Ann Hassan, Spence-Chapin’s Humanitarian Aid Coordinator, posts her second report on a staff visit to Chisinau, Moldova.
As we entered the Municipal Children’s Home in Chisinau, which has had a Granny Program since 2005, we walked into an autumn festival! The room was decorated with leaves, branches and fruits of the harvest. It was beautiful, welcoming and also playful—as the decorations were interspersed with children’s artwork. The decor also included folk elements which captured the essence of traditional Moldovan culture. The day kicked off with a well-orchestrated performance by the grannies and children together. The emcee was one of the original grannies who has been with the program since its launch. She was dressed in a traditional costume featuring a beautiful hand-embroidered blouse and vest, with a long skirt and sash in bright colors. As the children marched into the room, we were delighted to see that many of them were also wearing traditional outfits.
Each group of children had center stage for its presentations—songs, dancing, poetry and games. The performances were so engaging that we couldn’t help humming and clapping to the music. Milena Kazakov, the coordinator for our adoption programs in Moldova and Bulgaria, and I were even able to put our Balkan folk dancing lessons to use, as we were beckoned to join the circle of dancing children and grannies. A staff member’s accompaniment on the accordion kept the energy and spirit upbeat. The way the children watched their grannies as they performed together was a clear visual testament of the bonding that has occurred between them and that is helping the children make developmental progress. We were moved to see how the staff, grannies and children worked seamlessly together in preparing this celebration in our honor. Before the children went to their rooms for a nap, they gave us pictures made of their handprints as keepsakes of our autumn celebration.
Afterwards, we were treated to a delicious traditional meal including placinta and an intricate round bread with designs of leaves and birds—homemade by some of the grannies. At the end of the feast, there were speeches. The psychologist who supervises the Granny Program on site gave a summary of how it has been working, which perfectly reflected the concept of the Granny Program. Then the grannies shared stories about how happy they are to be a part of the program and some of the special interactions they have had with their children. The Director spoke eloquently about how much she values the collaboration between her children’s home and Spence-Chapin.
With the official business of the day behind us, we were all connecting and communicating with smiles, gestures and the occasional Moldavian word that we had picked up during the day. Dr. Maria, director of the children’s home, brought me one of the displays as a token gift—a gourd decorated as a snake by the children. I loved it and wanted to take it home with us to New York. One of the grannies put it into a box, and the others spontaneously began adding things—fall leaves, apples, branches, and even the bird from atop the round bread. Until there it was…a box brimming with love and appreciation. We were moved by what this box represents, and the idea that both parties in this long collaborative relationship give just as they receive. Stay tuned to find out whether we are able to get the box through customs…we hope to share the generous spirit of our Moldovan friends with everyone at Spence-Chapin in New York.