Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A chair for 'Jana'

I feel so blessed to have been able to accomplish so much at Vorzel. When I started this Mission Trip, I wanted to make a difference for the children. I look at my daughter Jillian, who is severely disabled, and know that if she had been born in the Ukraine, under the circumstances that exist there, my Jillian not only probably would not have survived but would definitely not be doing so many of the things that she is doing now!!

Proper therapies and equipment made all the difference by integrating her reflexes, decreasing her tone and providing the supports she needed to sit up, stand, walk and see!! She has intensive physical, occupational, and vision therapy as an infant, along with speech therapy and early intervention support. When she needed equipment, insurance paid for it, therapies were free! She got everything that she needed as she has me to advocate for her! The children living in the Ukraine are not as lucky. There is no early intervention, and noone to advocate for the children. Parents are left to themselves to try to find services for their children, and almost all are placed in Baby Houses. There they get little or no stimulation, therapies, etc. Some brave families do try to keep their children and turn to the local Baby Houses for support.

It was there in Groupa House 1 that I found Jana lying in a carriage listening to music. He is left there during the week, and taken home on the weekends. His babooska (grandmother) visits him daily. He is loved and wanted but his family does not know what to do with him and have no equipment for proper positioning/seating.

And this is how God works!

The previous week, Dave Daulton and his group from Virginia brought four chairs and a standing table with them on their Mission Trip! I had seen the chairs, stored and knew that the one was just right for Jana! I fitted Jana in the chair, showing the Doctor and staff how to adjust it for him, and was grateful to all the Physical Therapists who treated Jillian and those from work who took the time to teach me how to properly position a child in a chair. Despite the head support, Jana’s head fell forward and ‘Ina’ a wonderful care worker, untied a broad satin ribbon which we used as a head band to hold his head upright. Once positioned, Jana smiled and cooed the sweetest little sounds in response to my ‘sweet nothings’ which I whispered in his ears. I don’t know about the others, but my eyes were filled with tears of joy!!! I missed his Grandmothers visit, but she was so excited and asked if she could buy it!! So, we have to get a chair to him for her to transport him back and forth and use at home! If anyone has one, please email me. I am also taking donation to either purchase or pay for the shipping! I am hoping we can get it and send it with one of the families or mission groups heading over there this summer!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jo Ann Torres, a True Hero

I would like to publicly acknowledge Jo Ann Torres, who is the true hero of this Mission Trip! Last year JoAnn and her husband Ruben adopted their three daughters, all with Down Syndrome from Vorzel. I flew to the Ukraine to assist Jo Ann bringing the girls home but delays prevented that and Jo Ann flew home alone with all three girls! These girls, joined the Torres family which already consisted of 6 daughters, one who was adopted from Russia with Down Syndrome, one biological daughter with Down syndrome and five other biological children. This year she volunteered to join me on a Mission Trip to thank the care workers at Vorzel by doing their hair. Jo Ann worked her magic and single handedly, broke down the barriers between care workers, families and volunteers!! Through the use of a translator and pantomine, she cut, colored and highlighted approximately 50 woman's hair over four days! In addition, she cut and colored the hair of the graduating students and orphans at Bucha where she is adopting Marco, a brother for her son! She did not turn anyone away!! I don't believe anywhere, anyone ever did what she did!!!!She had some assistance from Nadia at times, who was from Almaz Church and had just received her Hair certificate! Nadia is so blessed to have received on the spot training by the BEST HAIR DRESSER THAT EVER EXISTED!!!Because of Jo Ann's efforts, I was allowed access to the children and relate to the care workers! Jo Ann was gifted champagne and chocolates, coffee and chi in Groupa House 1. Other Houses offered chocolates and drinks! On her third day of her hair-a-thon, Jo Ann received a call that the Doctor was waiting for her in Groupa House 2 where, Oksana, Peaches and hopefully Marshall are! She was so surprised to be beckoned and welcomed by the Doctor who resisted the Mission workers in the pass. This allowed Pastor Sasha to begin a  relationship that had not existed to develop!!! Jo Ann cut, colored, hgh lighted and laughed with her 'clients'. In House 5 they lined up and had set up a beauty shop for her and had arranged 'appointments'. By her second day, Jo Ann suffered swollen feet and ankles and despite being very uncomfortable, she continued to work without complaining!!! Someone else would have quick but not her!! Jo Ann made such a difference in their lives and I believe it will have a ripple effect on the attitudes of the orphan workers. Despiite her exhausting experience, she is talking about a Hair Ministry, organizing hair dressers and pairing them with mission groups in orphanages and Baby Houses in the future!!!. Jo Ann is one of the greatest human beings I know, a true messenger and a SUPER MOM!! Thank you Jo Ann!!

