Nowhere does this picture say that this little girl is clever (as her Russian-speaking caregiver said to us today in her best English), or determined, or strong, or sweet. Nowhere does it say that she is full of potential. She looks blank here.
And yes, she will blossom even more with the love of a family. But we are learning that if you could look below the surface of the photo on the left, you would she that she has been given opportunity here, and she's been cared for with good intention. Now that we are here with her in person, we can begin to see the whole picture. The picture below is the beginning of the story of her life outside the orphanage. The bleak, expressionless part of her life is fading away as her new life with a family begins.
We are grateful that someone picked up on Alina's value and potential. We do not know how she came to live with typical children, but we are grateful. She has been given a chance to grow and develop alongside children who unknowingly encourage her to reach higher and go farther than she would if she had been underestimated from the start.
We realize that Alina's situation might not be the norm, and while we are relieved that this is her reality, we are sad for all of the children who are not encouraged, who have less of a chance to reach their full potential...especially the ones without families coming for them.
This morning's visit was awesome! Alina (wearing the same green dress, new tights--red with ducks) came out ready to have her picture taken for her passport :). We were asked to play with her for a few minutes in the area by the lockers and wait for the photographer. A few of her caregivers speak a tiny bit of English--enough that, combined with gestures, we are able to understand (fairly) clearly what is being said to us. The staff are all very patient with us, and with Alina. They have allowed us to do most everything we have asked. We are keeping our requests simple and within reason, but they have indulged us when we have asked to take her to the music room, or to go outside, etc.).
Here is video of Alina eating lunch. The woman who was helping her to eat was really good with Alina--you can see in the video. We are so thankful to have been able to sit with Alina while she ate to see that her caregivers have been helping her and encouraging her, even though she needs extra assistance with eating. We know that it takes time and focus when both of those things can be in short supply with such a large group of children to watch over and care for.