A few weeks ago I shared a video about Stella’s House, a home for vulnerable teenagers in Moldova. The video is worth posting again, as it sets up today’s interview with Melody Cameron, the mission director at Stella’s Voice.
If you were to describe Moldova in 5 words, what would they be?
Broken, Forgotten, Changing, Potential, Promise.
It seems that many children in Eastern European orphanages experience abuse and neglect while they are there. You would think that orphanage workers would be there because they want to love – not abuse – so why is the trend the exact opposite?
In Moldova, orphans comprise a caste all their own. Living in the poorest country in Europe, the unhappiest nation on the planet, amongst the highest alcoholic population of the world, they are the lowest of the low… a despised section of a broken society, a nuisance, and a burden. When an entire nation is struggling just to survive, there is no place for niceties and generosity of heart or resources.
I would dare say many of the workers in the orphanage workers aren’t interested in children at all, but are simply working for the money. Moldova has astronomical unemployment recorded anywhere between 65-80%, so they work for a job, not because they are passionate about what they do.
Plus, I would imagine when you have no control over your life, but are instead controlled by hunger and desperation and the need to exist, when you find something as easy to control as a young vulnerable orphan with no one to vouch for them, you would take advantage of the situation in order to have some semblance of power.
Having said all that, though, there exist teachers who truly do care for the kids in Moldova’s orphanages and want to help and teach them. When we took over the running of a village orphanage this past year, we went to the kids who grew up under the supervision of the teachers there and asked their opinion of the workers. Were they good to the kids, did they care about their schooling, were they interested in their well being?
Many of the kids told stories of verbal abuse, physical abuse and drunkenness on the part of the teachers while at work at the orphanage . But amongst those were stories of good as well, and we hired those who truly cared for the kids and informed those who didn’t why they were not returning to work under the ‘new management.’ For the kids that grew up subjected to those horrible situations, it must be retribution for the teachers’ years of cruel actions.
Poverty is the number one reason for girls anywhere in the world being trafficked. They are seeking a way to support themselves and their family. Because there is no work to be had in Moldova, they must find work elsewhere. There is so much potential for bogus agencies and organized criminals to take advantage of that fact. Broken family situations, due to alcoholism and poverty make way for parents or other family members to sell their own girls to traffickers as well. And to add to the situation, Moldovan women are considered some of the most beautiful in the world.
Around 70 girls have come to live in Stella’s House since it’s beginning in 2006. When they come to stay at Stella’s, they MUST go to school. Some stay for a year, some four years, and some even longer. We do not limit how long they are with us, but they stay until they complete their studies and are able to support themselves. Also, we now we have a home for boys, called Simon’s House, which currently holds fifteen. When our next two homes are completed, they will house an additional fifty girls.
Is there a particular success story that motivates you to keep going?
All of the girls living in our homes are success stories. The fact that they have the capacity to love and be part of a family despite all the things they have experienced is incredible. But beyond that, a large part of them are focusing their studies in order to continue the work of Stella’s House: they are becoming architects, interior designers, lawyers, teachers, journalists so that they can help other girls and boys like them. That, to us, is the epitome of success. You can’t ask for more than that.
What project or initiative of yours can people support today, and why is it important?
There are thousands of orphans that need someone to give the opportunity of family, education, love, and hope. Our vision and dream is to have enough Stella’s and Simon’s Houses for each of the 12,000 orphan Moldovan girls and boys to come once they are forced out of the orphanage. We have the solution to keep them from being trafficked across the world, we just lack the funds to build and maintain enough homes to make it happen. Each home costs $500,000 to build and furnish and $15,000 per month to keep going. We provide EVERYTHING for the teens under our roof. Bus money alone for getting the kids to school costs us $3,000 per month.
This summer, a group of our girls are traveling with us across the country telling their stories and how Stella’s House has saved their lives. We are hoping, by the end of summer, to have raised the $1,000,000 needed to build our third and fourth homes. We also have registries at Target and WalMart with furnishings and linens for the homes.
Stella’s House was started to give girls somewhere safe to come once they left the orphanage. But it has evolved into so much more than that. We teach girls simple things like housekeeping and cooking, which they never learned growing up in an orphanage. They never used microwaves, stoves or vacuum cleaners before they came. Furthermore, they are learning that physical abuse is not normal and NOT acceptable, although it is considered so in Moldovan culture. They are finding self worth, purpose for their life, and compassion for others as well.
We truly believe that the girls of Stella’s House, and the boys from Simon’s House will change the face of the nation. One by one they will affect the people they come in contact with and leave their mark in the world they live. It is such an honor and privilege to be a part of the miracle that is taking place, and we want others to be a part as well!
Thanks so much Melody for sharing your important work and inspiring vision with us! And thank you Philip for facilitating the info for this interview so I could get it up quickly. It is great to know that there are people in Moldova loving, serving, and helping those who most need it.
Wanna support these amazing people are doing? Learn more about Stella’s House here. There are some cool ways to get involved:
- View the summer tour dates and attend an event
- Purchase something for Stella’s House off the registry
- Buy a T-shirt
- Make a donation