Pike residents reach out to aid Russian orphanage

| 29 Sep 2011 | 10:11

MILFORD - “To Russia With Love” was the theme for an eight person group from Milford’s First Presbyterian Church that recently returned from a 12-day trip to a Russian orphanage. The Melacova orphanage in the Vladimir region of Russia is sponsored by Hazard Communications of Milford with donations from Riverside Scapbook Company of Matamoras and Walmart of Westfall. Three adults and five children, ages 11 to 16, ran a summer Bible camp at the orphanage They stayed nine days at the orphanage and brought along microscopes, fishing gear, bug collecting equipment, art and crafts and paper supplies. The 20 children residing at the orphanage range from 5 to 17 years of age and speak almost no English. Julia Wheeler-Dean and her 16-year-old daughter Lauren were part of the team. Wheeler-Dean said, “The orphanage was over three hours from Moscow and we traveled on something like an old school bus. This was my third trip to the same orphanage. My older daughter Kayleigh (19) had gone with me before, but not this time. “The kids from the orphanage took to our kids right away. Even with the language differences, friendships were made immediately. Each one of our kids had responsibility for a small group of the orphans.” Wheeler-Dean said the orphanage was run by caretakers, some of whom had worked at the orphanage for 10 or 15 years and were very nice. The orphanage lacks some of the things we take for granted here at home. She said they had to bring toilet paper with them because even a common item like that was not to be had in Melacova. Living conditions at the orphanage are modest, Wheeler-Dean said. “The Russian children wore the same clothing every day. They had no bathing suits and went swimming in their underwear. The staff at the orphanage cooked for us. The diet consisted mostly of chicken and rice.” The town of Melacova is smaller than Milford and there are only small stores in walking distance. “If you want anything major you have to travel to Moscow.” Ann Manazza, owner of Riverside Scrapbook Company, adopted a little boy from Russia in 2002. When Wheeler-Dean went into Manazza’s store in need of some supplies, they hit it off right away and became friends. Manazza ended up adopting a little girl from the Melacova orphanage in 2005. “The laws and the legal system in our country make it very hard to adopt. Rules vary from state to state. The average international adoption runs between $25,000 and $32,000, while here in the states it can run as high as $50 thousand dollars.” “If I had known the joy and happiness adoption would bring to my life I would have done it long ago,” Manazza said.