Thursday, February 24, 2011


Are you old enough to remember the not so kind and gentle days when the P.E. teacher would choose two team captains, two handsome and physically gifted young people no doubt, and those two team captains would build their teams by alternately choosing classmates to play on their team?

Well, I am. And I do.

Because I was always picked last. Or second to last.

Maybe that's why I'm compelled to root for the underdog.

Andrey is a classic example of an underdog. He is at a huge disadvantage in his country in Eastern Europe. He is considered inferior. He's weak and expected to be a loser.

Andrey has seen parents come, choose other children and leave. He's still waiting to be picked. He's an underdog and he's going down.

Andrey is already four years old. But, he can't sit up for long by himself anymore. He cannot stand anymore, even with help. He used to be able to do these things. He is regressing. His caregivers don't have time to work with him. They think he is a worthless imbecile.

This from Andrea, who spent several months volunteering at Andrey's orphanage:

"...Andrey is quite neglected at the orphanage. Because he doesn't really sit by himself, he spends pretty much all of his time alone in a big crib-like playpen. The workers compare him to the other children with DS and often say things like, "[Johnny] has down syndrome but he is smart, not like Andrey..." I have been
told that I was wasting my time with him and one day when Andrey & I were in the visiting room with [Johnny] & his parents the head secretary came by and told [Johnny's] parents that they had made the right choice..."
Andrey's caregivers are wrong. He is priceless. As the least of the very least, he is royalty in God's kingdom. The Underdog Prince Andrey! How we treat him and think of him is how we treat and think of our Lord.

Again, from Andrea:
"He is such a sweetheart, so cuddly and generally a content little guy...even just spending a couple hours a week with him, I saw a big change in him during the few months I had with him. He learned to pull himself up while holding my hands and started pulling himself up on the side of the crib whenever he saw me coming. He also became much more playful and interactive with me. He has a real sense of humour and would love to drop toys on the ground and make me pick them up again. He also thought it was very funny to take his booties off. He would wait 'till I turned my head, pull one off and then when I caught him he would laugh and laugh."
So why is this beautiful child sitting in an orphanage? I can't pretend to grasp the magnitude of pain and suffering in this world. It weighs me down at times. It crushes me at other times. However big the problem is, there is just no way that I can do nothing. How could I live with myself?

As bad as things are for Andrey, things may get worse when he is transferred to a mental asylum. By law, that is where he will go to live at a certain age, sometimes 4 or 5 years. This tiny boy who is losing his ability to even sit up will most certainly be assigned permanently to a crib. A tiny little jail cell for a tiny little inmate. Game over for my little underdog.

If he loses his ability to feed himself or hold a bottle he may be in real danger. Some children are tube fed at the baby houses, but I don't know about the institution. I feel that this precious boy is losing his will to live. He needs a yesterday!

I've tried, and miserably failed, to adequately convey the hopelessness and boredom the children with Down Syndrome and other disabilities suffer in the baby houses and asylums in Eastern Europe. Some things are not easy to put into words. Not simply because they are awful, but because I don't have the frame of reference to fully understand the things I witnessed.

The hopelessness is crushing and the boredom is not leisurely, it's brutal. I was reminded of this after finally reading The Boy from Baby House 10 this week. The book is an amazing true story. The first four chapters left me with my mouth hanging wide open. I could have sworn that the authors had been with me visiting Theo in the room for the "incurables."

Please, won't you help me help Andrey? Before he regresses any further? Before he is transferred to an institution? He absolutely must have a family if he is to survive and reach his potential.

The only thing standing in the way of Andrey finding a family is money. Of course. Children with large adoption grant funds get families sooner. It's just a fact.

In honor of the Underdog Prince Andrey, I'm going to give away my copy of The Boy from Baby House 10. I'll draw names from the chip-in on World Down Syndrome Day, March 21st. Names go in the hat once for every $5 gifted. Please consider a tax deductible gift of any size to Andrey's grant fund through the chip-in posted here: