I’ve noticed that in the process of focusing on an adoptee’s right to their culture, I’m hearing more and more the line of reasoning that it’s better for children to grow up in orphanages with their cultures than it is for them to grow up in families without. This post is a reminder that it’s not an either-or situation. Children need both, and if we work hard on their behalf, they can have both.

    Thanks very much for posting this.

  • 9. pena  |  March 10, 2011 at 2:59 am

    its so hurtful to see those children without their mother, they need love of their parents and care.

  • 10. Umutai  |  January 26, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Hi Tina,
    I am thinking of to help Kyrgyz institutionalized orphans between 14-17 years old to successfully finish their school and apply for higher /vocational education. This period in their life and their wishes to study is totally ignored in Kyrgyzstan. Do you have any ideas who also can help them????

  • 11. Anita Gray  |  September 9, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Having lived in Kyrgyzstan and been part of the charities that visited these children regularly to give donations etc to, it brings it all back to me. I thank you for the way you give credit where it is due – to the ladies that work with these children… i have no idea how they do it day in and day out ..they are angels. from what a saw – on both arranged visits and cold calls – they wwere always gentle with the children especially those in the special houses – one room had children who could not move and the other room had small children who could sit up and be fed, with assistance … my heart aches as it comes back to me. only the very special families kept their children with disabilities, others put them into the orphanages to care for them. the saddest thing is that even though a child may have a disability physically they get very little education because of it. There is a school run by an amazing german women clara marie who goes to the government orphanages and looks out for these children and takes them in so as they can get an education. her school started out with the 6 children she adopted and taught and now has some 100 children coming to school and as she can she adopts another one. her adopted son is in germany going to uni with her biological son and her first adopted daughter is helping her run the school.orphange… she is an angel, but sadly getting older and over time has been very unwell. she returns to germany once a year to gather up funds and donations to return to kyrgyzstan to keep her school going. god bless you clara marie.

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