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Radu and Marius' Story: What literacy can do for children in institutions

Children belong in families,
not orphanages
Children's Voices

Radu and Marius' Story: What literacy can do for children in institutions

We could (almost) grasp the challenges faced by a poor Romanian family with five children when they learned their newborn twin boys had cerebral palsy.

But can we, in our developed world of medical and social care, begin to imagine the parents anguish when doctors advised that the only way they could ensure the twins would be cared for and educated was to give them up to an institution for children designated “impossible to recuperate”?

Radu and Marius’* parents did as the doctors said when their boys were a year old, and did not see them again for 17 years. In 2001, the young men moved to a family-style “small group home” in the community where, within months, they had begun to read and write. When they turned 18, Radu was asked if he was happy. He said, “I am… but what we really want is to see our mum and dad. Could you help me write to them?”

With support, Radu wrote: “Dear Mummy and Daddy, we love you and we miss you very much”, then posted his first ever letter. Within days, their parents came to visit for an emotional reunion, which led to the boys returning to live with them.

Their story tells us about the desperate sacrifice so many parents around the world feel compelled to make, based on the false promise of education or healthcare. The Romanian twins are now embraced by their family. They have jobs and are fully part of their community. But no child should have to wait so long for an education and no family should have to pay such a price.

*All names have been changed

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