Andrei loves swimming in the public pool. Splashing happily and giggling, Andrei flaps his arms as his swim teacher grins. Andrei’s mother stands by the pool too, all the while worrying that this may be Andrei’s last swimming lesson.
Andrei, 9, has Down syndrome. He is a happy child in a large Russian family that has very little money to go around. Most of his parents’ income goes to pay for his therapy and psychological help.
“I know that I give more of everything to Andrei and therefore the other children suffer,” says his mother. “But Andrei cannot function without therapy. His therapist insists that he go swimming as often as possible to help build up his sluggish muscles and develop his gross motor skills. This means I have to pay for a professional who knows how to teach children like Andrei how to swim safely.”
When Andrei isn’t at swim lessons or his special needs school, he spends time at home, which is little more than a shack with thin walls and a tin roof. When the weather is cold, the family’s house cannot be warmed up enough by the small wood burning stove. When it rains, the noise on the tin roof stops anyone from sleeping, talking, or relaxing in any way. The roof also leaks. Plastic buckets as well as pots are placed around the house to catch the drips.
They all cram into two rooms and have an outhouse and a metal tub in the backyard that they use as their bathroom. The industrious parents grow vegetables in a small garden in the yard which helps feed the children in the warmer months of the year.
“We all love Andrei for his heartfelt smiles and his cheerful nature,” says Andrei’s older sister, “but we know that he takes up all of our parents’ energy and money, leaving the rest of us children with very little. It is hard not to feel angry at him and the situation.”
When a Fellowship representative arrived at the door one afternoon with a food basket, the joy was palpable. The siblings enjoyed snacks and nourishing meals that they hadn’t had in a very long time. The representative handed the mother clothing vouchers for new warm clothing for the children.
“With the generosity of The Fellowship, we are now able to free up much-needed money to care for the basic welfare of all of our children. The burden is lifted, making our lives much more bearable, and giving us hope for a better tomorrow,” said Andrei’s mother with tears in her eyes.
The Fellowship will continue to support this family, as well as other Jewish families in need throughout the former Soviet Union, helping them out of poverty. And thanks to our wonderful donors who continue to give to these families in need, we hope that Andrei and his siblings learn that there is enough love to go around!