Dennis and Dionne Newton

Dennis and Dionne Newton
Dennis & Dionne Newton

Sunday, December 10, 2017

"I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink" Matthew 25:35

Thousands have lived without love, not one without WATER (W.H. Auden)

The ABCs of humanitarian service are food, shelter, medical care, and WATER. Dionne and I have began working on water projects the moment we arrived in Bosnia. We have cleaned drinking wells in Croatia, brought running water to school children in the village of Cikotska Rijeka, built septic tanks in Domaljevac, and fixed school bathrooms in Zinice and Sapna.

Bosnia was built around its beautiful and powerful rivers (rijeka). Every major city has a river flowing through it. Nearly every road either goes over a mountain or winds along a river. 

Ironically, as Day Two of the "Light the World" campaign highlighted the admonition "I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink," we were signing a contract to bring clean drinking water to the people who live in the village of Hrasno. LDS Charities initiated this project in 2013. The journey of this project is the subject of today's post.

Day Two - Light the World

The rain descended, and the floods came (Matthew 7:25)

In 2013 LDS Charities started a project with the municipality of Kalesija to bring drinking water to the village of Hrasno.

Unlike most rural communities in Bosnia which suffer from urban flight, Hrasno's population has increased dramatically in the past 30 years. Their water holding tank was originally designed to serve a community of 400 residents. But now there are over 2,000 residents. 
Half of the villages' residents have no running water; the other half sporadic. Those without water have to haul water to their homes from houses that have running water.

This street is the dividing line between the have's and the have not's. Houses to the left have water while houses to the right do not.
The basic deal was that the church would buy the pipe and materials for a new holding tank and the municipality of Kalesija (responsible for Hrasno) would do the installation. In 2013 plans were developed, materials purchased, contractors selected, and approvals were given.

The city engineer points out where the holding tank is to be built.
And then the heavens opened. In May of 2014, unprecedented rains caused severe flooding throughout Bosnia. Central Bosnia was particularly hard hit.

These are stock photos of the flooding damage across Bosnia. 


Near Visoko.
Aerial view of Doboj.
Kalesija and the surrounding communities were severely affected by the floods.

The main street of Kalesija.
The floods had a devastating effect on Hrasno. Despite being located on a slope, the existing holding tank flooded. This permanently contaminated the water in the holding tank and made it unsafe for drinking.

The location of the existing water tank. This is also where they were going to build the new holding tank.
Since 2014, Hrasno has not had safe drinking water. Boil or bottle has been the motto.

Love this vintage tractor in Hrasno.
The floods made all parties realize that the proposed location for the new holding tank was susceptible to future floods. So the municipality of Kalesija was tasked with drafting new plans and acquiring land-use permission.

The new location for the holding tank.
Unfortunately, the church had already paid a vendor for the materials to build the holding tank. The municipality asked that the vendor hold off on delivering these materials until after a new plan was drafted and approved.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy 

Martin Luther King

We can learn much about others (along with ourselves) during times of difficulty. In am reminded of the immortal poetic words of Judge Smell...

"It's easy to grin when your ship comes in, and you've got the stock market beat, but the man worthwhile, is the man who can smile, when his shorts are too tight in the seat." Caddyshack
You can also learn a lot about an institution (or a church) by how it stands during times of challenge. The real culture of an institution becomes readily apparent when problems arise. "When the shorts are too tight in the seat."

When we arrived in 2016, we were asked to find out what was happening with the Hrasno project. There had been no communication for over a year. An election had occurred and there was a new major in Kalesija. All the church knew was that the new holding tank had not been built.

Meeting with the new administration October 2016.
Fortunately we had partnered with the Federation Red Cross. They remained in regular contact with Kalesija during the year. When we met with the new administration, they told us that they wanted to finish this project. They had secured a new location and were ready to begin construction the following spring.

Our friend Ilma who translated for us on this trip. This was taken on the way back from Kalesija.
We were simply waiting for the municipality to call us and tell us that the holding tank had been installed at the new site. The spring came and went with no call. The Red Cross kept checking. The municipality asked about the supplies. We sent the invoice and told them to retrieve them from the supplier.

Reviewing the new plans.
This summer we started to get indications that there was a problem. The municipality was not exactly forthcoming about the issue. But as we pressured, they finally asked us to come and meet with them.

