The corners of the storage rooms at the Educational Advance Inc. offices located on Schenkel Lane boast stacks of boxes, some housing computers, others waiting to be filled with blankets, shoes and other necessities.
To hear Linda Nallia describe it, only a month ago the building was stuffed with loaded boxes creating a maze when it came to navigating the office.
Linda Nallia, vice president of Education Advance Inc., and husband Bill Nallia, president of Educational Advance Inc., edit videos and provide other services from the offices.
While they create and edit video presentations for outside organizations such as the Kentucky Housing Authority and translate videos into languages to send to countries such as Russia, their primary focus, particularly Bill Nallias, is helping children who live on the streets in Romania.
"He really does have such a big heart," Linda Nallia said. "He has seen what they dont have and how they live."
How it started
Bill Nallias first experience with homeless children in Romania came as a videographer on a mission trip to the country 12 years ago.
He was drawn to the children and knew immediately he wanted to help them.
"I told Linda "weve got to do something for these kids," he recalled.
Nallia said the children were doing anything to survive, including prostitution, begging and stealing.
"Whatever it took to be able to make it," he said.
In 8, after several trips to the country, Bill Nallia created the Lonely Voices Childrens Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Frankfort with a mission to assist children living on the streets of Romania.
The foundation teamed up with the Bethel Foundation located in Romania; the two act as partners to meet the needs of the street children in the country.
Three full-time workers from the foundations walk the streets of the country providing food, clothing and medical attention to more than 2,000 homeless children.
In November Lonely Voices shipped 1,000 pairs of shoes, 1,600 pairs of socks and hundreds of blankets to the country before the harsh Romanian winter set in.
Donations to Lonely Voices come from organizations and individuals across three or four states Nallia said.
The shoes were made possible by a Dallas, Texas based organization called Buckner Orphan Care International Shoes for Orphans Souls, while personal hygiene supplies such as shampoo and insect repellent came from Avon.
Aside from meeting basic needs, the foundation builds facilities to house churches, schools and training programs in the hopes of educating the children so they may get jobs, flats (housing) and independence.
Nallia said Lonely Voices does a number of things to aid the long-term needs of children in Romania.
He said recently the foundation sent sewing machines to the country so full-time workers in the Lonely Voices and Bethel Foundations training center can use the machine to teach girls how to sew, which would make girls more marketable to Romanias booming garment production industry.
Donations of computers from the local organization, Salvation PC, allow Romanian children to develop skills in technology another way to make them more employable.
Another project Lonely Voices is participating in is developing a soccer league for the children.
"Were trying to get the children connected to something other than begging," he said.
According to Nallia, who visits the country one to three times each year, the street children are escapees from the countrys poor orphanage system, or sent away by parents unable to care for them, or runaways from abusers.
He said many of them slip into the sex industry, either as prostitutes or are sold to pedophiles as a way to make money. He said the children often form gang-like groups known as "surviving families" which leads to second and third generations of street children.
Lonely Voices main goal is to change these circumstances.
"We try to convince them that theres a better way," Nallia said. "Were able to turn some of them around."
Nallia recounts several success stories during the foundations eight-year span, including that of a 14-year-old girl who was wrongly jailed but now at age 16, is free, has a job and mentors other street children as a spokesperson for the foundation.
Another tale of success comes from a small village in Romania. Nallia said five years ago children would run nude during warm months and only three people in the 3,000-citizen village could read.
"I was blown away when I walked into that village," he said.
Through Lonely Voices, Nallia was able to build a school building and provide clothing to the children.
"The turnaround has just been amazing," he said.
Now more than three people can read.
"When Im there, they love to demonstrate to me they can read," he said.
A few obstacles
He said the Romanian government makes it difficult to provide housing to children, especially at the already established Bethel Shelter, because officials are more concerned about keeping up a good image, rather than helping the children.
"The government doesnt want us to do anything that would encourage street children," Nallia said.
But, he added, through the work of the foundation the children are able to get jobs and become taxpayers, which in turn benefits the government.
Despite issues with the government, Nallia said the biggest challenge is funding.
"Were always short on money," he said.
But a lack of funding wont stop Nallia, whose desire to help children stems from working in education for three decades.
"The deep rooted concern is from being an educator for 30 years and seeing how poor some kids are," he said. "Everything I do day-to-day is something that will enhance Lonely Voices efforts with these children."
Nallia said he was called to be a missionary to Romania.
"Knowing the value of education, being born into an extremely poor family, the thing that pushes me more than anything else is my faith," he said.
Linda Nallia said she stays behind the scenes while her husband follows his mission.
"He said in his lifetime he wants to help others," she said.
Larry Cave, who sits on the board of directors for Lonely Voices said Bill Nallias focus is what makes the foundation successful.
"Hes a very focused Christian," Cave said. "Hes a very humble gentleman."
Cave said while the organization faces many difficult obstacles, Nallias leadership and faith would enable it to continue doing work to serve the children of Romania.
"Obviously, the road is long, the mission is tough, theres a lot of needs we cant get to yet," Cave said.
Nallia said he doesnt worry about the near impossible task of reaching all of the thousands of children living on Romanian streets.
"We just accept the basic premise one child at a time," he said.