Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bucuresti: August 1-22, 2011

"For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works and that my soul knows very well" Psalm 139:13-14

It has been a month since my last update and it is my last night in Europe; thus I decided it was due time to share with you my August adventures! Before coming to Romania I had been in contact with my friend Lili who somehow talked me into traveling to Bucuresti. Over the past 12 years, Bucuresti is the one city in Romania that I seem to continually resist going to; yet over the past few years, it has also been the place where God has revealed to me His presence, His hope and His mighty works. This year was no exception! Quite honestly, my last few months in Romania had been discouraging and I was ready to come home by the end of July. However, I knew that God had called me to go to Bucuresti and I had already commited to doing some trainings there, so I knew I needed to stay. I am so glad I did! The 3 weeks I spent there were not only emotionally and spirtiually invigorating, but also reminded me of my passion to not only reach out to children with disabilities, but also to equip and empower parents and caregivers. I was blessed with the opportunity to work alongside 3 very different charities: Don Orione, FARA and Inimii Deschise/Children to Love.


Lili and Ariana, 2 of my dear friends in Bucuresti, began working at Don Orione, an Italian Catholic charity, this past year and had invited me to come help them create a special "sensory" room as well as to provide some training on sensory processing. Lili has an amazing testimony that truly challenges me, thus it was impossible to not want to come and help her. Don Orione is located about 45 minutes from Bucuresti in a town called Voluntari. The center is home to 18 children with disabilites and 50+ elderly people. The children were all rescued from state-run orphanages, where their chance of developing was quite slim, and brought to a place where they receive love and lots of stimulation. The center has music therapists from Italy, "donkey therapy" (similiar to hippotherapy) as well as the therapy Lili and Ariana provide.
On my day of arrival I took inventory of a sparse room and dreamed of how it could be transformed. Of course this meant a trip to IKEA! I had envisioned we would go and just look at options, but Don Roberto~one of the priests~generously purchased all the equipment on my dream-list and within just a few days, we were able to tranform that empty room into a magical playroom.
Staying at the center provided me with the opportunity to get to know some of the children and spend some 1:1 time with a few of them. I bonded quickly with Liviu, a little boy with cerebral palsy. Due to the generosity of SPIOworks, I was able to fit Liviu with a SPIO shirt which allowed him to sit up in a standard chair and play with toys. We also worked on adaptive feeding as he wants so badly to be independent.
God willing, we are planning to organize a camp next summer for some of the children. If you are interested in helping with this, or perhaps even coming, please let me know!

Shopping Spree at IKEA!

In the beginning...sensory room

Sensory Room in progress...check out our tactile board!

Ramona loves the sensory room! (so do Ariana and I)

Finished Sensory Room

Lili and I did a sensory group with Ramona, Ioana, and Ioana

Liviu learning to feed himself~so determined!

I love these girls! Lili, Ariana and I in the sensory room

Dawn and Liviu
God's timing is so perfect! During my second week in Bucuresti, Lili and Ariana were scheduled to take a few days off and I wasn't quite sure what I would do. But then Lili spoke with Bogdan, the director of Inimii Deshise/Children to Love (CTL). This is the organization with whom I partnered in 2008, providing trainings in a large orphanage alongside my friends Jenny Lotter and Kristi Carnazzo. This is also the charity that Lili and Ariana worked for until last year. As it turned out, Joni and Friends had a short term mission team working with Inimii Deschise and they needed help in providing parent training on sensory processing. It was a joy to serve alongside 3 physical therapists and one of their professors. During my time with Inimii Deschise I was able to visit several orphanages, work with Inimii Deschise staff on basic handling of infants with hydrocephaly, provide a 3 hour parent training on sensory processing for parents of children with autism. The following week I provided a staff/volunteer training for those helping with Joni and Friends family retreat for 15 families with children with autism. The parents and staff were so receptive and had great questions. For me the highlight was sharing Psalm 139 with the parents and acknpwledging that each of their children was designed by a loving God who has a perfect plan.
CTL also has a sewing project to help equip moms with skills for work. They are making purses, so I "had" to support them :)  We also discussed the possibility of them making weighted blankets and vests in the future~it would be great to see this business really expand.

Parent Training


Magda and I~Magda works for CTL at one of the larger orphanages

Parent Training~this woman is a wonderful Christian foster mother

Staff and Volunteer Training

Parent Training

Anca, Mirela and Alle~the designers of my new purse!
The highlight of my time in Bucuresti was getting to spend a few days with the young people in Popesti Loerdeni. So much has changed since my last visit in January 2010!  There are now 10 yound adults as 2 new girls, Roxi and Doina, joined the home last November. The young people have made so much progress, as evidenced by their independence in taking care of themeselves as well as the home. Regardless of their disabilities,  all of the young adults help with cleaning, cooking and tending to the garden. In addition, they now have a pottery room a well as a craft room where they are able to make crafts to sell.
One of the girls (Ela) has made remarkable progress and will begin a course to become a cook. The hope is for her to transition to independent living in the future. Several of the young people are independently seeking out doing exercises on the therapy ball and kept asking me to do "gymastics" with them. Gabi, the young lady who is non-verbal, is able to use some picture/symbols to communicate her wants/needs, and is humming songs now! She will begin working with a speech therapist in September.
I have been asked to partner with FARA projects in both Bucuresti and Suceava next summer. I am praying that God will make this possible as I really admire the work FARA is doing throughout Romania!

