“…The biggest reward for those of us, who goes to visit and to help the children, is the light, the small sparks of joy in their innocent and pure eyes!”
Within walking distance of St. Elisabeth Convent, one can discover a shelter for children with mental and physical disabilities. The facility houses approximately two hundred children of whom many are orphans deprived of parental love, care and attention. They suffer a great deal of pain in the course of their short lives. They are short because on average children with disabilities live for 25-30 years.
These foster children of the shelter are very different, each with their own story, their own fate. Many of them are unable to move by themselves and are bedridden for practically their entire life, without the opportunity to see the world that surrounds them. In general, several children are allotted one caretaker-nanny, who simply does not have the time to provide the warmth and enough loving care that every child needs, especially a child who is sick. However, is there such a thing as enough love?
The convent has been supporting and visiting the shelter for over ten years, as part of its many other ministries. The brothers and sisters both monastics and laypeople come to visit the children in order to provide them with the love and care they so desperately lack. They also take them outside to the park, to the lake, to botanical gardens and most importantly to a chapel where the children can take part in the Liturgy and other church services. The chapel was specifically built for the young residents of the shelter with the help of numerous donations and collections to make the church for the children possible.
You should see how the children’s eyes become filled with joy as they go on their usual field trip beyond the walls of the shelter! I remember a few years ago on September 1, when we took the children to the city’s main park. The weather was perfect, it was sunny and everyone was happy. Suddenly, one of the kids says to me in a somber voice “Eh, September has arrived, goodbye summertime!”
“But how so? Winter is coming soon, then the new year and then Nativity.” I respond:
“No, winter – means we will have to stay indoors, surrounded by four walls without the opportunity to get out and go somewhere”
It may not seem very difficult to spend a few hours on a weekend and take the children to the lake or just take them for a walk in the city. For them, it is the best gift one can give! I remember how one of the orphans, who was permanently bedridden was driven around the city for his birthday, driven around the main street of the city. That was the first time in his life that he saw anything else other than the four walls of his room.
The biggest reward for those of us, who goes to visit and to help the children, is the light, the small sparks of joy in their innocent and pure eyes!
The convent supports several ongoing projects. One of the projects is called “Little bee” children’s theatre where the children are not only the audience but are also active participants and actors.
There are also art workshops where sister from the convent along with the sick children can sew, draw and take part in other arts and crafts projects. Throughout the galleries of the city, there are occasionally exhibits of the children’s art. Such exhibits help raise the awareness of the life in the shelter and the difficulties that the children with disabilities must confront every day.
There is another project, which is called “We are and we’re together”. This project allows the disabled and sick children to interact with children from around the city, children who have parents. Together they draw, create cartoons. In fact, one such cartoons has won international praise and awards.
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