Valeria spent her first few days at the Phoenix Centre quietly and by herself. Before the opening of the Centre, she did not have many opportunities to interact with other children in the community. She spent most of her life confined to her home, much like the majority of wheelchair-bound children in Moldova. She had some issues with speaking when we first met her, and now you can easily understand her, and she's even learning English. However, the change in her personality since her arrival has been dramatic and wonderful. Just within few months since Opening Day, Valeria has made remarkable improvement in her daily life. She smiles and sings songs with the other children and has a truly infectious laugh that quickly spreads to everyone in the room. Through weekly physical therapy, Valeria has made improvements in walking and hand-eye coordination. She can now be seen carefully crafting beautiful pieces of art or dancing along to her favorite songs. She is a bright light on even the most difficult days, and her bubbly personality certainly helps the other Phoenix Centre children get through their therapy and educational sessions.
Alexandru spent most of his life prior to the Phoenix Centre in his bed, staring at the world through a small window in his room. He is physically unable to walk and until recently did not have access to a wheelchair. Though he was able to move about in his yard and his house, he was unable to attend school or play with children in his neighborhood. The Phoenix Centre has helped him to overcome many difficulties. Today, Alexandru has made incredible strides in his daily life. He sings, dances, completes mathematics exercises, and even has started learning English phrases! He is always playful and has a wonderfully big heart. He is eager to learn new things and meet new people. Alexandru possesses an unbreakable positive attitude and a drive to constantly improve himself. He no longer merely witnesses the world through his window. Alexandru is a part of the world and will go on to accomplish great things!
Vadim is a 17 year-old boy with Down Syndrome. When he first arrived to the Phoenix Centre, he could not speak, dress or wash himself. Most of these struggles were a result of years of being ignored and isolated in his home and community. Now Vadim has become the big brother to the children in wheelchairs by helping them move around the Centre. In fact, he will not leave the building until everyone else has been wheeled outside! With speech and language therapy Vadim is even saying "Mama," his first word! Vadim never had an opportunity for education, so in November we challenged asked Vadim, who draws lovely pictures, to start learning the alphabet. In March, he proudly displayed an alphabet all the way to the letter "O," and he has been practicing every day in the hope that he will learn to communicate through the written word. .His passions are drawing, tennis, dancing, and lately he has been pretending to play guitar during the concerts and performances of other children.
Lilian, 10, was a very timid child his first visit to the Phoenix Centre. He stayed in his small wheelchair and did not make any effort to play or talk with the Centre’s staff or other children. When he did leave his chair, he could only crawl on his hands and knees to move from place to place. Lilian also had difficult grasping with his hands and feeding himself. He has grown so much in only a short period of time. Lilian has daily physical therapy sessions with Phoenix Centre staff and has seen dramatic improvement in his well-being. Today, Lilian can be seen walking with the assistance of a staff member whereas before such a task would have been impossible.
Natasha, 17, came to the Phoenix Centre with her hands permanently affixed together and her head hung low. She did not interact with other people and if she did it was through strained and halting speech and even then it was never more than a few words. She struggled to sit up by herself and participate with teachers, assistants, and other children. Only six months have passed, and the difference we see in Natasha today is night and day. Now through daily physical activity with the Phoenix Centre team, Natasha can sit by herself. She claps along to songs, motions to people and objects, and can even grasp small items and move them with limited difficulty. When she enters a room, Natasha will light up with her big smile and offer a welcome. She now sits up and carries on conversations with people and will gladly challenge you to a game of checkers, and probably win!
Oleg, 15, arrived at the Phoenix Centre already with an established personality. He is a showman and a very talented singer with a desire to entertain. However, Oleg was all but confined to his specialized wheelchair. He had never taken a step on his own and was ultimately resigned to staying in his chair due to his physical limitations. Today, with a helping hand and sturdy shoulder, Oleg can take independent steps and even climb stairs. He has a commanding laugh that will echo throughout the halls of the Phoenix Centre and an encyclopedic knowledge of all Moldovan folk songs. During every Phoenix Centre celebration, Oleg will be the first to volunteer a song or poem. The physical therapy sessions have encouraged Oleg to exercise his arms more and strengthen his legs. Though it will be a difficult journey with a lot of tiring physical activity, Oleg will do so with a song in his heart and a smile on his face.