Fresh air and sunshine at last: Dima’s story
Dima is an outgoing 13-year-old who takes an interest in other people and the world around him. For most of his childhood though, no one has taken any interest in him.
Dima lives in Moldova. He was born with multiple disabilities which mean that he can’t walk, stand, sit or speak but he can communicate very effectively, using sounds and facial expressions. When he was a baby, Dima’s family did their best to care for him but struggled to cope as he grew older and left him in an orphanage when he was four years old. For the next nine years, Dima spent his days and his nights in a cot and then a bed, in the same two rooms as all the other children with disabilities in the institution regardless of his age. No one ever visited him.
In the early years, Dima received only the most rudimentary care. He was fed liquidised food through a tube but the white-coated staff did not try to play with him or interact with him because they did not believe he had a future. Dima was treated as if he was a condition, not a child. After Hope and Homes for Children began work to help close the orphanage, Dima’s care improved a little but he still spent almost all his time trapped indoors, lying on his back with no chance to learn and no individual care or affection. Now though, his life has been transformed.
Earlier this year, Dima and nine other children with disabilities left the orphanage to live in a Small Family Home, funded by Hope and Homes for Children. Their new house was built in collaboration with our partners, CCF Moldova and will be run in conjunction with the local authority in Chisinau.
Our Small Family Homes are developed for children from orphanages who cannot be reintegrated with their birth families or fostered or adopted. They are designed to give children with special needs as much mobility and independence as possible. Otherwise, we do all we can to make them feel as close as possible to ordinary family homes.
Liliana Rotaru, Director of CCF Moldova, was with the children on the day they moved into their new home. “Dima was wearing a big smile,” she told us. “In the afternoon we took some of the children out for a walk in their wheel chairs. Being outside and feeling the breeze and the sun on their skin brought pure joy to their faces. Dima loved seeing cars go by and hearing all the noises from the street. It just showed how little time he spent outside when he lived in the orphanage”, she said.
Dima and the other children who now live in the Small Family Home are among the last children to leave the orphanage in Chisinau. Soon it will be closed. In its place, Hope and Homes for Children is helping to establish family support services to make it possible for children, whatever their needs, to stay with their parents and end the cycle of institutionalisation for good.