In a story about Romanian relief efforts on yesterday's Style Plus page, Mary Zalar should have been identified as founder of Child Care Romania, U.S. (Published 1/30/91)
Two months to the day they viewed ABC-TV's "20/20" segment on the plight of Romanian orphans, Michael and Donna Ricci of Providence, R.I., were on a plane to Bucharest, required documents in hand, hoping to adopt.
"We had no idea what to expect," Michael said. "We knew only that we had to try and do something."
Nine days after their arrival, with the help of their "godsend," a 23-year-old Romanian college student they met in a hotel lobby and hired as their translator, the Riccis found the baby girl they were eventually to adopt.
Although 5 1/2 months old at the time, the baby weighed only 10 pounds. Her mother, desperately poor, was about to place her in an orphanage.
The Riccis had visited four orphanages before finding their daughter, whom they named Diandra Michaela, and had had their share of disappointments along the way. They had come close to adopting another baby, only to find that the mother who had abandoned it could not be located, a common problem for those wishing to adopt.
But their biggest problem lay ahead. Just as they found Diandra, the Romanian government suspended all adoptions. Michael Ricci, who owns his own landscaping business and works evenings in a restaurant, and Donna Ricci, a hairdresser, were suddenly lobbyists.
"We worked from 8 in the morning until 8 at night," Michael Ricci recalled. "We'd visit Senate offices in the morning and push them to pass a law, then go on to the Parliament in the afternoon."
Eventually, the Riccis prevailed. A new adoption law went into effect July 31. Three days later, they and their baby daughter were on a plane back to the United States.
With an 11-year-old son at home, the Riccis say it was the plight of the orphans, not a desire to have a child of their own, that motivated them. "Even before we found our daughter," Donna Ricci said, "we knew we had to do more. We made a vow we were going to help those kids."
The Riccis have established the Save the Lost Souls of Romania Foundation. They plan to return to Romania in June with a cargo plane or its equivalent filled with medical supplies, formula, diapers, toys and clothing for children from birth to age 3.
Michael Ricci said that because of Romania's black market, he will see to it personally that all items reach the children in need.
"In some of these places ... there was a locked room full of clothes or toys that had been donated for the kids, but the stuff just sat there. It wasn't handed out."
The Riccis said they currently are trying to get together a congressional delegation to go back to Bucharest with them.
"We want to open the adoption door a little wider," Donna Ricci said. "There are so many children in need of love and so many here who would love to give it."
Closer to home are two other relief efforts. Orphans Relief in Romania, a project of the American Friends of Romania, Inc., is concentrating on getting needed supplies to four orphanages in and around Bucharest. The effort is being organized by D.C. residents Diana Nicholson and Peter N. Nicholson, who was born in Romania and defected to the United States 12 years ago. Peter has found that nipples, diapers, syringes and medical supplies are most need, and already has a commitment for a major shipment of the latter from Dunhall Pharmaceuticals of Gravette, Ariz. Mary Zalar, an anesthesiologist at Sibley Hospital, spent about $45,000 of her own money on aid to the orphans before founding the nonprofit, a few months ago.
Zalar emersed herself in Romanian relief efforts after hearing Kate Lilly Jarvey, a founder of Child Care Romania, United Kingdom, who came to Washington last spring to garner support for the orphans. The two women traveled to Romania last June for a needs assessment and decided to "adopt" two orphanages and two hospitals, one of each in Bucharest and rural Vaslui. They returned there in August with about 30 volunteers from the United Kingdom, who completed sorely needed plumbing and electrical work at the facilities chosen. According to associate Ginger Wolfe of Potomac, now that the orphans' "comfort level has been elevated," Zalar is back in Romania determining what problems should be tackled next.
For further information:
Save the Lost Souls of Romania Foundation, P.O. Box 41043, Providence, R.I. 02940; 401-353-6715.
Orphans Relief in Romania, 202-966-1922 or 202-966-3921.
Child Care Romania, U.S., 9101 Potomac Station Lane, Potomac, Md. 20854.
The U.S. State Department has an eight-page fact sheet on Romanian adoptions and the documents required. For a copy, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Bureau of Consular Affairs, CA/OCS/CCS, Room 4817, Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520. There is also a special recording on Romanian adoptions for those with a touch-tone phone -- 202-647-3444.