Today was our second day volunteering at Viengping Children's Home, and again, we found that the Suwadee Room (2 year olds) had the greatest need for volunteers. This time, they had 1 nanny and 2 volunteers - so with us added to the mix that meant 5 adults for 26 toddlers.
Again, we were swarmed when we entered the room. These babies are so desperate for someone to pay attention to them - to touch them, to hold them, to love them. We spent most of our time on the floor covered in children - holding and touching as many of them as we could at one time.
This time, it was a little less overwhelming (since we knew what to expect) and I could pay attention to details a little more. I noticed that many of the children had bruises, cuts, and knots on their foreheads and the back of their heads. It didn't take long to figure out why. If you're a parent (or if you've ever babysat a toddler) then you know the "terrible two's" are a real thing. Imagine what happens with 26 "terrible two's" and not enough supervision.....
These kids have no one to tell them "no". The nanny's are just trying to keep their (cloth) diaper's changed and washed, and the kids fed and clean. There is little more they can do with that many children! And so - the kids are left to their own devices. They do not know how to share, or what they shouldn't do. In just two hours time I saw at least half of the children hit each other, take away toys, bite or pull another child's hair, and the most popular response of all was - pushing each other down. Of course, when a toddler gets pushed down, they usually hit their head on the floor (their motor skills just aren't developed enough to prevent it). And when that floor is hard tile - it leaves quite a bruise!
We did our best to manage the craziness - telling the children in Thai "NO" and "CANNOT!" when they took away toys, pushed, bit, or pulled each other's hair - and telling them "VERY GOOD!" in Thai when they shared. I was surprised to see that after just a few times of discipline, several of them actually understood that they needed to share! It made me proud of them, and sad at the same time. If only these children had enough attention and discipline, they would not be in the state they are in (and less of them would end up hurt!)
When we weren't correcting the children, we were cuddling them, kissing them, tickling them, and comforting them when they got hurt. Rusty had the sweetest, quietest little boy attached to him like velcro - for some reason he connected with Rusty and would not leave his side!
But - all too soon, it was time to go. We knew it was getting close because the nanny brought out the bag to put away the toys. And then.... the children began to melt down.
It was as if someone flipped a switch - they all began to cry and scream hysterically! At first I thought it was just because the toys were being put away, but then I felt the little girl in my arms lock her legs around me and grip my shirt with both hands. I looked into her big brown eyes and I saw fear. The children knew that when the toys were put away, the volunteers would leave. They were panicking! They knew this was the only time of the day they would be held like this, and they clung to us desperately.
I did not want to leave. I willed myself not to cry as I held the little girl in my arms for the last few moments. All the other volunteers were gone, and the nanny was bringing out snacks for the kids. I knew I had to go.
I pried those sweet hands from around my neck and sat my little girl down with the other children. She immediately flung herself on the floor - hitting her head hard on the tile. I picked her up to comfort her, then had to pry myself loose again. I left her in a crying heap on the tile.... knowing that there would be no one to pick her up again for hours.....
And then I came home and read this blog that my friend Katie wrote.
And I cried.
In it, she tells a story about her adorable little boy Cullen (who is the same age as the kids at the orphanage) waking up from a bad dream in tears. She shares how she held him and rocked him until he fell back asleep. She says, "One of the best feelings in the world is knowing that I could fix that bad dream he was having. It is comforting to know that when he is scared, or upset, his first thought is "Momma, hold me."
I just couldn't take the fact that I'd just left 26 babies like Cullen who don't have a Momma to hold them. Babies with no one to comfort them when they have a bad dream. Babies with no one to pick them up and wipe away their tears when they are injured. Babies who may never know the unconditional love of a family.
I just read a statistic a few days ago that said that only 1/10 of 1% of orphans are adopted. That means that out of the 147 MILLION+ orphans in the world, 99.9% of them will never experience a family.
There are over 2.1 BILLION Christians in the world. How are we allowing this to happen?!?