Marcy McHenry is an adoptive parent and long-time volunteer for Carolina Adoption Services. She has served on our Board of Directors, Family Engagement Committee, and helped with our events. Marcy has been the coordinator for our Moldova Student Sponsorship Program for several years, and this summer she finally had the opportunity to visit with the students in Moldova. We are excited to share Marcy’s reflections on this special trip, along with photos from her visit.
After many years of working with the Carolina Adoption Services’ Moldovan Sponsorship program, I was so excited to finally meet some of the students and see a little of Moldova in person. My daughter Mariana and I only had about 48 hours in Moldova, but we made the most of every waking hour!
It didn’t start out so great when the Customs Inspector wanted to confiscate my large suitcases full of gifts for the students, but thankfully, Angela talked them down and they allowed me to bring them into the country. Angela and her husband Anatol (who served as our driver and enthusiastic travel partner during the two days) whisked us off from the small Chisinau airport to meet up with a few of our students for our first Moldovan experience. I had asked to see a school and dormitory of some of our students so to have a better idea of their lives. In typical Moldovan style, my daughter and I were greeted at the University we were to tour by one of our students, Valentina Racitscaia, with a kiss on both cheeks and a bouquet of flowers for each of us. Pavel Gutu spearheaded the tour of the Technical University of Moldova and we were also joined by Victor Organ and Artur Tiutiunicov (a former student in our program). Along with the school’s dean, we toured the one building of classrooms and workshops, and learned about the course of study and how the students spend their day.
Later that day, we also toured a dormitory where some of our students live. We were told that this dorm was the nicest of the dorms, where the most accomplished students to reside. It was a 12 story building, a traditional hallway style dorm, with two-room suites that shared a bath. For an extra fee, students can live in the building over the summer. In the room that we visited (Valentina’s), four girls shared a room, a small closet, and each had a small nightstand for storage. I inquired about a stack of shallow tubs stacked under the bathroom sink shared by the 6 suitemates and was told they were used by the girls to take sponge baths when there was no hot water, and that they would use their hotpots to heat the water. Apparently, lack of hot water is a fairly frequent occurrence, and the hot water heater is not turned on in the summer. Valentina’s suite shared a small refrigerator where the students keep their own food. There was also a kitchen on each floor with two stoves/ovens, sinks and two washing machines. Balconies, windows and rooms are used to dry their clothes.
After our visit to the University, we zipped off to the Cricova Winery and were thrilled to be joined by Pavel and Valentina for our tour. On our way from Chisinau to Cricova, I very much enjoyed getting a closer view of the rolling hills of the Moldovan countryside, memorably dotted by sunflower fields and lines of walnut trees along the roads. Cricova is an amazing place – 75 miles of underground roadways storing wine in barrels and bottles in underground caves carved out in the 15th century.
The next morning, after my daughter and I enjoyed lovely breakfast in a café outside of our hotel, we gathered our many bags of gifts and walked only a couple of blocks to the restaurant where the student luncheons are held. The students trickled in and out, as many had summer jobs they were coming from or going to this summer. Although many were unable to attend, I was thrilled to speak to each one there about their lives, with the help of Angela’s translating skills. There were a few students who spoke enough English as to carry on a conversation with my daughter (much to her delight!) while Angela and I made our way around the table.
I was so impressed with these kids and how hard they were working to make a good life for themselves. I found that the living conditions of the students vary, some live in dorms, some with family members (one student shared an apartment with 8 siblings!), some in apartments with other students, and some in boarding homes. I was also quite moved to see the bond that this program creates for the student participants. It was clear that many supportive friendships have developed as a result of this program. Needless to say, Angela and I were both in tears when at the end of the luncheon, Artiom Cojevnicov stood up and, in English and on behalf of all of the students, sweetly thanked us, the sponsors and the program for everything we ALL have done for them. Our time with the students was sadly over, but not before gifts were given and few more photos were taken, some with the students donning said gifts!
After the luncheon, Mariana and I, escorted by Angela, Anatol, and their sweet little daughter Lina, enjoyed another gorgeous summer day of sightseeing, leaving Chisinau and visiting the Milestii Mici underground wine cellars (the largest underground wine cellar in the world!) and the incredible Orheiul Vechi Cave Monastery. Most memorable was the traditional Moldovan music we enjoyed while tasting the fabulous wine at Milestii Mici. The next day we toured Chisinau a bit before returning to Bucharest to begin our Romania Ties tour, once again escorted and assisted to the airport by our wonderful friends and host. A sad farewell to them and to Moldova – I hope to return someday!
What a moving two days– to get a small taste of the lives of our students and the beautiful country of Moldova! I am beyond thankful for the opportunity for my daughter and me to have had this experience, and to Angela and Anatol for all they did to make it happen. Although I know that many of you sponsors have traveled to Moldova before, I hope that my description of my visit and the photos help you experience (or re-experience) the country and understand our students a bit better. But most of all, I hope that this account reinforces what an impact your support and this program has on the lives of these kids. My time there with these special people will forever be a cherished memory.
Read the full Moldova Sponsorship Newsletter for news of the students.