The Neglected

Andrei, 10, looks up without seeing. He was born blind. At the orphanage the most common diagnoses are autism, Down’s syndrome and epilepsy. Most of the inhabitants at the orphanage were born with their disabilities and have grown up in the institution. The oldest is 40 years old, the youngest a newborn child. Photo: Mikkel Hørlyck.

STILL PICTURE STORY by Mikkel Hørlyck – made during a third term reportage workshop at DMJX in the fall 2016.

The orphanage in the city of Orhei in Moldova is the residence of some 200 boys and men, who are physically or mentally disabled. Moldova is the poorest country in Europe, and poverty is the main reason that many parents are forced to surrender their kids to orphanages. Common for most of the boys is that they lack the care and attention of a family, which is crucial to their emotional development. The Moldavian government wants to shut down the country’s orphanages and place the boys in foster care. But this policy is only slowly being implemented due to lack of initiative and funding.

Petru, 23, spends most of his day with his eyes shut, while blocking his ears with his hands. Often he yells loudly and hits himself. Petru is out getting fresh air during one of the daily trips around the premises. Suddenly, he stands up, opens his eyes and looks up into the sky. Photo: Mikkel Hørlyck.
In Group 3 there is commotion. They are walking up the stairs to the house while attempting to steal each other’s hats. The boys at the orphanage are separated into 18 groups, consisting of 8 to 14 boys and men. One or two female social workers are associated with each of the groups. ‘Mama’, the boys in Group 3 call their favorite social worker. Photo: Mikkel Hørlyck.
There is a show in the theater room. The boys have been helped into the room, where they have been put in long, straight lines. Due to the financial costs, entertainment events are only arranged a couple of times a year. Today’s spectacle, hired by the orphanage, is a circus clown. Photo: Mikkel Hørlyck.
The social workers wake the boys up from their naps in order to dress them before dinner. They work 12-hour shifts. The lack of time and number of boys in every group doesn’t give them enough time and energy to provide sufficient care and pay enough attention to the boys. Because the orphanage must cut back on expenses next year, the situation will most likely stay the same. The cost-cutting will hit the staff the hardest, since the amount of social workers assigned to each group will be lowered. Photo: Mikkel Hørlyck.
Once a week the boys are taken to their weekly haircut. Adrian, 17, and the other boys from Group 17 are known at the orphanage for having the toughest disabilities. It hurts, when the hairdresser tries to cut Adrian’s hair. Photo: Mikkel Hørlyck.
Most of the boys never receive visitors. Marius, 12, is lucky. His parents have come to visit this Friday. They have brought homemade strawberry mash and sit down on a bench below a tree. Marius’ dad, Grigore, fetches his cane and takes Marius, who suffers from autism, by the hand. Together they dance, until Marius falls into his father’s arms. Grigore suffers from multiple sclerosis; therefore Marius’ mother is the only one providing for the family and their three children. That is why the parents had to put Marius in the orphanage six years ago. Photo: Mikkel Hørlyck.
Between the daily routine of meals, naps and walks, the boys stay in the common room assigned to each individual group. Some sit, others stand. The Moldavian government wants to shut down the country’s orphanages and place the boys in foster care. By doing so they hope to place the boys in families who can teach them how to lead an everyday life and learn daily routines such as brushing their teeth before going to sleep. But this government policy is only slowly being implemented due to lack of initiative and funding. Photo: Mikkel Hørlyck.