Dennis and Dionne Newton

Dennis and Dionne Newton
Dennis & Dionne Newton

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!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

XIV Sarajevo Winter Olympics: Then and Now

Higher, Faster, Stronger

I have always been in love with the Olympic Games. It is, by far, my favorite sporting event. Some people love the Super Bowl, March Madness, the Kentucky Derby, the Masters, or the World Cup. I dream about the Olympics. We were fortunate enough to attend the 2002 SLC Games and I hope to visit a Summer Games at least once in my life (maybe 2028 L.A.). 

After the exhilaration of 1980 Lake Placid (Eric Heiden and the miracle on ice), I was emotionally devastated by Jimmy Carter's decision to boycott the Moscow Summer Games (Carter...for me...will always be considered the Worst President Ever due to that singular decision...worst than Watergate). And so, after 4 long years of waiting, I found myself glued to the TV set in February of 1984 when the 14th Winter Olympiad introduced me to the distant land of Sarajevo, Yugoslovia. 

As a resident of Sarajevo, I can tell you that the city has many different identities. But the one that I love the most is its identity as a former host of the Winter Olympic Games. During this post I want to take you through a little of the Olympic history...showcasing some of the drama that kept my eyeballs glued to Jim McKay's coverage along with some pictures of these venues as they exist today.

I am not sure what the event was...but I certainly am a poor loser. This Olympic podium is found on Mount Igman near the ski jump hill.

Why Sarajevo?

As I have become familiar with the countries that comprise former Yugoslavia, I have realized that Sarajevo is not the obvious choice to host a Yugoslavian Olympic Games. The obvious choice is Slovenia which is on the Julian Alps. 

Briel looking out over Lake Bled with the beginning of the Julian Alps in the background.
I do not know why Tito decided Sarajevo in lieu of Slovenia. But I do know some of the history regarding the attitudes leading up to the games. Here is an excerpt from a book entitled The Sarajevo Olympics which I found illuminating.

"In Feb 1983 the journalist William Oscar Johnson and photographer Jerry Cooke drove the length of Yugoslavia, from Slovenia in the north to Macedonia in the south, to produce an itinerary of sorts for people traveling to the 1984 Winter Olympic Games. The two men crossed at Maribor, Slovenia then stopped at Lake Bled, a resort village high in the Julian Alps. In the luxurious Grand Hotel Toplice, where in the 1961 the American chess master Bobby Fischer defeated the Soviet Mikhail Tal, they met with a man from the Lake Bled Tourist Association. 'We asked him if he thought the Olympics in Sarajevo would be well run,' Johnson wrote. 'He frowned and said, 'Tourism is not traditional in Bosnia. There will be problems...the big things, the competitions, will be very good...but the problem is the small things. Nobody changes light bulbs. The running water stops and no one fixes it. These are small things. But the small things make a big mosaic everyone remembers after the Olympics.' Johnson called it 'provincial prejudice,' for Slovenes typically viewed Bosnians as peasants and yokels and resented the fact that smoggy Sarajevo and not, say, Ljubljana, the Slovene capital, had landed the games. An Olympics in Bosnia? People told jokes about Bosnia, for everyone knew Mujo and Haso, the two Muslim ne'er-do-wells who were the Laurel and Hardy of Yugoslav jokes. The stereotype was that Bosnians were dumb. In one joke Mujo finished a puzzle and said 'Look, Haso, it took me only a month but the box here says three to five years.' In another joke Mujo declared 'I think, therefore I am,' then poof, he disappeared. 'The difference between Slovenia and Bosnia is plain,' the tourist official said. 'The Muslims there have always looked to Allah to produce for them and patiently wait until tomorrow...Do you know this word 'phlegmatically'? This is what may prevail in Sarajevo. 

If this sign that I found at the Olympic ski jump facility is any indication, bathrooms may have been on of the "small things" that were problematic.
The Slovenes were so worried about Bosnia hosting the games that they petitioned Tito in 1979 and argued that "the games should not be hosted." 

This was the site of the Olympic village. These buildings are within walking distance of our apartments. 
But Sarajevo did serve as host. And the world fell in love with Sarajevo as a consequence. Despite a few "small things" (the Olympic flag was hoisted upside down during the opening ceremony), the games were a roaring success and a source of pride for the country of Yugoslavia. Below is the first of several videos from 1984. This one shows pictures from the opening ceremonies and the venues that were used during the games.


Opening Ceremonies to the XIV Winter Olympiad.

The First Real Shock of the Games

Traditionally, the men's skiing downhill race is held on the first day of competition. High-speed, thrilling, and extremely dangerous, this event takes just about an hour to contest. No American had ever won the men's downhill at the Olympics. That is until 1984 Sarajevo.

The men's downhill was held at Bjelašnica. I have not skiied their but I plan to this year since they are adding a high-speed lift. We have visited during the summer and found some hiking trails, cows, and paragliding. It is a popular summer destination.
We also rent 4-wheelers at the resort there. 
During practice runs, a brash young American, Bill Johnson, was excelling. So the American broadcasters were talking him up during the first day of Olympic coverage. So he did not come completely out of the "blue." Here's his famous run to win the gold medal.


Bill Johnson shocked the skiing world with his unexpected Olympic victory.

The Biggest Stars of the Games

Ice skating and hockey competitions took place at Skendaria, an indoor facility in the heart of town that now hosts events like Tourist Expos and International Fairs. And it was in this arena where the biggest stars of the 1984 Olympics competed. 

The Olympic logo outside of Skendaria. Note the drone which is about to take-off for a flight above the city.
For one brief shining moment, the relatively unknown sport of ice dancing stole the heart of the world. Two British ice dancers, Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean, took advantage of some rule changes which allowed more freedom in their sport. The result was an innovative routine to the classical song "Bolero" which captivated the world. And the judges. Their performance was scored "perfect" by all of the judges. 


