For the Children

November 16, 2007 at 4:42 pm | Posted in Good causes, In the News, TV | Leave a comment

I woke up this morning and turned on the TV. The Today Show is a staple of my morning. I have been watching it since I was 13 and I got my own TV in my room. I slacked off some when Katie Couric left, but my faithful following has continued through the good, the bad, the big Al, and the little Al.

I have always enjoy Ann Curry’s special reports and I catch her on Dateline when I can. She tends to do what I call human stories. They are not about research or science, statistics or politics, but about people who are encountering the horrors that sometimes this life has to offer. Her reports are heartfelt and show the personal side of people who are suffering in this world. This morning I watched as she did a report on mental institutions in Serbia. You can see the video here.

The story was a report on how disabled people are sent to institutions to live out their lives in horrible conditions. It is an astounding display of the human race at its worst. Children with mental and physical disabilities are placed in “mental institutions” to basically live out their lives with no services, no contact from the outside world, and only their basic needs meet. They are tied to their cribs and left for the duration of their lives. Parents are told by the government to institutionalize their children if they are born with special needs. This is done because they have no way to provide support or services in a country where poverty is rampant. These institutions look exactly like I feel the concentration camps of the Holocaust looked. Public showers with people being wheeled in and hosed off in groups, bars and locked doors with children and adults laying on the floor with no care, no therapy, and little or no physical or emotional contact. There are children tied to cribs; their bodies distorted and atrophied from neglect. There was one man who was at least twenty years old who looked like a small child. “Failure to thrive” the government called it. It is not – the term failure to thrive is a legitimate medical diagnosis where children’s bodies refuse to grow but it not a result of neglect or lack of physical and emotional interaction.

My heart literally broke as she moved from child to child. Some with cerebral palsy, some with Down Syndrome, some with blindness and deafness. If these children had been born in our country there would be services, health care, and professionals lining up to help them gain access to a life full of possibilities and limitless joys and dreams. How sad that these children are forced to witness firsthand the evils of a world without understanding, compassion, and empathy. Only God knows what they could have been or accomplished.

I was talking to a friend today and her child has Down Syndrome. She is a first class mom who shows nothing but first class love for her child. Her world, as seen through his eyes, is filled with love, possibilities, and limitless opportunities. The world is wide open for him; if only every child everywhere had support like that. She reminded me that less than half a century ago, forty something years, we, in America, also institutionalized and put away our children who didn’t turn out “just right”. She has told me that sometimes when she is out and older women look at her son she sometimes sees a sadness come over them. She wonders just how many of them gave their children over to a life in an institution and never heard from or saw them again.

Another friend of mine, whose child also has Down Syndrome, was telling me about an article they were recently apart of in a magazine. She told me the story of giving birth to him and learning two hours later that her child had special needs. She said, “You cannot tell me that my child’s life does not have quality or a purpose. I try to give him the tools that he needs so he can can grow to his full potential- not so he can reach a standard I expect of him.”

These women are my heroes, if I can only be half the mothers that they are.

The report gives ways to help. Also, there is a great website I have had posted her for a while. It is Reece’s Rainbow and it has special needs children all around the globe who are in orphanages and awaiting a family to adopt them. Most of the children are under three because when they are three they are placed in institutions just like the ones in Serbia and they are lost in the system. Adoption is not for everyone; there are ways to donate, via Paypal, to buy specific needs for the orphanages. Some need chairs, some need beds, some need windows to keep the cold out and keep the children dry.

Talk about an assignment, talk about a way to change the world.

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