In the main boardroom at Kalesija's mayor's offices.
The vendor that we had paid for the supplies had gone bankrupt 3 years earlier. Nobody had told us this. So there were no supplies for the project. No pipe. No cement. No metal cover. Nothing. We sat with the leadership of the municipality and the Red Cross and tried to figure out what to do. I reached out to our legal counsel and asked about the likelihood of bankruptcy recovery. We talked about trying to pressure the owner (a well-known Tuzla official who has money reserves) into "making this right." We discussed having high level officials from each of our organizations meet with him. Even to the point of threatening to meet with his current boss. It was actually quite fascinating to see how Bosnian politics really work.

But when I brought back the problem to the leaders of LDS Charities, I was heartened and encouraged by their response. First, they realized that we had made a critical error in judgment by paying for the supplies and not requiring immediate delivery. (We also should never have used this vendor in the first place either...a local friend has told me that his reputation is questionable). So the church immediately took ownership of their mistakes without trying to ascribe blame on others. And while we did pursue the bankruptcy court option, we had no interest in the "shaming" or "job pressure" strategy which the team had discussed.

Second, the church also realized that the need was still there. We were dispatched to visit Hrasno again, access the current water conditions, and to make recommendations on moving forward.

Touring the new holding tank site with local Hrasno leadership and my Red Cross friend, Davor. The head of the local town council has graciously offered part of his land as the site for the new holding tank. The main village is in the background.

Third, as much as possible, the church worked hard to make everything right again. Despite the dubious history of this project, more money was allotted to finish this project. Better controls have been put in place.

Signing day with the new major of Kalesija.
What a joy to work with an organization that can smile even when the "shorts are too tight in the seat." There was never any sense of anger, bitterness, distrust, or spite. Just a desire to do the right thing by everybody.

Signed time to get to work!

Be the reason someone smiles today

With regards to our service here in Bosnia, Dionne and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We only have a handful of project remaining to finish. I was talking to Nermin, a Bosnian who has worked as a translator for LDS Charities since 2009. He said that his favorite project was bringing water to Novo Bila. At the closing ceremony, he met an 80-year old man who came up and shook his hand, thanking him profusely. The man said he had lived in this village all of his life and this is the first time he had had running water in his home.

This is the local leadership of Hrasno. They came for the contract signing ceremony. In my limited Bosnia I was able to tell them that my goal was "voda za Hrasno." It was an honor to sit on their porch and tell them that we were going to finish what we started.
My original goal was to see those same smiles in Hrasno. But I realize that it will not happen before I leave. So I may have to return in May and drink fresh water from the taps of Hrasno.

A bucket of hauled water next to a pipe that has not worked in years.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like...Groundhog Day!

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.... the sweet missionaries put up our Christmas tree last week while I finished making lunch for them and we have been blanketed with over a foot of snow this weekend. It is a gentle reminder that time is passing and while we are not counting down the days until Christmas, we might be counting our time left in Sarajevo which is now down to 50 days! It is passing very quickly and I'm not quite sure how I feel about it... as I've probably said 100 times this week alone, it's very bittersweet.

This is out our back window.... and it was still snowing!

I love the evergreen trees when they are covered
in a blanket of fresh snow! 

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving spent with many special people. We were blessed to have all 14 of the Bosnia missionaries gather in Sarajevo for feast and fun. One of the families that work for the American Embassy, Rhett and Camie Rhees, have a large home and gave us the key while they traveled to Budapest for the holiday. We were sad they didn't get to spend the day with us, but grateful for their willingness to open their home. It would have been a tight squeeze to fit everyone into our little apartment but because of their gracious offer, we had two ovens and tons of space to accommodate everyone for the feast followed by lots of game playing! We were also joined by the other embassy family, the Woods, and our good friend Emir and his darling family. It was so good to hear little voices laughing and little feet running in circles around the house from the four little kids. It was a very traditional Thanksgiving meal with a huge Butterball turkey (thanks once again to the Rhees family) and all the trimmings. As much as I dislike cooking for just Denny and I, I love cooking for a crowd and really enjoyed my time spent in a real kitchen. hahaha!

The young missionaries came over the day before and helped
with the preparations. The sisters made delicious pumpkin pies!

