Ashley's Orphans

Updated: 05/08/2014 10:44 PM
Created: 05/08/2014 4:31 PM

The stories she shares will break your heart, and inspire you.

Ashley Leisen is a 26-year-old nurse from Gilbert, who has spent a good part of her career already in a country that's half a world away.

She volunteers with the group Firm Foundation Romania. During her two trips there, she's cared for dozens of babies who have been abandoned.

"They love you as much as you love them. They appreciate all of the volunteers. Everyone forms bonds. They really do become your kids. No one else is responsible for them, so you kind of have to be," Leisen told us.

Many of the babies' parents can't afford to take care of them, so the children grow up in the Brasov Hospital. "If there are 30 babies there, I may only have 20 minutes a day of one-on-one time with them." 

Diapers and other needs are scarce. "The babies get changed three times a day."

The children are from Roma community, also known as the gypsy community. "They are still dealing with so much racism from the reign of Nicolae Ceausescu, who was a dictator for almost 30 years. Under his rule, he tried to build an army of children. When he was toppled, and eventually executed, 170,000 orphans were discovered.

"The children I take care of are the ripple effect of his regime," she explained.

We asked her how she can continue to volunteer, when the stories are sometimes so sad. "I feel like it's my responsibility, and our responsibility, to clean up the mess that's been left behind. These children are like our children and grandchildren. They have the same hopes and dreams."

Volunteers like Ashley need to pay for their own expenses, so her friends and community leaders have organized a fundraiser for her. She's planning on heading back in October, for a full year.

The rally for Ashley is coming up Friday, May 9th, at the Mt. Iron Community Center.  There will be food, music, auctions, and a presentation from Ashley.

For more information: 

Front Page

  • Proposal May Change Coverage For Hearing Device Used By Cloquet Baby

    A hearing system clipped to a pink headband is the only way a 10-month-old baby in Cloquet can hear. The device is currently covered by insurance, but Medicare is proposing to change its classification and coverage. The Dowell family is worried other insurance companies will follow.

  • Sheriff: Man Attacked Homeowner before Fatal Shooting

    Koochiching County Sheriff Brian Jespersen says a son who shot and killed an intruder was defending himself and his mother, who had been attacked by the man.

  • Update: Missing Hurley Man Found in Submerged Vehicle

    Police say the body of a Hurley man missing for nearly a month has been found inside his submerged vehicle. Duane R. Jussila, 74, was reported missing on July 5.  He had last been seen in Ironwood.

  • Former IRRRB Commissioner Gustafson Dies

    Jim Gustafson, who represented Duluth in the state Senate and headed the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board for seven years, died July 23 at the age of 75. During his tenure, Gustafson helped complete Giant's Ridge Golf Course, negotiated the Northwest Airlines ticket reservation center, and cut Ironworld's subsidy by $1 million.

  • Folks Getting Ready For Christmas in July

    It may be summer, but folks in Grand Rapids are getting ready for Christmas in July. Operation Christmas Child delivers shoe boxes full of goodies to kids around the world during the holidays. On Tuesday, people will get together at Grand Rapids Alliance Church to stuff shoe boxes and learn more about the project.