Dennis and Dionne Newton

Dennis and Dionne Newton
Dennis & Dionne Newton

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Whew! What a month!

Sorry my post is a little late this week and will most likely be long, but we've been busy! Since the last post we have really begun to dive into the humanitarian work on the mission. Yes, we are really serving a mission, not just on vacation as our children believe. Our first assignment was to assess the projects that have already begun, but have not been finalized yet.

On Sept. 14 we traveled to a smaller city about 3 hours north of Sarajevo called Tuzla. In Tuzla we met with a local person who has been assisting the church with Vision Projects. The current project which has been underway for several years now, is vision screening for school aged children. In the US we take it for granted that our children receive a vision screening routinely in school, but in Bosnia & Herzegovina (from now on referred to as BiH) there was no vision screening available. LDS Charities (LDSC) has funded new optical equipment and training to enhance the vision care of the children of BiH. Recently, a project was approved to expand the vision screening to several new areas of the country. Additionally, in some of the areas where vision screening has been established in the past few years there is an expansion of these screenings to include hearing and spinal screening as well. This is a huge collaborative effort between LDS Charities, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and has been highly successful in multiple areas throughout BiH.

We also had an additional project in Tulza that we were doing follow up on at a Rehabilitation Hospital. For this project the Rehab Hospital received a vast assortment of equipment to use in their facility. They were very happy with the donation and eagerly showed us some of the equipment in use.

LDSC provided materials and the facility
provided the labor to build the 
blue support boxes of various shapes and sizes. 
Dr. H (head of the Rehab Hospital)
eagerly showed us one of his 
favorite pieces of donated equipment. 

Some of the additional donated equipment
While we were visiting with Dr. H about the Rehab Center project, he also informed us that he was on the list of area doctors willing to help with distribution of wheelchairs when LDSC is able to get another shipment in! We were thrilled to get information for two projects with one visit! LDSC provides thousands of wheelchairs to people in need throughout the world.

On Saturday, Sept. 17 we traveled about 6 hours roundtrip to some of the more rural parts of the country looking for potential projects.  60% of the country is considered rural and we are still researching ways we might be able to offer assistance in some of these areas.

On Monday, Sept. 19 we spent the better part of the day collecting necessary paperwork for our Residency Permits (VISAs). To start the morning out we had to go to the department of health and have medical exams done, including blood work. Denny had to take NyQuil the night before because he was so nervous about having to give blood. He sent a picture of the outside of the building to our kids and told them the translation of "house of torture."  I'm happy to report he survived his traumatic ordeal and we now have all the appropriate paperwork submitted. Many thanks to the local attorney here who even showed us his favorite Sarajevo comfort food place when we were finished!

On Wednesday, Sept. 21 we met with the director of the local Red Cross to discuss several items. LDSC has partnered with the Red Cross previously to bring in medical supplies, emergency response aid and wheelchairs. We will continue to work in conjunction with them in the future in numerous capacities. They are a fantastic resource for us as we look for future projects to assist the poor and/or needy populations of BiH. We also discussed potential new projects, including replacing deteriorated water pipes in a rural school. They have tried numerous times to repair the pipes but have been unsuccessful and the pipes continue to burst leaving the rural school without running water. We will be going to meet with the school administration in the near future and are very excited about this potential project. We also enjoyed the director's "Spider Pig" ringtone!

On the morning of Friday, Sept. 23 we accompanied one of our church members to a local orphanage. Prior to our arrival in BiH, the ladies from the local LDS church congregation made about 60 pairs of pants for small children. The Director thankfully accepted the cute pants and gave us a tour of the orphanage. It is home to about 90 children who are either without parents or have been removed from parental care for various reasons. It was actually a very nice, inviting facility and it was obvious the staff care very much for the children who reside there.

Following up on another Vision Project, we met with the head of Pediatric Ophthalmology at the University Hospital in Sarajevo on Friday afternoon. She was pleased with the donated equipment and reported that she had hundreds of children referred to her clinic for follow up care as a result of the school vision screening project. The clinic has also been able to do a more detailed screening of over 5000 infants for potential eye problems.
The staff that enjoy using the equipment

On Monday the 26th we once again drove the nearly four hours to Banja Luka for Zone Conference. Zone Conference is a monthly meeting where all the missionaries, young and old alike, gather for training and fellowship. Unfortunately, we had to skip out on part of it to meet with another partner from the Rehab Center in Banja Luka. She has been instrumental in the distribution of hundreds of wheelchairs, has assisted with training to ensure the recipients are being fitted with the correct size chair and helps to manage the Wheelchair projects in that area. She was also instrumental in connecting us with additional opportunities for potential local area projects and set up a meeting for us with the president of the local disability organization called Partner. (More on that later...)

Now the fun stuff...after driving north of Tuzla about two hours, we stayed the night in the small Croatia town of Daruvar. Early on Wednesday morning we met with the head of the local Red Cross there and discussed LDSC's desire to be involved in any emergency response efforts that may arise as well as discussed potential future projects they may need assistance with. After our meeting we headed out into the more rural area to follow up with a project that was started over a year ago. This project involves the cleaning of 1000 wells. There are 5 two man crews that are cleaning 200 wells each over the course of about 15 months. Most of the rural water is supplied by wells on the site of each property, most have never been cleaned as you can see in the pictures. I'm not sure I will ever be able to drink well water again. The crew told us they have actually found dead human bodies on several occasions and they often find dead animals that have fallen in as well as a vast assortment of general debris. It was gross! But guess who wanted to go down in the well?? Yep, I guess Denny is really missing his roller coasters! He wanted to actually clean the well, but the crew waited to let him in until all the cleaning had been completed.

It was amazing to see an actual project in action first hand. The family who will be utilizing this well were very grateful and even let me hold their little tiny month old puppies while the crew was cleaning! Much more fun than being lowered into an 3ft circumference smelly brick hole!

After the well cleaning and a quick snack with the well cleaning team and the Red Cross director, we headed back to Banja Luka for the night. This morning we met with the president of the local disabilities organization to discuss potential needs for the community's individuals with physical disabilities. There is a significant lag in the rights of individuals with disabilities in the country and this organization is trying to make a positive impact on improving the quality of life for individuals with disabilities. There is a lack of societal acceptance, poor self-advocacy on the part of the individuals and an overall lack of accessibility in public places including schools and public transportation. We only scratched the surface of needs and hope to meet with this organization again in the near future.

After the meeting we jumped back in the car and drove the nearly four hours home so we could do this:

We leave Saturday morning and will be traveling up the Croatian coast Saturday and Sunday and then spending the rest of the week in Slovenia for a Senior Missionary Conference with all the other "Senior" Missionaries in the Adriatic North Mission. We are looking forward to a little sightseeing and social interaction with the other missionaries. So.... one week of missionary work, then back to that vacation our children are positive we're on! Until next week.... we love you all and miss you but wouldn't trade the opportunity to be serving our Heavenly Father and His children at this time.

Big hugs to everyone!

~ Dionne

1 comment:

  1. What wonderful work you are doing!!! We are proud of you!