Elder Corona (white shirt), who is from Tasmania, asked if I would make a
Banoffee Pie. I asked his mom for the recipe via Facebook. Well...
I got the ingredients and let him make it instead with a little
help from Elder Leach! He said it turned out pretty good! I didn't try
it because I don't do bananas unless you can't tell they are bananas.

It was so fun to have so many people gathered
around for the table for the holiday!

I especially loved having the kids there! This is the Wood family.
Shay works for the American Embassy and his wife, Alexis, is a
speech therapist and helped us with our iPad project. They are
awesome people with a couple of super cute little boys!

Carolyn Bradford and her husband are senior missionaries serving
in Banja Luka. Coincidentally, the Bradfords lived in Ashburn, VA
the same place we lived in. They moved into the area just as we
moved out, but we know many of the same people. It's a small world!
Emir and his wife, Dijana, have become like a second family to us.
Emir does legal work like visas, selling cars, writing humanitarian
project contracts and telling us how to stay out of jail here in Bosnia.
The mission would really struggle in Bosnia without his assistance.
They are two of the people we will miss tremendously when we leave!
(Somehow I didn't manage a picture of their two cute kids, Ema and Tarik)

There was lots of game playing following dinner!

Elder Leach (white t-shirt) had fun teaching others how to play
Seven Wonders...not quite sure he had fun losing to Denny
earlier that week though. And Denny refused a rematch!

More fun and games...

This week felt a bit like "Groundhog Day" for us. It was a week for "Part 2" of a couple of our projects. The first "Part 2" was for the Women's Health gynecological exams. Unfortunately, we weren't able to attend the clinic this time because it conflicted with our iPad training, but an additional 75 women received free exams on Saturday! That's a total of 150 women who received free screenings to help detect and hopefully prevent health issues. We also had an extension to this project approved to provide funding to offer exams in an additional city for another 70 women. Muslim Aid is a fantastic partner here and has handled everything, making our load much lighter.

After spending nearly three weeks programming iPads everyday , downloading software and fighting with App Store issues (talk about "Groundhog Day!"), we had our second iPad training held in Banja Luka this weekend with a total of 21 participants from 8 different centers attending. It was fun to watch their eyes light up as they realized the positive impact using the iPads will have on their students. I had several tell me they couldn't wait to get back to their centers and start working with the children using their new iPads and some of the ideas they learned at the workshop. It has opened new possibilities for them as educators and therapists and will in turn hopefully open up a new world of learning for their students. It gives us another reason to want to come back! To see how they are using the iPads AND incorporating them into the EDUS training they will have received. ("Part 2" of EDUS training is the week we leave in Jan.)

We haven't started looking at plane tickets yet, but we're definitely thinking about a return trip in May, just before school gets out. It also happens to be the same month as the annual horse show for Riders of Hope (and Pegasos) as well as the annual mission Kresmir Cosic basketball tournament. Denny is scheming how he can bring Bryan and Brennen out too so he can create a team to play in the tournament.
Alexis Wood put together an informative presentation on why
and how to use iPads effectively. Unfortunately, she wasn't able
to attend this training so, as the understudy, I got to do it. I
was very happy she had a great PowerPoint already done for me!

Participants testing out some of the applications

Another key part of this project is that we now have
local educators and therapist who are able to train others so
this project can continue to have an impact after we leave. Here
Edita, from Mala Sirena, explains how to customize
an AAC app into the local language.

Jasminka, also from Mala Sirena, also did a wonderful job
working with participants to  help them be successful in programing
and customizing applications to use with students. 
Participants programmed iPads into their preferred language.
Some into Croatian, some Serbian and one who wanted to
leave hers in English!

This is one amazing group of ladies (we did have some men
participate in the last training in Mostar) who are moving
in the right direction to change their world for good!

As we are wrapping up our various projects, we hope and pray that we have heeded the counsel we received in the Missionary Training Center to go "deep" with our impact. Our focus on improving life for those with disabilities has been rewarding. Mostly because of the people we have met on the journey. In addition to the children and adults with special needs, we've met parents, educators and therapist who truly want to make a difference, to change the way people with disabilities are educated and treated in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They are the ones who have sacrificed to create havens for children and adults to feel loved and valued. They are the ones who have instigated change, who have spent countless hours working towards a greater cause. They are the true champions who are bringing hope for a brighter future. Their eagerness to learn and grow on behalf of those they love is why our mission has been so fulfilling. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Ratko Mladić, the American Civil War, and Two Broadway Musicals

November 21st, 2017....An Important Day for Bosnia and Hercegovina

While the rest of you were preparing for your Thanksgiving holiday, Wednesday Nov 22nd was an important day here in Sarajevo. Ratko Mladić, the commander of the Bosnian Serbian forces during the 1992-1995 war, was sentenced to life in prison for war crimes against humanity by the an International Criminal Tribunal.

