At this thankful time of year, I must acknowledge my gratitude for the bounties of life that my family and I enjoy. All the ingredients for this (see previous post) tasty and nutritious stew were in my house; no shopping was necessary.
It was six years ago that we added two very special daughters to our family, increasing our children to 7. We adopted two older girls from a Moldovan orphanage. Moldova is the smallest and poorest of all the Eastern European countries. Aids, women and child trafficking (Moldova ranks #1 in this department), prostitution (which leads to abortions...some of my daughters' friends have had over 10 abortions), starvation, freezing, suicide, filth, disease, and suffering were in their future,and are now in the lives of the friends they left behind. My daughters were the rare lucky ones, brought to America, to a loving family, and to opportunities that were before unimaginable. (When we were there, the unemployment rate was 68% and life expectancy for a woman was less than 55 and about 50 for a man). The children are sent out of the orphanages at the age of 16 without a place to go, food to eat, often without shoes or a jacket, and with no love and no hope in their future. If it is winter, the children often crawl into the underground sewers to find a place of shelter from the elements. If they get caught stealing a loaf of bread, they are sent to prison where they are usually dead within 2 months. If the children die, that is good; one less child for the government to care about, but they don't care anyway. The children are considered not to be real humans...just a little higher up than animals.
I traveled to Moldova twice, spent a month there, and had my eyes opened to many things that I am now thankful for. I wanted to travel to that small country again, but my name was added to Moldova's equivalent of a mafia list, and I was not allowed to return. One of my daughters had been sold (usually to Arab men) by her orphanage director. Because of the adoption, his $1000 deal fell through. I tried to get the director removed, but as a former KGB officer, he is a very powerful man. The country does not want to admit that it cannot care for its own children. It is an embarrassment.
Today, as I cleaned and peeled the vegetables for our stew, I was reminded of a young Moldovan lad carrying an old bucket, walking down the icy January streets, begging for peelings so that his moma could make a little soup. I thought of the orphanage children who slept 3 or 4 to a small cot with a tattered blanket, huddled together so that they would not freeze in the night, and often the babies did freeze. The house we rented had ice on the inside walls. I remember shaking all night every night even though I wrapped up in my warm coat and the blankets I brought along. I remember taking a 14 year old girl out to lunch, to McDonalds. She was so excited; it was a dream come true. And then I watched as Hubby took off his scarf and his hat and put them on this little girl before we took her back to the orphanage. At the age of 14 she only weighed 60 pounds. A 12 year old who we cared for on another occasion weighed only 40 pounds.
In 2 weeks, one of my adopted daughters, who is now 21 will return to Moldova for a month. She is working hard to bring a little Christmas to some orphan children during her college winter break She is accepting donations that are being used to purchase winter coats and to take fresh fruit for all the children in one of the many orphanages. She has earned her own airfare and an extra $500 to get started. She needed $2000 more and now has donations of almost $1500.
I know that charity fills many hearts at this time of the year, and if anyone out there would like to help a child, my Elena is accepting donations at: Elena Barlow, P.O. Box 970653, Orem, UT 84057. She is also working toward a goal of building a type of "Stella House" which will be a home for orphan girls who have reached their 16th birthday and have no where to go. Preliminary work for this project is in the works, but Elena's "Stella House" project will be in the future. These Moldova "Stella house" projects can be googled if anyone is interested.