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It’s amazing how much we rely on non-verbal cues when communicating, isn’t it? Every time you or I are having a conversation, we’re performing thousands of subtle actions to help us get across what we’re trying to say.
A raised finger, a lifted eyebrow, a shrug… Each gesture is pregnant with meaning and interpreted by our brains in the blink of an eye.
But imagine for a moment what life would be like if you couldn’t control your gestures. Imagine if something as simple as a wave of your hand took a few seconds of complete concentration…
People would have difficulty understanding you. You would appear strange and different. And one of the most crucial aspects of your life would be drastically changed: interpersonal communication.
Well, for many people with cerebral palsy, this is exactly what life is like. Misunderstandings, frustration, pain…
But for one young man at the Romaniv Disabled Boys Orphanage, being misunderstood has led to more than just frustration. For Dima, being unable to communicate could very well cost him his life…
If you’ve been reading World Next Door for a while, you’ve heard all about the Romaniv Disabled Boys Orphanage and the incredible story of Peter, an orphan there who was adopted by a wonderful Ukrainian family.
Peter, a mentally healthy boy with muscular dystrophy, was kept in the severely disabled section of the orphanage. Even though he could think and read and learn, he was trapped in a prison of maltreatment. There was little hope for him until a brave family of Christ followers here in Zhytomyr and a group of dedicated financial sponsors from the U.S. got together to rescue him.
But Peter was not the only boy in his position. There was another.
His name is Dima. And he is still trapped at Romaniv.
As I mentioned above, Dima has cerebral palsy. Because of a traumatic event (e.g. lack of oxygen, blood toxicity, shaken baby syndrome, etc.) that happened to him early in his brain’s development, he has a very hard time controlling his body.
His arms occasionally flail around, he has difficulty walking, and often he simply can’t quite get his body to do what he wants it to do.
But looking into Dima’s eyes, you can see the truth. Dima is mentally healthy. Just like Peter, he can think, grow and learn.
Unfortunately, his caretakers don’t understand this. As I’ve mentioned before, they have no training in working with the disabled. They see his tightly clenched fists, they see the drool on his chin, and they assume that he is stupid.
They don’t hug him. They don’t teach him. They don’t even speak to him.
But Dima is far from stupid. With a little consistent education, Dima could make some incredible leaps in his development. He could learn. He could grow. He could live.
After attending Mission to Ukraine’s summer camp last year, he was like a new person. He was alert, energetic and talkative. At camp he laughed and played with the American volunteers, he talked on the phone with his best friend Peter and he told Oksana his heart’s desire: “I want to go home too.”
Far From Home
Instead, he went back to Romaniv.
Dima went back to a place where he is ignored. Back to a place where nobody talks to him. Back to a place where his only companions are boys with terribly debilitating mental and physical impairments…
One year later, being ignored has taken its toll. Now he is easily distracted. His responses are sluggish. Like a shipwreck survivor coming back to civilization, he seems a bit like he’s in another world.
And while physically his needs are being met, in a very real way his life is in danger.
If he continues to be left in an environment like Romaniv, Dima will sink further inwards. Without consistent, meaningful interactions with people, his emotional isolation could become permanent.
It breaks my heart to think that this sweet, gentle young man could spend the rest of his life trapped in an unnecessary prison, lacking the love and affection he so desperately needs to grow.
Thankfully, there is hope for Dima.
With the right ingredients, he too can be adopted by a Ukrainian family. But before I tell you what those ingredients are, I’d like you to watch this video and meet Dima yourself!
(Sorry about how distracted I am in the video. As you can hear, it’s hard to focus in such a noisy place…)
Finding Dima a Home
So what would it take to get Dima adopted like little Peter? How can we rescue this beautiful young man from the terrible conditions he is living in now?
Well, as I said above, it will take three crucial ingredients.
First, of course, it will take God’s powerful hand. With Peter, the unbelievable became possible in less time than I could have ever imagined. This time, I won’t let my faith be so puny. If God can really move mountains (Matthew 17:20), then it will be no sweat for him to find Dima a home.
Second, we will need a Ukrainian family to step up to the call. This is not an easy thing to ask for. A family adopting Dima will need to be gentle, compassionate, patient and secure in their identity. In this culture, having a disabled child is still viewed as a great dishonor. And as we’ve seen already, this city is not exactly an ideal place for the disabled to live.
Third and finally, we will need to find financial sponsors to help cover the $300 a month that Dima’s new family will need to take care of him. And here’s the deal: I want you to be one of those sponsors.
Through it all, we will need to pray… To pray that hearts would be softened. To pray that the money and family would be found. And to pray that the kingdom of God would move.
Will You Step Up?
So there you have it. The most explicit call I’ve ever made for you to step up and get into the game.
You’ve read all about the Romaniv Orphanage. You’ve rejoiced with me about Peter’s adoption. Now it’s time for you to act… and play an integral part in the rescue of one beautiful young man that needs your help now.
Will you pledge your finances? Will you commit to spread the word? Will you pray?
If so, sign up below. And let’s find Dima a home!
- Pledge to support Dima’s new family monthly. Even if you can only give $5 a month, you will be playing a part in his rescue! Sign up above to receive more information.
- Commit to pray for Dima regularly. Finding a family will be difficult without the powerful work of God.
- Spread the word about this opportunity. Post this article on your Facebook page. Send it to your co-workers and neighbors. Let’s create a huge community all eager to see Dima rescued!
About the Author: Barry is the founder and Executive Director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.