Ratko Mladić, 74, during his war crimes trial.
Mladić have been on the run for nearly 20 years before he was captured in Serbia in 2012. For a long time he was living in relative openness in Beograd, the Serbian capital; protected by a squadron of Bosnian Serb bodyguards as well as insiders within the Serbian military. As international pressure increased and Serbian leadership changed, the heat intensified and Ratko was forced underground. He was finally captured in the home of a cousin.

Mladić during his years as the head of the Bosnian Serb forces.
Mladić's sentencing hopefully will hopefully provide some closure to many of the wounds still open from the war. While atrocities were committed by both sides during the conflict, the most egregious acts of genocide occurred under Mladić's direction. This includes the siege of Sarajevo, the massacre at Srebrenica, and the ethnic cleansing that occurred during the first (and most bloody) year of the war (1992). The video that I have linked below is Mladić speaking to Srpska TV cameras as he and his troops prepare to enter Srebrenica in July 1995. Within a three-day span over 8,000 unarmed Muslim men and boys would be executed.

Mladić Interviewed on TV Before Entering Srebrenica

A few weeks ago Dionne and I were in Srebrenica doing a women's health project. Some of the women who benefited from this project lost their husbands, fathers, and sons during that 3-day period.

A Country Deeply Divided

Media coverage of the sentencing was extensive in Sarajevo. Camera crews roamed the downtown area and the verdict was shown live on a large outdoor screen. There was not, however, much passion that we witnessed on the streets. Most people seemed tired of thinking about the war and resigned to accepting whatever verdict the courts rendered. A local camera crew captured these reactions (pro and con)...note that their editing process is clearly subjective. But these two sets of reactions just show how deeply divided this country remains.

On the Street Reactions at BBI Centar

On the Street Reactions from East Sarajevo

Newspaper accounts and interviews also highlighted the very diverse reactions (between Federation and Srpska) to the sentencing.

Federation voices applauded the sentencing. The Bosniak member of the presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, said "Ratko Mladić is a criminal and a coward because only a coward can imprison civilians, women, and children." "It shows that you cannot commit crimes with impunity" said Fikret Grabovica, a representative for a victim's group.

Srpska voices, however, complained that Serbs were not being treated fairly. The current mayor of Srebrenica, a Serb, said "Mladić will be remembered in history and this sentence only strengthens his myth among the Serb nation, which is grateful to him for saving it from persecution and extermination." Sprska president Dodik remarked "we see this as a slap in the face for Serb victims, of whose suffering no one has been convicted."

You've Got to Be Taught

I am going to transition now from reporting the news to offering some personal insight and opinions. I understand that I am just an outsider looking into a country that I do not fully comprehend. But sometimes an outsiders opinion can be useful.

Lately I have found myself humming the lyrics to "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught," a song from the Broadway musical South Pacific.

Lyrics:  You've Got to be Carefully Taught 
South Pacific

You've got to be taught to hate and fear
You've got to be taught from year to year
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade
You've got to be carefully taught

You've got to be taught before it's too late
Before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate
You've got to be carefully taught

People here in Bosnia love to talk about the problems here. They especially like to complain about how the "others" are making their lives miserable. The "others" usually mean the politicians, the government, the police, the employers, the workers, the mafia, members of other religions, etc. If only Tito were to return, so the story goes, our lives would be blissful.

What I have observed, however, is that the people I talk to are actually the "others" that are causing the real the problems. No politician could fool the Bosnian people with type of nationalistic rhetoric if the people were unified. But this country is a simmering pot of anger that is ready to explode. And, like most problems, it starts in the homes and in the families.

People here are taught to hate "all the people your relatives hate." Hate and anger are taught at home. And then they are reinforced by the culture, the society, and the politicians.

Not everyone, mind you. But far, far too many.