Although I knew nothing about ice dancing going into Sarajevo, the hype made this competition "must see TV" for me and everyone else across the world. I cannot name another ice dancing team ever. But I will never forget Torvill and Dean.

Events on Skates

Skating events were either held in Skendaria or near the Olympic Stadium. Today the stadium is used for a number of purposes. Most dear to the heart of some Sarajevo residents is the football stadium, home to FK Sarajevo. Sarajevo has three teams but the two most prominent are FK and Zelje. I was lucky enough to attend one of their games (aka darby) this past summer. 

Taking pictures of Sarajevo from Trebević. The arrow points out Olympic stadium.

This is the Olympic stadium. A little run-down but still functional.

Haris, Elder Smith, and Elder Echols enjoying the match between FK and Zelje.

The stadium still stands despite being burnt down every year at "darby" time.

They also hold other sporting events at the Stadium. Esma, one of our close Bosnian friends, has a brother who loves to compete in short-track speed skating events at the ice rink near the stadium. 

This is Esma's brother on the short-track.

The king and queen of the Winter Olympics are generally the winners of the men's and women's figure skating events. In Sarajevo this makes America's Scott Hamilton the King and East Germany's Katarina Witt the Queen.


This was the first of back-to-back gold medals for Witt.

Hamilton became the voice of skating broadcasts in the U.S.

A Sarajevo Icon

If you only have one day in Sarajevo, there are two places you must visit to truly get a flavor for the city. The first is Baščaršija (old town) and the second is the bobsled run on Trebević. There is something special about being able to walk the bobsled track. The locals have filled it with graffiti which makes it more personalized. 

Doing the Bobsled with Downi and Boyce.

I kinda of liked this graffiti bus. Unfortunately it was painted over six months ago. Replaced by some letters which are not as cool.

Elder Isom getting the full laser treatment from the "Wolf."

The city is quick to point out that the track is still in use. What that means is that in the autumn several Eastern European teams come and practice wheeled luge to get ready for their season. But mainly it is one of Sarajevo's top tourist attractions. 

The track cleaned up and ready for use.

People bike down it, walk along it, and jog on it. I have done the up and down jog before. 

Me mid-run.


Here's some coverage from the bobsled competition.


Before coming to Sarajevo, Briel, Mitch and I went down the Bobsled track in Park City. I did not realize how strong the G-Forces are on your body.

The Best Twins in Olympic History


The slalom events were held at Jahorina, This is only 45-minutes from our apartment so I was able to go skiing there 4 times last season. Remarkably inexpensive, the ski area is small by Rocky Mountain standards. They do not have many mogul runs so most everything is groomed and easy skiing. 

Anna came with us one morning. Hopefully there are ski resorts in Greece!

I am sure Brig and Jet would just jump over this minor outcropping of rock and trees.

I have not ridden a "T-bar" lift since my early days skiing Pinedale. Nearly fell down the first time up. I can't imagine trying to ride this lift up using a snow board.

In winter Sarajevo displays a majestic beauty. The snow replaces the fallen leaves which seems to bring new life to the forest. 

Once the leaves fall, the mountains of Bosnia are drab and depressing. The first snows, however, bring everything back to  life as a beautiful white blanket seems to cover the forest. The trees seem to embrace this whiteness, displaying a celestial glory as they prepare for spring's rebirth.

We were able to ski one fresh powder day. My heart was willing but my legs were not. I did not last too long playing in the un-groomed snow.



In 1984 two skiing twins, Phil and Steve Mahre, did the impossible. They finished 1-2 in the men's slalom. What a tremendous day for the Mahre family. 



Phil and Steve Mahre (only their mother knows who is who).

Fly Like an Eagle

I remember watching the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics on a black and white television below a quilting frame that my mother was working on. I was fascinated with the ski jump. When I watched the ski jump live in 2002, however, I was in awe at how far they flew but found the event kind of boring. When you have seen one ski jump, it seemed to me at the time, you've seen them all. 

The ski jumps on Mount Igman.
Lesser known than the bobsled track but still as fascinating, the ski jump hills have also fallen into disarray. This means that you can climb them and see how steep they really are. You cannot, however, jump off of them...the drop is way too steep.

From this angle, the hills do not appear that steep.

However, as you climb up the jumps, you realize how steep they really are. This was as high as I could safely climb up the hill. And the thought of skiing down this thing, jumping, and then landing down where those small people are is terrifying.

Matti Nykanen began his dominance of the sport in Sarajevo.

Closing Ceremony

As Dionne and I are pondering our post-Sarajevo life, I am reminded of the thrill that a city receives while hosting an Olympics. Time seems magical while the competition is underway. But you know that it has to come to an end some day. And our end is coming way to soon.

Loving winter in Bosnia. But not for too much longer.
The 14th Winter Olympiad was a rousing success. During the closing ceremony, IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch stated that the games were "a wonderful success...I am convinced they will remain forever in our hearts and memories...doviđenja, Yugoslavia. Doviđenja, drago Sarajevo." Milton Richman, the longtime sports editor at UPI, insisted that Sarajevo's games were "beyond question the best organized and most smoothly run" he'd seen in a quarter century. "What impressed me the most is how the Yugoslavian people did everything possible, and some things that seemed impossible. The games were without wrinkle from the Opening Ceremony right down to the closing one. Nothing was too difficult for them...and when you tried to thank them, they smiled affably and said nema problema." Everyone was friendly almost too a fault. My favorite story is told by a reporter who was attending the game with his family. "My son and daughter, age nine and twelve, were nonplussed to find that when they rode in taxis alone, the taxi drivers often, as a sign of courtesy, offered them cigarettes...smoking is big in Sarajevo, but this big?"