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    September 26, 2013

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Taline and I (Carina) have been eagerly waiting for our turn to share our thoughts and experiences with you via a blog post for several days. We were excited to share funny stories and observations from our trip. Today, we were expecting a light and encouraging day at the orphanage in Gyumri, spent playing soccer in the yard and coloring and reading with all of the kids during a VBS we were planning to host. However, we were all completely unprepared for what we were about to experience.

After the long 2 hour car ride to Gyumri, we pulled up to the orphanage and were amazed at the beautiful artwork and landscaping that surrounded the playground for the kids. We walked into the building with smiles on our faces, ready to meet the children and host a fun VBS session for them. All of our expectations quickly dissipated as Dr. Syuzie informed us that 99% of the 126 children at this orphanage suffered from some sort of neurological or developmental disorder. We were split into two groups and were each led to a different area of the orphanage for a tour, still unaware of what to really expect. As we entered the first room we were left speechless by what we saw. Words even fail us now as we try to describe the devastation we encountered. It is beyond difficult to see these helpless children suffering from these terrible illnesses, and knowing that they don’t have the love or affection or even touch of their parents to help them through it. The condition of those children left members of our group in tears. Throughout the tour we all “observed” that no one informed us about it being a special needs orphanage and thus we were not emotionally or mentally prepared, still nothing could really have prepared us for the tragedies we witnessed. We ended the tour feeling discouraged and ill equipped to make a difference in these children’s lives. We decided to move forward with some sort of variation of our VBS by spending some quality time with the kids, unsure of the impact we could have, or if we could even keep ourselves together given the emotional toll the tour took on us.

As soon as we walked into the playroom, the little ones welcomed us with big smiles and warm hearts. We were stumped to find that children experiencing such physical pain were stronger than we were, but encouraged by this realization, we quickly unpacked our bag full of crafts and started to play with them the best way we knew how. It did not take long before the discouragement we felt initially faded away as their laughs and smiles filled up the room. Reflecting on why they were so happy to see us, we all came to the conclusion that aside from any physical healing, touch and interaction was what these children needed.

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