A Muslim friend of mine was explaining to me how it works. First, the societies are kept separate. Muslim children go to school with other Muslim children. Orthodox children go to different schools or at different times. Second, they are discouraged from playing with children who are not of their faith. Third, neighborhoods and villages are slowly separating...houses are sold or rented based on religious affiliations. Fourth, the rate of interfaith marriages have plummeted. While I know of some, there are far less of these type of marriages than 20 years ago. Far less. Finally, peer pressure is applied to make sure one understands his place in the world. My friend has been told things like "you should not have any Serb friends because you would be disrespecting the memory of your father who was killed by them."

You've got to be carefully taught.  This is the reality of Bosnia today.

Voluntary Separation

The city of Mostar is a wonderful case study for understanding Bosnia. The city is comprised of two Bosnian groups, Catholics (Croats) and Muslims. While governmental control rotates, the reality is that the two groups live almost completely separate lives within the same city.

Fall in Mostar, one of our favorite cities in the Balkans.
Catholic and Muslim children go to different schools (the only exception is Los Rosales, the center for children with disabilities). They have two different hospitals. They generally live in two different areas of the city. They have two different bus stations. Basically, the two sides live together in disunity.

Every resident of Mostar understands this reality. Because they have been carefully taught. It takes outsiders a while to figure everything out, however. It is so bad that I've heard stories about Croats (they were the ones who destroyed the old bridge during the war because they considered it Muslim) who still refuse to walk across the restored bridge today.

This is happening everywhere. Before the war, Sarajevo was about 50% Muslim. Today it is almost 80%. Entire villages are becoming 100% ethnically separated. A Serb village might be 5 km from a Muslim village but there will be little mixing between the two groups.

The American Civil War

What is happening in Bosnia seems familiar to me because of our own experience dealing with the aftermath of the American Civil War. I grew up far from the South but our most often told family story was of John Henry Cato, a Confederate soldier who was captured and died in a prison camp in Alton, Illinois. One hundred years after the fact, I was not told this story in a hateful way. But I always felt that my ancestor had died because of gross negligence on the part of the camp officials. He and others like him were basically starved to death.

The Civil War prison at Alton, Illinois where John Henry Cato died.
I know many who were raised in the South and were taught how the South had been victimized by the North. And I am old enough to recognize subtle racist things that were a part of white 1970s American culture. I have a very close friend who is African-American who has told me that some (but not all) of his relatives taught him to distrust all white people.

America has never recovered from its Civil War. As much as we like to pretend that it is "ancient history," the wounds remain.

Bosnia's civil war was just 20 years ago. And unlike the American Civil War, there was not a winner or a loser declared. It just ended. The participants were left with the horrific reality of what had occurred. But the animosity and issues remained unresolved.

Few people were actually persecuted for war crimes from the war. The people in power remained in power. Imagine being held in one of the notorious rape camps and finally escaping. And then imagine returning to your home after the war and finding that those that had raped you were now government officials. The same goes for the soldiers that you fought against. They are now the local police force.

At least there were Union and Confederate states that soldiers and victims could go home to. Bosnia is a massive mixing pot. In order to heal many feel a need to pull back into the relative safety of their religious it is little wonder that people are voluntarily separating. It seems to be the only way they can self-heal.

For a while Western governments were active in Bosnia. I talked to a friend who worked for several years as an EU-employed facilitator for a small Eastern Bosnian town. His job was to convince the Muslims and the Serbs to work together. And he felt that he was able to get some cooperation on some things. But it required a third-party facilitator. And soon Western government money and interest ran out. And so that was that.

Diversity Studies and Bosnia's Potential

I wish to take a short diversion into the world of diversity studies. Researchers have been actively looking at which types of teams produce better work; homogenous or diverse. The politically correct answer, of course, is culturally diverse teams. But the research has been mixed.

It turns out that homogenous teams have some substantive advantages. And there are many types of projects that are best suited for homogenous teams.

Culturally diverse teams can be quite messy. It takes longer for them to get functioning. There are communication issues. Research demonstrates that in the early stages of a team's life, diverse teams perform poorly relative to homogenous teams (which are usually quicker to establish effective operating procedures).

And culturally diverse teams can be a disaster if issues are not fully dealt with. If diverse teams do not deal with their differences in an honest and forthright manner, the team's output will be substandard.

