(E) St. Theresa's Orphanage
St. Theresa's Orphanage
Thank you for visiting -
Hello. My name is Sister Kristina Piskovic. I am the director of St. Theresas Orphanage in Zagreb, Croatia. Although the war is now over, our country is still feeling its after effects. Joblessness and poverty are common, especially among the young, and some unfortunate parents cannot provide for their children. Our government, which is still struggling in this "new economy" provides very little help, so we (the sisters), and the children, rely on our benefactors abroad.
Presently, we care for 35 children --- the youngest is a 3-month old boy and the eldest, a girl who has just graduated from secondary school. There is a lot of love here in our house, and a lot of happiness. The sisters are all young and we have the energy to love the children
like they were our own. We wish to make their childhood as nice and carefree as possible. We also try to heal the wounds left over from the war and from being abandoned by their parents. Children are the flowers of the world and they are the jewels of our nunnery.
As I stated, love and care is not a problem for us. But, a shortage of money is a major concern. Since our government does not help us very much, we rely very heavily on the good will of our friends so that we can continue our work. If you are willing to help us help the orphans,
we will be very grateful and we will include you in our every day prayers.
Thank you and may God Bless.
St. Theresa's Orphanage
Dom Sv. Terezije
Sister Kristina Piskovic
How To Give
The Campaign for Saint Theresa's Orphanage has no paid staff. Every penny raised goes directly into an account that is accessed only by the sisters who operate the orphanage. We respond to the needs of the orphanage as they arise. If the roof needs repair, we raise the money. If the children need clothing, we find the clothes and send them.
It's success depends on the commitment of volunteers and the generosity of those who can spare a few dollars. It's very simple: Our volunteers work hard. Our donors give generously. The children benefit.
The Campaign for Saint Theresa's is affiliated with the Croatian Council of Kansas City, your donation is tax-deductible. More importantly, it will do much to help the children of Croatia.
Please send your donation to:
Christ the King Catholic Church
Memo: St. TheresaÂ´s
c/o Don Wolf
3535 North 63rd Terrace
Kansas City, KS 66104
Croatian connection endures through years
By DAWN BORMANN The Kansas City Star - 2004
Ten years ago, Don Wolf didn't need to remind donors that the residents of Croatia needed a hand.
Newspaper headlines spoke for the Kansas City, Kan., man. The Balkan states were devastated by war. Croatia was left with burned-out homes, hospitals and schools. Refugees had no place to return.
Back then, Wolf went back to the country that his grandparents had emigrated from a century ago. He looked for ways to help.
"What could I do? I didn't think there was anything I could do. I was so far removed," he said to himself before his trip.
The professional photographer soon discovered that his pictures were the best way to humanize the story for Americans, who were eager to help.
But when the gunfire quieted and the bombing siege stopped, donations dried up. Years later, the problems linger, Wolf said.
The Croatian economy continues to struggle, crippled by inflation and riddled with unemployment. And Croatia has been denied access to the European Union and NATO.
Wolf's award-winning fundraising efforts have become considerably more difficult. Americans have refocused their efforts to other war-torn countries like Afghanistan and Iraq.
"The war is over. It's out of the front pages," he said. "People are tired of me."
When his work began, it was a different story.
Wolf started a non-profit group, the Croatian Council of Kansas City, and began writing to every American-Croatian organization he discovered. He scanned newspapers and magazines weekly, looking for potential donors. Slowly, Americans and many others began sending back the small church envelopes he had enclosed in each letter. The envelopes contained letters of encouragement and small donations.
He researched worthy causes in Croatia and with the help of a Croatian cousin found St. Theresa's Orphanage run by Catholic nuns. Wolf visited the orphanage to judge for himself. He found a building packed with mothers, fathers, families and orphans. In a laundry room, he discovered a mother and her six children who called the small area home.
At the time, deteriorated plumbing posed the biggest problem at the orphanage. So Wolf raised $25,000 and helped repair the pipes.
"I thought it was going to be the end of it. Then they needed medicine, baby food," he said. "Little by little, they needed a stove. They needed a washing machine."
Before he knew it, the tile roof needed to be replaced at the cost of $300,000. The Croatian government gave the orphanage $150,000 and Wolf launched a major campaign in America to come up with the balance. The photographer took snapshots of the children and sent pamphlets out across the country.
"By taking pictures of these kids, people see their faces," he said. "These aren't just statistics. These are real people."
Donations rolled in from Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, California, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Indiana, Florida, Texas and beyond.
"So then, now I think I'm all done," he said.
But his work, it seems, has only begun.
The orphanage building still suffers from years of neglect. The children bear the emotional trauma of war and abandonment. The nuns, whose mission has become more respected throughout the country, have started outreach programs to help pregnant mothers.
And the Carmelite sisters have another pressing request for Wolf.
"Mr. Wolf, this is a four-story building. We carry food up and down .we need an elevator," one of the nuns told Wolf.
The orphanage receives some help from the government, but the nuns depend on Wolf's fundraising work. There is little hope that the Croatian government could spare the money for the elevator, so without Wolf, the project is doomed.
"We rely on God's providence and we believe that he sent us Mr. Don Wolf. His love and care for us helps us to go on, to continue with helping and living for abandoned children in Croatia," said Sister Victoria Sanjkovic, who helps to run the orphanage.
At the orphanage, Wolf is well-known to the children. They call him Papa Wolf and send thank-you letters to him and every donor.
Wolf's work is followed closely by others as well. He has received numerous awards for his charity work and has earned the respect of many.
Wolf and his wife, Mary Wolf, have also led several tours for Americans with Croatian roots. The tours always include a stop at the orphanage, where Americans can see firsthand how their donations are used. The tours have inspired many others to lead similar trips through the country.
Last week, Wolf received a letter from Barb Perisin, a supporter from Joliet, Ill., who had just returned from a visit with a tour group. She told Wolf that visiting the orphanage was the most memorable stop on the tour. When it came time to leave, she said, "There wasn't a dry eye on board that bus."
The experience reinforced their decision to donate money to the orphans, Perisin told him.
"Everyone agreed that the money they gave was well worth it and that the nuns really need that elevator," she wrote. "I hope they will continue to get enough donations to make that dream possible."
Letters like Perisin's remind Wolf that the 20 to 30 minutes he dedicates to the charity each day are well worth his time.
"It's a joy. This is so fulfilling I can't explain it," he said. "It's almost like a mandate from God."
For many, the philanthropy is easy to support, considering that 100 percent of donations are directed to the orphanage. In order to pay for postage, Wolf sells a videotape that teaches the delicate art of preparing povitica bread. He also sells Christmas cards to benefit the children.
While the donations inside the church envelopes have grown smaller, there are still surprises, he said.
When he retires, Wolf will dedicate even more time to Croatia and the orphans. Still, he sometimes tells the Carmelite sisters that someday he will retire from the philanthropy business. Of course, he can't speak those words without flashing a bright mischievous smile. He knows leaving the orphanage isn't really an option.
"I asked the sisters, when can I quit? She said, 'When we do.'"
Contact Don Wolf: Wolf1936@aol.com