Dawn and Ela

Group photo in front of the new flower garden

It was great getting to see Ines, the director of FARA's project. This pepper was grown on FARA's organic farm in Suceava! It weighed almost a pound!!

Hanging out with Tudor

Miti, Dawn, Tudor

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dress A Girl Around the World: Nojorid and Calatele, Romania 2011

Before coming to Romania, I was contacted by a dear friend, Rachel Eggum Cinader about bringing over some dresses from her organization Dress A Girl Around the World. I met Rachel on a Hope 4 Kids International missions trip to Romania in 2005 (some of you may remember I first came to Romania under H4KI). Rachel is the sister of H4KI's founder, Tom Eggum, and has made such an impact on the women in Uganda through Hope 4 Women International (H4WI) as well as on the lives of so many little girls through her Dress A Girl Around the World campaign. Rachel was so generous in entrusting me to deliver over 50 dresses to some gypsy children in Romania. As you can see from the photos, the girls are just adorable in their homemade dresses! Thank you Rachel and to all of the women who sewed these dresses. If you would like information on how you can get involved in this great cause, please read more at

Beautiful Romania: Apuseni Mountains and Vladeasa Countryside July 2011

While Randy and his team were here, we were able to drive over the mountains from Sancraiu to Sacuieu and visit the waterfalls in Rachitele. Thought I would share a some pictures of how beautiful the countryside in Romania is...just enough to tempt you all to come and see for yourself a few reasons why I love this country!

Haystacks in Sancraiu

Ciorban (Shepherd) tending to his sheep

View driving from Sancraiu to Sacuieu
Cascada Miresei (Bride's Veil Waterfall)~Rachitele

Inside the Reformed Church, Sancraiu (built in the 1700s)

Reformed Church, Sancraiu

View of Braisoru, a village 4 km from Sancraiu~a beautiful walk!

Highlights from Sacuieu and Calatele: July 20th-30th, 2011

July 20th I traveled from Oradea to Sancraiu to meet up with the Hagiu's along with their team from Calvary Chapel Treasure Valley (CCTV). Initially CCTV had planned to have a team of ~10 people come to do a VBS for the children of Calatele and Sacuieu; however, due to several circumstances, the team dwindled down to Daryl (their pastor) and Tom. However, we knew that this was still part of God's plan. Back in May I had spoken to my friends Randy and Adelina about possibly helping with a 2 day VBS in the villages. Thankfully God carved out for their team (Randy, Adelina and 2 of Randy's interns~Vic and Josh) a few free days~ the exact time period in which Daryl and Tom would be in Romania!

Before I write more on the VBS programs, I want to share with you a few pictures from one of our services in Sacuieu. When we first entered the village, several people came out to greet us. Most of them I knew; however, there was one person I did not recognize, a woman holding a baby. Others then brought her to me, wanting me to look at her infant daughter. Her baby was born with only a partially formed arm/hand. Knowing how much disability is regarded as such a stigma here, I was amazed to see the love this woman had for her child. The mother, Luminita, has been faithful at coming to church and you really see her joy despite her many trials. Interestingly, her name means "light", a fitting description as she truly is shining her light for the Lord in Sacuieu! During our worship service, Nicu did a baby dedication for Luminita's sweet baby girl, Maria.

Baby Maria and her mom, Luminita

Nicu dedicating Maria

Randy and his team blessed the children (and adults!) with a wonderful 2 days of VBS on June 25th and 26th.  They prepared stories, songs, object lessons and skits that truly spoke to the heart of the gypsies. Randy and Adelina then put their clown skills to work and made each of the children a balloon. We were so thankful for their labor of love~thank you Randy, Adelina, Josh and Vic!

Waiting for VBS to start~Sacuieu

Adelina and Randy~bringing lots of smiles to Sacuieu

Captive Audience~Sacuieu VBS

Randy made balloons for all the kids (with help from Adelina)

My friend "Jimmy"~he was the first child I met in Sacuieu in 2007

Veta, Corina, Garafoa, Larissa~Sacuieu
Calatele VBS~ nearly 40 children were packed into this small room!

Sweet smiles in Calatele

Adelina leads the kids in prayer~Calatele VBS

Cristina and Crucita~Calatele VBS

Vic, Josh and Randy with gypies in Calatele
We then did an additional 2 days of VBS on the the 28th and 29th. Tom and Daryl had brought a variety of puppets from CCTV so with the help of Naomi and Leon (the Hagiu's children) and Nicu, we were able to put on puppet shows in both villages. The children and adults loved the puppets! We did 2 skits, one on waiting and one on the parable of the sower and the seeds. Daryl and Tom then did a great job explaining the skits and trying to related them to the lives of the gypsies.
Waiting for the puppet show~Sacuieu
Watching the puppet show~Calatele

Our amazing puppeteers~Naomi, Nicu and Leo

Silvana, Nicu and his sidekick Cristi

Great attendance~Calatele VBS

Tom illustrating the parable of the Sower and the Seeds
Daryl teaching on "waiting on the Lord"

The puppet shows were a great success in Sacuieu and Calatele

Delivering dresses from "Dress A Girl Around the World"