As several of you know, the main reason I returned to Bucharest this summer was to organize a camp for some of the disabled children who live at the Don Orione Center. Last summer one of the priests asked my what I would like to do if I returned and I immediately responded "I want to plan a camp". These children receive good care at the center; however, most of them had never left the center and thus had very few life experiences. While I was home in Arizona, I kept contact with my good friends Ariana and Lili (both of them work at Don Orione), reminding them of my dream. Thankfully, these 2 women share my passion and were excited to join me in this journey. As I prayed for God to reveal to me His theme for camp, I kept hearing the song Cannons in my head. As I listened to the words, I became overwhelmed at the thought that most of these children had never even seen the moon, let alone the stars! With this revelation, it became clear to me that the theme of camp should be on Creation.
The initial plan was for me to try to bring over a team from the U.S. However, by March I knew this was not feasible. I agreed to do the planning and purchase the supplies for arts and crafts while stateside. As I mentioned, Ariana and Lili were already invested in the idea of camp and asssured me they would find others in Romania to help us with camp. Yet, I still was praying for at least one other therapist to join me. In March I flew to Seattle to visit my friend and fellow Occupational Therapist, Leana Kolbeck. For several years Leana has expressed a desire to come to Romania, but this year as I implored her to come to camp, she seriously considered my request and decided to join me for camp! She was a tremendous asset and the children loved her, despite the language barrier.
Wonderfully Exhausting. These are the 2 words that came to my mind when I was asked "how was the camp?". Due to the varicela (chicken pox) epidemic, we were only able to take 5 of the children from Don Orione to "tabara" (camp). However, once we arrived in Slanic Prahova we quickly realized that the 5 children (plus Lili's son Benaimin) were the perfect group and the perfect amount of children.
Slanic Prahova is a 2 hour drive from Bucharest and for most of the children, this was the longest time they have ever spent in the car. I drove with Lili's husband, Alex and 2 of the children, Liviu and Ioana Mare. Ioana is nonverbal, but was very interested in the journey. Liviu was a typical 6 year old, asking "how much longer?" every 5 minutes! Lili's husband was so patient, explaining time and time again. Slanic Prahova is a beautiful little town, famous for it's salt mine (salina) and salt water lake (apa de sare). It was the ideal location for our camp! The children immediately felt at home and called the home "casa noasta" (our home).
Every day was filled with games, activities, outings, songs and stories based on the days of Creation. Our theme song was "Cine a Creat?" (Who Created). The first night we spoke about darkness and light, gazed at the moon and the stars and then blew glow in the dark bubbles! The children's excitement and giggles were contagious! The children loved all the activities, including parachute games, using dot markers to create colorful fish, painting their hands to make hand print flowers, making (and then wearing) animal masks, and dressing "people" puppets.
Thanks to the generous support of family, friends and co-workers, we were also able to take the children on several outings, including to a restaurant for pizza (quite the experience taking 4 wheelchairs into a place not designed for disabilities), a visit to the salt mine and to a swimming pool with salt water.
The children are already talking about next year's camp. Leana is praying about returning, but I would love to have even more people come. I promise it will be an experience that you will never regret!
|Ariana and Laurentiu|
|The children loved playing parachute games|
|Alexandru proudly displaying his fish|
|Roommates~Leana and Luminita|
|Liviu loved being able to feed himself at the restaurant|
|The children enjoyed making the creation circle|
|Alexandru was all about the swimming pool!|
|Sweet Laurentiu at the Piscina (Swimming Pool)|
|Ioana Mare and Alexanadru|
|Making Handprint Flowers (Laurentiu)|
|Simply Adorable~ Laurentiu the Lion!|
|Liviu the Pirate!|
|Carmen, Lumi, Dawn and Liviu in the elevator at the salt mine|
|Leana helped Laurentiu to learn to push his own wheelchair|
|Luminita is all giggles|
|Carmen and Ioana Mare~at the salt mine|
|Best Friends~ Liviu and Dawn|
|In the salt mine~Ioana Mare, Dawn and Liviu|
|Lili and Liviu|
|Liviu loved being able to color with the other kids, thanks to these special crayons|
|Finished product~Liviu colored the mask all by himself!|
|Ioana Mare typically keeps a distance, but she went and sat on Leana's lap without any prompting!|
|Ariana helping Ioana Mare to dress her puppet|
|Luminita made her puppet all by herself|
|Ioana Mare adding to our creation circle (with the help of Alex and Leana)|
|Group Picture with the completed Creation Circle|