The seeds of Chi Rho were planted in 1992, when one of our founders visited a Romanian orphanage with the international relief agency, World Vision. What we saw broke our hearts.
Romania’s orphan crisis began during the country’s Communist era in the 1950s. Under Dictator Nicolai Ceausescu, women were pressured to have at least five children to sustain an envisioned industrialized economy. At the same time, government austerity measures led to extreme shortages in food, fuel, medicines, and energy.
For women and families who couldn’t support their children, the government encouraged them to turn children over to state-run orphanges and hospitals. Tragically, poor health practices in Romania at the time led to the highest rates of pediatric HIV cases in all of Europe. Children who contracted HIV, or had mental or physical disabilities, were considered unworthy of care and put into institutions with no heat, no running water, and poor sanitation.
Under the weight of too few resources and an economy that never materialized, the system collapsed. In its wake, thousands of children were left as virtual prisoners in horrific living conditions. Most experienced abuse from caretakers, and many died of dehydration and malnutrition.
After the fall of the Communist party in 1989, Western relief agencies poured into the country’s overcrowded hospitals and orphanages. One agency – World Vision – mobilized support from the United States, Great Britain, and Romania to address the crisis. Chi Rho was later founded by a group of Americans who aimed to assume complete responsibility for one orphanage, called Post Cura 3. After taking it over, the founders renamed it the House of New Life.