Just Another Child? Making a Difference for Bulgaria's Orphans

Article excerpt

I got in the cab, told the driver my building number, and we started off. "How is work going today?" I asked. "There is no work." he answered, "Bulgaria is poor and only the rich have money." I am not surprised by this answer--it is the same one the last taxi driver gave me.

AND THE ONE BEFORE THAT. "I really like your country." I said. "It's very pretty, the people are friendly and accepting, the history is rich ..." I trailed off, and he eagerly cut in, "I don't know how much you know about our history, but Bulgaria was under the Turkish yoke for 500 years ..." He continued talking for the rest of our trip. His final words as I got out of the cab were incredulous: "Our youth are running to America, and yet you come here. Why?"

Although recently admitted into the European Union, Bulgaria is burdened by one of Europe's highest orphan rates. No one comes when more than 14,000 children call for "mommy" or "daddy."

One Heart Bulgaria is an international nonprofit organization that focuses on helping this significant portion of Bulgaria's future. These children need medical care, moral support, role models, teachers, and friends. For the past 10 years, One Heart Bulgaria has been working to fill these needs with amazing success. Medical interns spend anywhere from four weeks to four months working with the orphans, giving them attention, teaching them, and being there for them. Doctors volunteer their time operating on cleft palates and treating hydrocephalus, dentists work their magic giving some lucky children something they've never had before-a dental exam. Experts provide training to Bulgaria's overwhelmed orphanage supervisors, and unpaid volunteers in America donate countless hours making people aware of the situation in which these children live.

I too came to Bulgaria to make a difference. I liked Bulgaria the moment I stepped off the plane. When we drove through Sofia I noticed the cars parked on the sidewalks, the blue "Y" on some of the cars, (a sign I later learned denoted a student driver), the old communist cars being passed by shiny BMWs, and big black cars that seemed to come straight from old mafia movies. …

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