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A Sliver of Light

Posted Aug 19 2011 12:00am
**There are no pictures in the post which follows.  There are, however, pictures included in each of the links.  This story is not for the faint of heart.  The pictures are even harder to bear.  Please read through to the bottom, and click on the links if you want to know more.

My eyes sting.  It is hard to swallow or catch my breath.  And there's a pain in my chest that won't go away.  

I am heartsick.  Heartbroken.  And I don't even know if I can gather my thoughts to write about this in any coherent way.  As a parent who adores her children with Down syndrome (and as a person who understands that all people are the same within), I'm torn apart into tiny pieces.  But as an advocate, I know I can't shut down or turn away.  And I hope you won't either.

The many examples recently of disregard for people with Down syndrome--(read here , and here ) are hard to process and bear.

This most recent story, though--of a mother who has just traveled overseas to meet the child she intends to adopt, and found her little girl dying of neglect and starvation--is something I will never forget.

Susanna's story (Veronika's story, the story of the children no one wants) must be told and retold if we're ever going to have a chance at changing minds, and showing that all people have worth and deserve to be seen, and heard, and loved. 

How can a child that is nine years old, like Veronika, (or eleven years old, like Liliana ) weigh only ten pounds--literally skin and bones? I can hardly wrap my mind around it. 
There are many other children with special needs in this same building--at least 50, 17 of them with Down syndrome--wasting away, starving, alone and forgotten. They are so damaged from years of neglect, that many of them will not live to come home to a family. 
And while this is the worst example of neglect and mistreatment that most of us have heard, there are surely many more that have been hidden from view for far too long. 
No one has stepped foot inside many of the laying rooms that house children with special needs in the orphanages and mental institutions found all over Eastern Europe. The stories, from the few people who have been allowed access, are horrifying.
I have to believe that the people who are leading the charge to eliminate or hide people with Down syndrome from the world have never loved anyone with the diagnosis. 
People with intellectual disabilities are not disposable, or unfit to see the light of day. They have as much right to life, and to be treated with dignity and respect, as the rest of us.
We must speak up. We must act.
And this is where a story of heartache becomes a story of hope. One family's mission to save one little girl has become something much larger. When Susanna and her facilitator, Toni, made their way through the doors of the orphanage where Veronika lives, other hearts and doors began to open. 
As soon as word got out about the condition of the lost children in this Bulgarian orphanage, good things started happening. Liliana (which is her listing name, not her real name) now has a committed family, and enough money has been raised (over $23,000!) in the past 24 hours to cover her entire adoption.
And, there are at least four more families who have stepped forward to rescue a child from this orphanage.
To read more about the outpouring of love for these children, go here and here .  And then decide, what are you going to do?
*** Where there is love, there is light.

And where there is darkness, there is also light.

There need only be a tiny sliver of an opening

for the light to enter and reach all in its path...
***To read more of Veronika's story, please visit  Susanna's blog   
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