THE LOST CHILDREN
With both hands they puDed our faces
to theirs, kissing our cheeks and mouths
like long-lost cousins. They were hungry
for food and love, so we didn't stop them.
At the same time, a potent, paint-like
smell made us gag.
They covered their noses and mouths
with plastic bags blown up like balloons,
then inhaled the toxic air inside. The bags
were filled with a silvery paint called
Orlac. They call it glue, and it numbs their
All of the kids got high. Some did it
openly. Others hid it inside their shirts or
coats. Some sniffed their hands and clothes
where the strong smell of paint lingered
long after their bag was hardened and
We resorted to games, swinging some
ofthe smaller kids in circles. Two of the
teenagers on the trip gave out candy. The
street kids shared cigarettes found in the
trash while waiting their turn. The games
and Tootsie Rolls seemed odd in the
darkness of the train station.
VanDenBerg returned to the station
every night, with fewer and fewer volun-
teers, checking on the street kids, becoming
a friend. Instead of facing the street kids at
night, many team members chose to work
at the Forget-Me-Not Foundation during
the day, building an addition that will
house four more kids from the streets.
"I feel split in half," said VanDenBerg,
who has his own business as a carpenter.
"When I come back home, part of me is
still over there. I've not been myself."
He gets attached to the street kids. Their
tough life makes America seem indulgent
and empty, he said.
The foundation houses 24 street chil-
dren. Using their own pig farm, the staff
teaches the kids agricultural skills sought
after in Romania.
Claudiu Pietrosaneanu, the foundation
manager, makes weekly visits to the streets.
He grew up in Brasov and knows the
name and situation of every kid."We
started to notice the street kids right after
the revolution in 1989," he wrote in an e-
mail. "It became a major problem in the
early 1990s." People at the foundation don't
think it's getting any better. "They grow
up on the streets and don't get any educa-
tion of any kind except to stretch out their
hand in the hope that somebody will meet
that hand with a penny," Pietrosaneanu
wrote."The government has no real plan
to address this issue."
Under the city, a series of tunnels hold
sewage and water pipes. The water pipes
are hot, making the tunnels a warm place
to sleep in the winter. Climbing into a
tunnel one day, we saw fleas, vomit and
feces from the children. The kids said rats are
common, too. But the main threat is disease.
Inside, six kids and an older man with
a mustache looked up through the man-
hole into the overcast midday sky to look
for a fanUliar voice. Pietrosaneanu asked
for Marion, the 17-year-old brother of a
boy who lives at the foundation. A year
in this issue
article text for page
< previous story
next story >
Share this page with a friend
Save to “My Stuff”
Subscribe to this magazine