Conclusion about diverse teams from recent research paper.
The good news is that a well-functioning culturally diverse team can outperform a homogenous team on tasks that are complex and require strategic insight.

All of the pieces are in place in Bosnia. All of its country neighbors are homogenous teams. And so it not surprising that they are all outperforming Bosnia at the moment. But none have the cultural diversity that Bosnia has. So none have the same potential for creativity, innovation, and global appeal as Bosnia does.

To achieve it's potential, Bosnia has to embrace its diversity. Differences cannot be suppressed; they have to be resolved. One point of view cannot dominate the other. All have to be open and free.

Right now, this is not happening. Which is why Bosnia is such a poor performing team. But the potential for greatness is there.

Like a Fiddler on the Roof

Fiddler on the Roof tells the story of a small little Jewish community located in the fictional village of Anatevka, Russia. For most of the play, the community seems to be the only occupants of this little village. But slowly the audience comes to realize that there "are others in this little village of ours." The "others" are ultimately portrayed as the villains who forcibly kick the Jews out of their homes. But let me suggest that the disaster was inevitable and that the Jewish community was partially to blame.

In my opinion Bock and Harnick's play is vastly under appreciated. 
What good can come of isolation? Especially cultural isolation when you are surrounded by "others." Like it or not, we all live in a vast global village of ideas and cultures. Isolationism can only lead to distrust, anger, economic stagnation, and conflict. I ask again. What good can come of isolation?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Doctor, Doctor...Teacher!

November is flying by! We have an official release date and have now booked all our post mission flights home. Not sure we are quite ready, but the reality is we will be leaving Sarajevo in 64 days  (January 22), enjoying a 10 day cruise from Barcelona, Spain through the Canary Islands and then arriving in Kansas City on Wednesday, Feb. 7.  It's hard to believe that our time here is almost over and we have very mixed emotions. One thing we do know is that we will return, maybe not as missionaries, but we will be back sooner than later!

Running at full speed best describes the past two weeks. We've mentioned the Maternal Newborn Care (MNC) project in previous posts, but this month we got to see first hand how this project works. We were so impressed by Dr. George Bennett and his wife, Marcia as well as Dr. Mark Underwood, who are the specialists that oversee the MNC in Bosnia. The Bennetts spend well over half of the year traveling to various countries around the globe to conduct the training workshops for MNC. Dr. Mark Underwood, Chief of Neonatology at UC - Davis, offers his expertise several times a year. These people volunteer their time and talents to help train doctors and nurses around the world how to perform newborn resuscitation. As a result of their efforts hundreds of babies lives are saved by the doctors and nurses who have learned proper resuscitation techniques. In the past 12 years since the program has been implemented in Bosnia, the infant mortality rate has been cut nearly in half and now approaches the same statistics as the U.S. To say this project has made a significant impact is an understatement. While many projects improve the quality of life in one way or another, this project literally saves lives. It is a "train-the-trainers" model which provides the skills doctors need to train even more newborn specialist how to save lives long after LDS Charities conducts the training workshops. It is a great example of empowering people to continue making a difference. 
Doctors from the hospital in Banja Luka taught the course, which
included both lecture and hands on learning components.

A nurse practices inserting a breathing tube on a NeoNatalie.
Dr. Mark Underwood oversees as doctors and nurses practice.
When the American Academy of Pediatrics 
releases an updated edition of the Newborn Resuscitation Manual, LDS Charities covers the expenses of having the manual translated from English to Bosnian and printed. Then to ensure doctors are up to date on current practices, LDS Charities offers training workshops in the various countries conducted by LDS Charities specialists. We assisted with three days of training in both Sarajevo and Banja Luka. The first day was focused on introducing new techniques and providing guidance to the doctors that would be training others during the two day training workshop. It was very impressive to watch how focused and determined the participants were in learning the skills they needed to save babies who have trouble breathing at birth. On the second day these doctors began training other doctors and nurses how to properly administer resuscitation. In all, about 130 medical professionals were trained. LDS Charities also provides each medical facility that had participants in training with a variety of materials, such as special newborn mannequins, so they can go back to their specific locations and train others. 
These simple, yet vital, techniques save many lives!

Dr. George Bennett demonstrates proper techniques.

