Well, we’ve been home for 1.5 weeks, and I’m still getting up before dawn every morning. This is the FIRST night that Sadie actually slept like she did pre-departure. Part of it could be jet lag, part of it could be getting used to our new home. (Yes, we spent the first week home packing up our apartment and moving boxes). For those of you not in the loop– we moved from Colorado without selling our CO or Virginia homes- and voluntarily put most of our ‘stuff’ in basement storage. Now we are finally getting settled into our permanent home here in Columbus. We left for Ukraine unsure whether closing was going to happen- and came home to find that 1) We did indeed have a new house as of Oct. 11th and 2) the apartment we were renting was re-rented out to someone else starting Nov. 1. Oh- and did I mention the impeccable timing of our lease:purchase offer on our Colorado home starting Oct. 9th? (Our Virginia home sold in June..)
I’ve spent this last week reflecting on the God-appointments that happened while we were there- and am ridiculously amazed by what was accomplished in the 9 short days we were there! We visited 12 infant homes, baby hospitals, HIV and school-age orphanages. 12!
Of those places, it is very obvious where doma will be able to support visions the director already has for the orphanage. Other placed, the relationship will be a lot slower. And some places, I am struggling to see if a long-term relationship should even be considered. Here are some of the highlights and obvious God-appointments:
1) Vera, the director of Vortzel babyhouse has been trying to keep families of children with special needs together. This last year, she held a conference for parents of children with Down Syndrome who had abandoned their children to her orphanage. She was able to give them some very practical training on how to care for their child… and many of the children were reunited with their parents!
Her plea to doma: “Please send me a team of Special Educators, SLP’s, PT’s, and OT’s to train my teachers who spend all day with the children. Our therapists visit each class only a few hours each week, but it is the teachers who are working morning, noon, and night with them. They have no education at all, and are severely underpaid for the work they do”.
For those of you who may not know this, when I lived in Columbus in 2002, I was the coordinator of a preschool for children with special needs. We had over 100 children, ages 2-5, who were enrolled in our school. Dozens more, aged 0-5 received services from our therapists. It was there that I realized the importance of EARLY INTERVENTION in the lives of children. (Sound familiar? It’s doma’s mission statement!) This type of trip to an orphanage full of special needs preschoolers would bring everything full circle! Reuniting families, helping to train teachers, truly giving orphaned children the early intervention they need for a better quality of life! Who’s on board? What a great partnership with this babyhouse! We are currently assembling a team for Summer 2010.
2) Natalya, the director of a babyhouse with over 120 infants and toddlers, expressed her concern for the mothers of these children. She mentioned that so many of them just need a little boost- but that she was powerless by the government to help anyone except the babies. After much discussion, I found out that her plan was to house the moms at the orphanage, so that the babies would not be separated from their moms. And while she is able to work with the babies, she needed an outside support organization to care for the moms! (Does that sound familiar to you? That’s what doma does!) The Ukraine government has had an idea for years to support moms, but there are no programs in place. Currently, she has the space for 4 moms– and she has 4 moms who would enroll in the program right away and be reunited with their child who is at the orphanage. The mom and baby would live together. Mom could receive job training, education, etc. while the orphanage caregivers watch the baby. But mom would be responsible for taking care of herself and baby (cooking, cleaning, etc.)- and would also be the primary caregiver. To launch this program, the space is available and renovated for four moms, but we would need to outfit it with basic apartment-style furniture and kitchen supplies. This is approximately $1300 per mom. Then, of course, there is the ongoing support necessary for mom, which would be approximately $180 per month. (Similar to our Russia Young Mothers program, except the moms would not be living independently). The orphanage director also encouraged visits and letters from their American friends. 4 moms have already requested assistance! We just need the doma providers to step forward to help reunite these families. If this works well, she has the space for 24 moms or families in a separate building, which would need to be renovated. What a dream!
3) We visited a hospital for HIV positive infants and toddlers. The chief medical officer, Natalya, was very proud of the ‘Western’ trainings she does with the moms. Her greatest need is extra staff to work specifically with these patients and their families. A nurse at this hospital makes approximately 90 USD, which is way below the standard of living in and around Donestk. (It costs more than that to rent a shared apartment space). If doma could provide for housing for these nurses, she knows she could find the willing nursing graduates who would love to work with the families of children who are HIV positive- and the ‘abandoned infants’ room’ (it was devastating to go in and see these precious babies, younger than Sadie– knowing that their future is in the hands of the orphanage system). Doma is looking into renting some space at Donestk Christian University for four nurses.
(Another crazy story- two of us showed up at Donestk Christian University’s Administrative Director’s home for tea, and he came in and said he would be unable to join us for another 20 minutes, but would we like to meet with the Director of the school?! Of course– he is one of the most respected Christian leaders in Ukraine right now– and we had a blast with him!)
4) A young woman who grew up in a private, Christian orphanage, was living a beautiful life with her husband and 3 small children, when her husband died unexpectedly. The orphanage that raised her is asking for doma assistance to help her as she transitions into single motherhood. It is very, very uncommon in Ukraine for widows with children to remarry– and she isn’t even 30 years old yet! In the next few weeks, I will learn more about how doma can support her family during this difficult time. The local church has stepped in to do some creative emergency care- but nothing that is sustainable (especially her housing situation). I’ll keep you posted! Please let me know if you are interested in hearing more about this as I get more info.
Also, with all of these ConnectionPoints, if you aren’t able to financially give or visit personally, please pick a project to pray for consistently. I’d be happy to get you a fact sheet about the program and the participants. Or perhaps you’d just like to write to one of our young moms to encourage her. Another creative option would be to run or walk the May, 2010 Capital City half marathon in our official charity team, (teamup4orphans.org). Perhaps you know 50 people who would give $50 to these amazing moms and children, and you could commit to joining our team, whether or not you’ve ever run before! Our coach is Lisa Rainsberger, winner of the Boston Marathon! More on that to come later this week.
Ok- my kids are asking for toast this morning… time to start the mom portion of my day. Please continue to stay posted. I have a ton of prayer requests for our Ethiopia team that leaves on Wednesday. And please email me if you are interested in hearing more about any of these programs for moms and babies as I am beginning to write up some new project proposals. Thanks for your prayers and support for this trip! It was very, very fruitful. Now, if only we can shake our jet lag so that I can unpack more boxes…