I volunteered over the past year at an institution for children with severe disabilities. Each day I had the privilege to spend time with the children who live there and the staff. I was able to get to know the children’s individual personalities, and the specific activities that each of them enjoyed. I experienced indescribable joy, through seeing a two-year-old sit and crawl for the first time, hearing the “singing” of a non-verbal teen who loved to experiment with his voice, and being pulled by the hand down the hallway with an energetic little girl who always stopped to look at us in the mirror on the way past. I also experienced indescribable sadness, through holding the hand of a young girl who daily cried out in pain, leaving a room while knowing it could very likely be the last time I was able to kiss a boy whose health was quickly slipping away, and locking eyes with a child that I knew had so much potential but was limited by their life circumstances. Through every experience, I remain truly thankful for each moment I shared with the children.

A few months ago, I was asked for ideas on a name for this volunteer program at the children’s institution. I suggested The Starfish Program.

The Starfish story has always been one of my favourites, and one of the things that has inspired my work with children with disabilities in Romania. On a daily basis, I’m overwhelmed by the number of children at the institution and their many needs. I often wonder how I can possibly meet any of their needs or make a lasting change in their quality of life. The Starfish Story’s premise of “It made a difference for that one,” reminds me that the time I spend with even one child that day makes a difference. Even though the task may seem daunting and simply too much, any act of love, no matter how big or small, can have a significant impact in a child’s life. Add to that the power of God, and anything is possible!

Erin Patton