On the Saturday between the two MNC training workshops we spent the day with more doctors. This
A doctor explains the importance of regular gynecological exams.
project, in partnership with Muslim Aid and the medical association (BIMA), provided gynecological examinations to women in rural areas of Bosnia, specifically near Srebenica, where there is a significant number of widows due to the massacre of men there during the war. Due to cultural stigma, finances and rural locations, many women never have gynecological exams. Muslim Aid offered a similar project about five years ago and found that out of 100 women over 30% of the women who were screened had significant medical issues that needed follow up care. That's a staggering number. This project will provide approximately 225 extensive screenings in five rural villages. It also includes an hour long lecture on the importance of regular exams and the consequences of neglecting to have regular screenings done. Hopefully it will prevent unnecessary suffering among these women and provide follow up care for any who are determined to need further medical attention.
This is one of the exam rooms set up in a rural school. Both of
these doctors volunteer their time to assist BIMA with
community projects such as the women's health exams. 

The extensive exam included ultrasounds of breast and ovaries.
BIMA has a great team of skilled volunteer doctors.

Volunteering with BIMA allows 3rd year medical students an
opportunity for hands on training and experience. 

Part of the group of partners, including Muslim Aid and BIMA
along with some of the recipients of free exams. 

Me with Mersiha, one of our friends at Muslim Aid.
They have been exceptional partners with LDS Charities
for many years. We are blessed to have their support. 
Women waiting for their turn for exams at a small rural school. 
Alexis discussed several ways iPads can be used, with translation
assistance from our church friend Iris. Alexis offered great insight
that helped the participants better understand the role of
technology for children with speech challenges.
Following the two weeks of MNC with women's health clinics sandwiched in between, we held our first training workshop yesterday for therapeutic and educational use of iPads. We did a small project last spring with Mala Sirena to determine the effectiveness of iPad usage among children with disabilities. Due to the tremendous positive results we are now expanding the program to include 12 other organizations that work with children with special needs. We are providing iPads and training to these organizations. During one of our visits to a center several months ago we asked them if they ever used tablets with the children. The director pulled out two tablets and said they had been donated by an NGO but they didn't know what to do with them besides let the kids play games... and they didn't want to do that so they had just put them in a drawer. So as we determined that iPads could be effective in Bosnia, we also determined that we needed to teach what a powerful tool they could be if used correctly. We completed our first of two full day training workshops yesterday. We had fifteen therapist/educators in attendance, including two people from Montenegro. In the same model as the MNC, we are "training the trainers" on this project. 

Edita and Jasminka from Mala Sirena guided participants through
several hands-on activities to help them learn how to customize
several programs into Bosnian as well as for individual students. 
I taught the basics of iPads, such as turning it on, settings, Apple IDs and all the boring, but necessary things. Alexis Wood, a church member who's husband works at the US Embassy, just happens to be a speech therapist. She graciously shared some very insightful information on why iPads are effective tools and several ways they can be used to assist with communication and education. And the third segment of the workshop was taught by Edita and Jasminka, two young ladies from our pilot project with Mala Sirena. They did a fantastic job demonstrating how to customize several programs into Bosnian language, introduced the group to many programs they have found very successful with their students and shared practical ideas they have used in their center. There was a lot of laughter as the participants were trying out some of the apps and doing hands-on practice.  Overall, it was well received and the participants were very excited to put their new iPads to use with their students. And we aren't the least bit worried that the iPads will get put in a drawer and never used. They were all talking about sharing what they had learned with others. We look forward to the second training in two weeks on the opposite side of the country with another group of people who are trying to change the world for children with disabilities!

Edita and Jasminka did an amazing job sharing their knowledge
and helping everyone have a good understanding of several effective
apps they have used with their students at Mala Sirena. 
A participant tries to "Pinch the Pepper", an activity that helps
develop fine motor skills such as holding a pencil. 

An excited participant showing what she had done on one of the apps
in the hands-on part of the workshop. She was able to create a picture
story in Bosnian using pictures she took on the iPad. Then she
was able to add her own voice to the pictures. This is just one
example of how iPads could be used to communicate.
As Thanksgiving is upon us, I have to admit that I feel blessed beyond words this year. While I miss my family and friends, I know that God has placed us here at this time for our benefit. While we may not know what's next in our journey, I know that this year I am thankful for the experiences, opportunities and people that have graced our lives over the past 16 months. And for the love and support of those at home who have encouraged us and made this mission possible. 

Happy Thanksgiving!