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.
|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|
|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|