Dear Jk Rowling,
Standing up to you, one of my heroes, is not something I do lightly. My own children just missed the Harry Potter mania as they are all a bit older, however, I admire you more than I admire most people. I am old enough to be still enraptured by Enid Blyton. I still have images in my head from her Enchanted forest and Magic Faraway tree.
Going from “billionaire to millionaire” for children, I take my hat off to you. In fact, I bow before you and I genuinely mean that. I did attempt to meet with your CEO and discuss what we do in Russia, to see if we could work with your wonderful Charity. I flew to London with an appointment, on a 29euro flight thankfully, but sadly at the last moment, she cancelled.
I have to take you to task though, you have to be more careful about your words and did I really say that to the worlds greatest wordsmith??????? yes I did.
“All children need a family “, yes we all know that and I know your well funded, excellent charity works daily for that. I totally agree with that .. in an ideal world, but sadly we do not live in one. It is too simplistic to say that all Volunteers in orphanages are “Voluntourists”. That they “create more problems”, add longevity to children’s stay there, causing the system to be more sustainable, a system we all know is horrendous. There is no point in venting onto Volunteers, I strongly suggest you vent on the Governments who fail to apply best practice to their neediest citizens. These are the people that need your literary sword and not the volunteers who nurse, mind, care for, de-lice, cry with, blow out candles with, hug, read to, love and get abandoned children through their worst hours.
In many cases these people make their unbearable hours, more bearable. I was in Romania many years ago, I nursed a child in my arms, I thought she was 4 or 5, she was 16, her eyes had been taken by Ceausescu’s people for an operation for a wealthy child, the little one I had in my arms had never grown after this. I stayed with her for the day, I failed her, as I was not in a position to save her, but I would think to this day , she remembers the love she felt that one meager day from a Volunteer that cared.
To be honest , I am not a good carer, I do not have patience, so many who are part of my charity are so much better than me at it, I have been working with these people for years. Russia is my second home, wonderful people, good care, huge numbers of lost children to deal with after a shocking history of major war loss.
As an organisation, we don’t just fly in paying volunteers, I cannot abide organisations that do this, people who want to stick a few books in a library, or paint a few faces and feel good about themselves, the Nuns in Africa have this type of funding down to an art, it is a major fundraiser for them. Others in Europe do it also, I completely disagree with this and agree with you here, but in our case, most of our children have no one. We stand yearly at Graduation ceremonies, we are the only ones there to cheer the children on, no one turns up, no one cares enough. The children stare at the door hoping a mother might appear, they rarely do, if ever.
One of our beautiful girls died some years ago age 16, we went to her village to bury her, we brought her shocked, silent ,little brother with us, the family turned up, privately we asked them all would they take him home, no one wanted him. We took him back with us to the orphanage. He has never recovered from the rejection. We reunite where we can, we trace Grannies and Mothers if there are any, we write to prisons, we pay train tickets to encourage visitors, it is usually futile.
Please be careful when you tell us that we add to the children’s pain and problems, I have dedicated 18 years to being there for them and changing their futures, I am not good at changing their nappies, I am not good at sitting and doing the jig saws. However I am bloody great at changing their life paths.
Our Volunteers have been magnificent, just do not brush us all with the same brush thanks. — “Voluntourism is a driver of family break up” may be the case in some countries, I do not know, but it is NOT the case in Russia, history, a broken psyche, historical brainwashing by State convincing many war widows that Orphanages were better than family life, poverty, maternal disconnect to babies, is the cause.
I am so glad to have been there, with so many beautiful Russian staff and so many wonderful Irish volunteers, for so many years for the fallout from this, to be there to tuck so many in, when no one else in their world wanted to bother. Our Volunteers stayed for months, years, stayed hugging, managing, loving, enabling the healing of attachment wounds, rather than hindering them, our outcome evaluation after 18 years says it all. Ask our now grown up children. Don’t believe me. Feel free to ask any of them to talk at a conference and describe their lives, their birth families, us and our intervention. You may have to visit the hospitals where they are Doctors and the court rooms where they are lawyers if you wish to meet them though but we have magnificent children who have broken all the Stats stacked against them, they are all happy to share their stories.
They all feel part of a family, it may not be their own family, but at least it is a loving family of some type.
JK, as much as I bow to you, I get down on my knees and thank the Irish and Russian volunteers that I have watched, blow away loneliness, befriend the vulnerable, stroke bent bones, kiss blind eyes, dress small dead bodies, visit TB hospitals, stand by them in court rooms as mothers denied rights to them, restore dignity and confidence to children whose mothers and families could not, for a million reasons, love them or raise them. Save your literary sword for the big change makers and certainly do not include To Children With Loves Volunteers in your broad brushstroke. Once again, I think you are incredible, I hope you inspire the wealthy to follow your lead, there are no pockets in a shroud, now is the time to make change. As someone who is married to this sector for 18 years, thank you for all the good you have done, all the children you have helped, I wish there was more like you.
We are tiny, broke, and understaffed your Charity is huge and wealthy and I have no doubt beautifully staffed, I am jealous, absolutely, and continually inspired by you.
I also want to see the end of all big institutions, I want to see every child with its own loving mother, but until the last door closes and the last gate gets bolted, I do hope that the children we work with , know we are there to help them through their darkest hours.