A Harlem High School senior is making it his mission each summer to help children who have been institutionalized in Romanian orphanages.
Ron Hickerson has spent several weeks in the past three summers visiting Romania with a mission team from his church, Curtis Baptist of Augusta. The church has teamed with Livada Orphan Care to serve orphans in Romania through camps and other projects during the summer.
"Our church has been going for about 10 years," said the 18-year-old, who is actively involved in the youth group at Curtis and helps lead the youth singing. "We have gone to the same part of Romania, but to a lot of different orphanages in the area."
According to the Children's Relief Network, Romania is known as the "land of the orphans" which is "largely due to the legacy of its former ruthless dictator, (Nicolai) Ceausescu and his wife. In his desire to build a large nation, Ceausescu wanted women to have at least five children. At the same time he robbed the people economically as he built his luxurious palace. Women gave birth to children they couldn't care for."
Today, according to the network, there are thousands of abandoned and orphaned children trying to survive on the street. Many die from starvation, disease and exposure to brutal winters.
Hickerson said this year's summer camp for the orphans was held in Vetca, a village about the size of Appling. During the weeklong camp, the orphans participate in arts and crafts, Bible verse memorization and other memory-making activities.
"Before I went to Romania, I figured out that God was calling me into some kind of ministry," said Hickerson, who serves as the chaplain of his school's Fellowship of Christian Athletes. "Romania just really reinforced that. My trips have changed the ideas of how I might serve."
"Ron is truly a student who sees the world as his community," said Patty Bradshaw, the chairwoman of the English department at Harlem High. "(He) could help our students and others in the surrounding counties see that life can be lived on a different, more selfless level."
Adversity is nothing new to Hickerson. His parents, Richard and Ronda Perrin, of Grovetown, are both deaf. Hickerson said he's had to deal with cruelty inflicted by others who don't understand what being deaf is about.
"It really makes me think about how important people are," he said of growing up in a home with deaf parents and his trips to Romania. "There are people out there who need help and who need to be loved."
"He just has a different and wonderful perspective about life and the issues that are really important," Bradshaw said.
Hickerson plans to major in English and journalism at Augusta State University after graduating. He also hopes to attend seminary "somewhere along the way."
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