We had a very Merry Christmas here in Bosnia. We hope you did too!
|Santa found them all the way on the other side of the world!|
They must have been good boys and girls this year!
|For Christmas Eve we held our traditional BINGO night. We|
had 21 people crammed into our little apartment. Not only was
the room full, so was my heart! I will miss these amazing people.
|Emin (owner of the barn) and his adorable son Eren.|
|It took three separate pictures to fit in all the bingo prizes.|
|It was the first time several of our visitors had ever played BINGO!|
Ema, in the red dress, won the first game and chose a WHOOPIE
Cushion as her prize! She had fun with it all night long!
|Emir, Dijana, Tarik and Ema, part of our Bosnian family.|
Christmas is now over, the new year is upon us and the countdown has begun. Our replacements, John and Karen Cooper, will arrive in Zagreb on Saturday, Jan. 13. We will pick them up in Zagreb, Croatia on Monday, Jan. 15 and begin introducing them to project partners such as Croatia Red Cross, Medicins du Mond, Jesuit Refugee Services and more. We also have two meetings scheduled with church leaders in Zagreb about new projects they would like to have considered for the upcoming year, but these projects will fall into the hands of the Coopers so we wanted to wait until they arrived for any serious discussion of the proposed projects. It is evident that the humanitarian work will go on, even without us! But it's going to be hard to let it go, to say goodbye and move on to the next step in life, whatever that may be!
We have spent the past week trying to finish up loose ends and start trying to get everything organized for the Coopers. I have a pretty good system, but I don't want them to have to sift through all my "stuff" to find relevant information, so I'm on a mission to throw out anything that isn't necessary, pack up things that must be kept but won't be needed (like financial records) and organize what's left. It's kind of a sad thing to sort through the last year and half of our lives, knowing it will be ending soon. But at the same time, it's also very rewarding to look through all that we have been part of during our time here. As we near the end of the year and the end of our mission, I wanted to share some of our mission highlights:
We have been involved in a total of 29 projects: 11 Area Initiatives (These are projects we have personally sought out, planned, submitted for approval and implemented since our arrival.) 10 refugee projects, 5 water projects and 3 Major initiatives in over 40 cities, towns and villages throughout the Balkans.
|Although this does not include all our projects, this map on our|
apartment wall might give some idea of how spread out our
projects are. We estimate we have traveled nearly 80,000 kilometers
during our time here. (That's about 50,000 miles!)
- 8 of our area projects were in partnership with organizations that assist individuals with special needs. They included:
- Funding for a commercial kitchen that is now being used as a Culinary Vocational Training program for adults with disabilities. The individuals in the program prepare, cook, serve meals to the 150+ students and staff at Los Rosales. They are also hoping to open a small restaurant to the public in 2018.
|The skills they learn will help them learn skills that will|
help them be more self-reliant at home and in the workplace.
|The completed kitchen, just waiting for the cooks to arrive!|
- Donating three large greenhouses for another Vocational Training program at Zastiti Me (Protect Me) in horticulture. They grow all the vegetables used in the cafeteria as well as flowers that are then arranged by students and sold at the local markets.
- Roof repair and cosmetic renovations were made at Mala Sirena (Little Mermaid), a small non-profit center that offers services to children with disabilities and an inclusive kindergarten program. The painting was completed by missionaries and members of the LDS Church from across Bosnia. 12 young missionaries (plus 2 old ones- haha!) and 8 members painted the exterior entrance as well as the inside waiting areas to brighten the space after it had been damaged by the leaky roof.
|The interior went from dingy, pale green to bright and cheerful!|
I had to create a design that would allow for people to paint a small
section at a time. It turned out better than expected!
|Our creative painting crew, with Adisa, the|
director of Mala Sirena on the far left.
- We also did a pilot project with Mala Sirena which provided them with adaptive technology, including large key keyboards and iPads. The results we saw them have with the children we so impressive we opted to expand to other centers.
|The iPads allowed Tarik to show the world how smart he really is!|
- Along with iPads, a full day training workshop was offered to twelve different centers to ensure they know how to use the iPads effectively with children with a wide variety of disabilities. One of the best things about this project was that the two young educators from Mala Sirena actually taught much of the workshop. We had successfully implemented a "train the trainers" type system that will help it be sustainable in the future. Many educators/therapists were surprised at what was available to assist with their work and were eager to go back to their centers and teach others how they can increase the impact they have. It was so successful that we were able to get an extension to the project approved to include more centers than we originally planned.
|Edita and Jasminka from Mala Sirena did an outstanding job|
teaching the workshops. Their enthusiasm was infectious!
|Some very happy educators and therapists at the training in Banja Luka|
- Our largest, most in depth project was in partnership with EDUS (Educate Us - Education for All). 40+ special education teachers/therapists from throughout Bosnia attended (or will attend the weekend right before we leave) a three day workshop which taught them the basics of how to administer an initial assessment, create an individualized education plan based on the assessment and techniques to increase the skill acquisition of children of all abilities. Our hope is that this project will slowly begin to change the way children with special needs are educated in Bosnia.
|The workshop participants enjoyed the hands-on practice!|
- The attendees of the EDUS workshops were also provided with a "tool kit" of printed materials as well as items to help them successfully implement what they had learned. We spent weeks gathering the materials, which included a set of 1200 picture flashcards that we created using Google images and a great local printing company!
|The box on top contains 1200 flashcards and the box on bottom holds a |
wide variety of manipulative items to work with the children.
