My name is Heidi, I am a Registered Nurse from BC, Canada. I am currently nearing the end of my third trip back to Romania volunteering with FFR.

The first time I came to Romania I started volunteering with the hospital project. I remember holding one particular baby (I could even tell you what crib she was in) and looking deeply into her eyes and knowing that this is exactly where I belonged. The unexplainable feeling of only being able to connect in the purest form of human connection had me overwhelmed with love. I didn’t know It was possible to feel the emotions that I did. When it came time to leave, I knew I had left pieces of my heart and soul behind in Romania. Part of me would always live there.

Returning home all I could think about were my days in the hospital. I had so many sleepless nights where I lost hope and felt a lack of purpose staying in Canada. On impulse, I booked my next trip to Romania. This is where I started spending time at the orphanage.

Here is where I’ve had my favourite parts as a volunteer. The orphanage is challenging in so many ways. You have to expect a tough audience. Due to their medical conditions many of the children are limited in their responses . But my goodness when you see a smile, get a giggle , or see vacant eyes brighten for even a moment… every single thing is worth it. Every tear , heartbreak and sleepless night. There is a saying I love; “How wonderful it is that we laugh because our bodies cannot contain our joy.” Those moments are what will always bring me back. However, I’d be lying if I claimed there are only moments of joy here.

Often times, when I return home, I get asked by very well meaning family members and friends about my trip. I can’t blame them for their comments but often times their questions bring me so much sadness.

“Your trip must of been so fun playing with babies.”

“I bet it was hard not to take them home.”

Coming home always slaps reality in my face. I’m confronted with the lack of awareness of Romania’s complex history. I’m reminded of the closure of international adoption. A dream I’ve had ever since my first visit.

Of course, there are so many joyous moments I can hardly contain my happiness. I somehow, in this life, have had the privilege to share a smile or laugh with these children. But there are also equal amounts of heart wrenching moments. The moments that leave me questioning the world and my own strength. The parts that are important, but I don’t talk about it. I can’t. I am consumed with grief, loss, and guilt when I return home. I feel isolated and alone with my thoughts. It’s lonely. My heart doesn’t feel like it’s at home. Home will always be holding a hand, rocking a baby in my arms, singing softly, and sharing silence when there is nothing to be said but only feelings to be felt.

I have so much hope for the future. I see so much light breaking through. The strength of these babies and kids hold me high when my hope falters. Seeing these kids grow up and getting to be even a small part of their lives is an absolute privilege I’ll never take for granted.

Until next time.

All my love,

Heidi