Much has changed at Don Orione, especially in the last 3 weeks. One of the worst orphanages in Bucharest is closing, so some of the children and young adults (all with special needs) have now moved here. The children's unit increased from 19 to 27; however, all of the new children are quite severe. In reality, only 2 are truly children, the other 6 new residents are in their 20's but are very small for their ages. In addition, there is now a "young adult" section, housing 10 higher functioning teenagers/young adults. Both sections are now located on the 3rd floor, so the children are needing to adjust not only to new people, but also to a new place. It has been rather chaotic, but we are thankful for each child and young adult that is here. For the most part, the children are doing well. A few of them are having difficulties with all of the changes, resulting in some regression and aggression. However, this is completely understandable. The workers have shown tremendous patience and grace.
My first week consisted of spending all day (7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.) helping feed, dress, bathe children, playing with and getting to know the new children, new staff and new place. Many staff changes have occurred. One of my friends, Magda, recently joined the staff and will be overseeing the children's section along with Sora Graciela, a nun from Paraguay. Magda is so gentle and nurturing, but also knows how to set limits, so she will be a great asset. In addition, they have a new kinetotherapist, Ioana. She is so ambitious and has already made some huge changes with the children! Today she even had Liviu pedaling himself on an adapted bike! Laurentiu and Luminita are now walking with canes and I can't keep up with Alexandru when he is walking with his walker.
Although I was spending all my time with the children, I was also becoming overwhelmed with all the needs. Thankfully, one of the priests, Don Roberto, sat me down and helped me to prioritize. I continue to be with all the children during meals and play time, but I am focusing my time on working with our 5 children with the greatest potential and with our 4 most severe children. Laurentiu, Alexandru, Ancuta and Luminita are working on bathing and dressing skills and Liviu is working on feeding skills and learning how to use his tone to help him brush his teeth independently. I am training the most gentle and compassionate woman named Monica on how to provide stimulation to our 4 children who are bed-ridden and completely dependent. It has been beautiful to observe her as she interacts with Alina, Danut, Maria and Alexandra. Danut and Alexandra have been actively reaching for toys, and Alina and Maria just light up when we touch them and sing to them.
This week I have been continuing my work with the children. In addition I have been seeing children in the Day Center, working with Lili and her staff. Most of the children who come to the Day Center have a diagnosis of autism. However, they also see children who have other neurological or cognitive impairments. Tomorrow I will be doing a parent training course on developmental stimulation, play and sensory processing. Knowing the needs, I wish I could spend more time helping at the Day Center, but at the same time, I don't want to miss out on any opportunities to be with my kids. God has certainly been faithful to answer my prayers to stretch me! I am so thankful that although we make the plans, He is the one who directs our steps (Proverbs 16:9).
Tomorrow evening Hannah Owens, a young lady from my church, will be arriving to help out here at the Center for the next month. Next week we will be doing 2 day programs for 6-8 of the children, taking them out on excursions and doing some modified activities. The following week, July 8th-12th, we will be taking 5 children away to do a "camp". Our theme is Noah's Ark and how God keeps His promises. I am so excited to have a Hannah join me! Please continue to pray for us, that we would show His love to the children and staff, that we would light in this place, and above all that He would be glorified!