- In cooperation with Muslim Aid and BIMA (a volunteer medical organization), 160 women in rural areas of Bosnia received extensive gynecological exams. Approximately 30% of these women were found to require further testing and follow up for problems identified during the exams. We also were able to get approval for an additional 75 exams in another rural city in 2018. These exams will ensure women get the treatment they need to live healthy lives.
|In addition to the exams, there was also an educational presentation|
on the importance of regular gynecological screening for all women
who received the free exams. It was a packed house!
- With the assistance of about 15 church members and the missionaries, we provided supplies and assembled 50 hygiene and food kits that were then taken to a local Catholic organization that distributes needed supplies to the homeless in the area.
- 6 schools in Bosnia now have adequate water and sanitation. 4 schools received bathroom renovation, including replacing leaking pipes, moldy tile, non-functional toilets and sinks. One school also has a new septic tank and a school in a very rural area has running water for the first time in nearly 5 years.
- In addition to our Area Initiatives, we have also executed 9 projects to assist with refugee services in Croatia. There is a special budget for refugees.The projects provided the following:
- Medical supplies and medicine
- School supplies for refugee children
- Shoes for children and adult refugees
- Bedding (blankets, sheets and pillows)
- Hygiene supplies
- New exterior doors
- Electrical and plumbing work and commercial washers and dryers
- Renovations to a rundown office space that now houses Refugee Integration Programs
- Funding for medicines that are not covered by the government medical plans for refugees
|Women from Zagreb enjoyed a day of service with Sharon Eubank,|
Worldwide Director of LDS Charities. 100 backpacks were
filled with school supplies for refugee children.
|These little girls were very excited to go to school after receiving|
their new backpacks full of school supplies and new shoes to wear!
|One of several shipments of clothing, bedding and other supplies.|
- We have also been able to support four Major Initiatives. These are projects that are planned by LDS Charities specialists and are offered throughout the world. We are just the in-country coordinators and assist as needed.
- Greenhouses - LDS Charities works in cooperation with Muslim Aid and various municipalities to provide 1000 greenhouses each year. The greenhouses provide families with a way to be self sufficient by growing their own food as well as making income from the sale of their produce.
- Major Water - We have had two major water projects; one in Bosnia and one in Croatia. One has been relatively easy (working with the Croatian Red Cross to clean the water wells of 1,000 rural houses whose water is not drinkable) and one really difficult (bringing clean drinking water to the Bosnian village of Hrasno).
- Vision Care - Vision Care projects began in Bosnia in one canton (similar to a county) and we just got the contract signed for the sixth canton to participate in this program. LDS Charities works with local ophthalmologists to teach school staff how to administer eye exams. The exams are administered in the schools and, if needed, are referred to the local ophthalmology clinic for follow up care. The clinic receives specialized medical equipment to ensure appropriate follow up care is available.
|A Croatian couple standing by their well. It had not been cleaned for over 20 years and the water was contaminated.|
|A student participating in vision screening at a rural school.|
- Maternal Newborn Care - Newborn Resuscitation started in Bosnia about ten years ago. At the time the infant mortality rate was quite high, often due to infants not breathing at birth. Medical specialists who volunteer their time with LDS Charities train local doctors and nurses in current newborn resuscitation techniques and then those who have been trained conduct training for other medical professionals who deal directly with newborns. In November, we were able to assist the specialist from the U.S. with the training of over 100 medical professionals. Over time, the infant mortality rate is now on par with that of the U.S. and the number of professionals trained continues to increase as local staff teach others at their clinics and hospitals.
|At local doctor overseeing some of his staff practicing newborn|
resuscitation techniques at the training in Banja Luka.
The rough estimate of beneficiaries from these projects is 73,000 people. It is impossible to put the true impact of the work that LDS Charities does into a number. Each of those 73,000 people will probably have a positive impact on others as they reach out to others with their new found knowledge, hope in the future and ability to be more self-reliant. It has been very humbling to be part of this work, being God's hands on earth, even if but for a short time. We will always treasure the lessons we have learned, the humility we have gained and the love we have shared with so many during this journey. We wish everyone the happiest New Year!