Bobby's institution, orphanage 50 on Reece's Rainbow... it's remote, the sort of remote that you can't get your head around until you visit! I grew up within the Black Mountains, on the Welsh borders, miles from the nearest house, miles from the nearest shop, miles from the only bus-stop with just one bus a week travelling past. I thought I understood remote...I didn't!
Sixteen hours on a train and then over 2 hours in a car, with nothing but tiny villages dotted occasionally like little lost worlds along the edge of the road. We manoeuvred across the assault course of pot holes deep enough to loose a car into, a broken, forgotten road, banked with snow drifts. Yes remote was a great word to describe this place!
|View from the train.|
|A road to nowhere!|
At last the institution stared glumly back at me. Its chimney, billowing black smoke into the white snow-filled sky, puffed out an ominous greeting. Everywhere so cold and cloaked with grey, it would seem I had travelled to another world, alien and joyless.
The institution layout was not instantly clear, sprawling across the land, crumbling buildings alongside others housing the residents. Buildings separated by icy fields with tales of creeping wolves at night. A labyrinth, set upon the site of ancient farmland that had me facing the wrong direction at every turn. Parts still used as a working farm, with the older and more able men supporting its running. I said hello to some of these workers who sat warming up in a little TV room during their break.
Back outside the sub-zero temperatures gripped at every breath as I suddenly noticed a single anomaly within the aged facades before me. Sitting quietly within this maze, a small building, its newly renovated exterior whispering hope and singing out a song of possibility onto the freezing air! A newly shined gem offering up an exciting glimpse of change upon the horizon! A 'Happy Home', the vision of Albert Pavlov, the director of the 'Happy Child Foundation'. A new environment for previously warehoused children, complete with new staffing ideals! Its presence offering to institutionalised children starved of love the closest thing to a home environment that current circumstances will allow.
The vision...to take children from their warehoused existence, to change their environment, to change their level of care, to change their everyday experiences, to let LOVE work its magic, letting the results speak for themselves. Unable to take the child out of the institution this project ingeniously manages to take the institution out of the child! It's a miraculous and much needed plan that turns everything on its head, at last finding a way to allow these children to shine and prove to the world how capable they are!
People's hearts, when faced with the evidence of nine flourishing boys, are being changed! Results so far have been fantastic...love is such a powerful medicine! In just a few short weeks the nine children within its walls were transforming before people's eyes!
DOES EVERYBODY GET HOW BIG THIS IS?
DOES EVERYBODY SEE HOW EXCITING?
THIS IS A LIFELINE FOR THESE CHILDREN AND MANY MORE TO COME.
THIS IS THEIR HOPE!
The happy child foundation have not simply built a house, they have built a possible way out of hell for thousands. There is a feeling of change being born within this most isolated of places! And even though change is a difficult concept to grasp when the path forward is so startlingly new, it is slowly infiltrating the system. Consider that when this new house first opened, no staff wanted to work there, even though they had far less children to care for, far better working conditions and the most healthy and able children selected.
But an inability to visualise change doesn't blind a person to recognising change when it stands before them. The results of the new regime within the happy home are changing hearts and minds, changing concepts, changing expectations and most importantly changing lives.
And the vision continues. Whilst walking with Albert at the institution, he suddenly spotted a previously unnoticed building. His whole countenance changed, I could feel the excitement radiating off him as he raced around peering through windows! Immediately I could tell we were staring at the next step down the path! And so it has turned out to be...a recent report announced that a second 'happy home' is to be created from this building, this time to house girls! This new model is growing and the rest of the world will soon be running to keep up!
And it isn't just me who believes that there is change happening within these walls. Whilst at the institution I spent time with a TV crew from the BBC and the director Kate Blewett whose work about Bulgaria's Abandoned Children I was already very familiar with. Part of True Vision Productions and the 'TV For Change Foundation' this team secured agreement with the institution director while we were there for a series of 3 documentaries charting this change!
From many many institutions this one was chosen, even though the crew had initially been warned away because of its terrible reputation, Kate said that it became their number one choice because of the willingness of the director to accept changes and to open doors. Watch this space!
| from left to right: Cameraman with Kate Blewett, her interpreter and the institution director.|
And so I found hope within this place where I thought I would find none. Through the vision and dedication of some amazing people change has indeed begun. However in order for this vision to continue, support will be needed. New environments do not come for free and most importantly neither does staffing!
The Happy child fund is able to take donations in a number of ways and also can receive PAY PAL donations through its partner organisation in the USA called Eleanore's Kids.