These children are all going to America!!

1.Ivan/Igor was very happy to wear his American Boys Rule tee shirt. The care workers loved looking at the map and learning where each child was going to be living! 2and 3. The children were very possessive of any gift given to them and Leeza and Angelica would not share their Family Albums!4. Ivanna demonstrates how to wrap her hair after washing!5 and 6. Ruslan on Nadia, our translator's lap and then mine once he decided to trust me! 7. Peaches! 8.Mallory/Masha with her Grandmother!And here she is on a bike. That's me blowing up a Tricky Beach Ball, wearing my world's largest fanny pack (which was given it's name by Adam last year).9. Ivan matching colors! 10. Leeza with Sasha listening to a Fisher Price Music Box! (She just caught herself tinkling! She may toilet train easily!) 11. Angelica seeing her mother's picture for the first time!
12. Mallory/Masha with both grandparents!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Severe Jetlag!!

I am enjoying my daughter and suffering severe jetlag! Tried to straighten out the blog and gave up. I'm too tired to even think. I'm heading to bed shortly. Tomorrow is another day and I'll work on the pictures. Meanwhile, I got photos from Sasha showing them presenting a blender and a TV to the careworkers for Baby Dat. Isn't that wonderful? Good night! DOn't forget to give your little one a special hug tonight, I know I did!! And does anyone know how to get the Gadgets back to the right. It looks right in the layout but they are all to the left under the posts!!

Last Day at Vorzel

JoAnn and I headed out to the SDA to purchase a few souvenoirs. Here you can get everything you need to remember your visit to the Ukraine. There are two stands which give you a great price which are close to the ‘coffee urns’ near the top. One of the men is Bougdon and they are friends with Nadia, who works with Oleg. They will give you good prices and I got 30 of the nesting dolls and pins to use as fund raisers for my return trip. We grabbed taxi to Bucha and Vorzel. Once in Bucha we met up with Natasha, who translated for Yura who had many questions for JoAnn. One of the older boys was hungry as he did not like the food, so we took a walk to a market where I purchase rotisserie chickens, flat breads and drinks for the boys. I gave one boy who is working in construction the knee pads which I had brought along for Ruslan. He was so grateful and would not call me by ‘Sandie’ but by ‘Miss Sandie’, which shows you how respectful these children are!!!
Off to Vorzel via the bus we went. I was sad knowing that this would be my good byes to the children and the workers. I’m such a cry baby and knew it would be difficult for me.
While eating outside Groupa House 1, we met a business man and his wife who were bringing food for the children there. He explained that every time his business does well, he does something good for others. What a wonderful attitude, too bad that isn’t common in America. Think of all the good that could be done! We helped them unload the bananas, juice, oatmeal cookies and biscuits and showed them pictures of the children from that house. I asked if he would do me a favor and buy a blender for Do Teen Dat, a tiny Vietnamese child in the back with failure to thrive. He didn’t quite understand what I was so excitedly explaining, so I took him around the back and despite his protests that it would be too painful showed him the child. After a conversation with the care worker, he promised to help. We exchanged emails addresses and I am hoping he will sponsor the diapers for Vorzel. The children are allocated 2 diapers per day as the director is afraid that they will run out as they have NOONE to sponsor them. I know that meeting Nickoli was no coincidence; God once again was at work!

After they left, the care workers opened the door and invited us in for coffee and to visit with the children. After many rounds of Ring around the Rosie with Ivanna, Igor, Leeza and Sasha which we got on film, JoAnn left to say her good byes with Yura. Sasha and Olya arrived and we discussed plans to continue the ministry work I started. We would like to do training in October for the staff. But most importantly, would like to be able to hire a Teacher Associate to continue my Early Intervention with the children! They have people who would quit their current jobs and for $1000 USA, they would be willing to work full time in Vorzel. So PLEASE pray that somehow, the money can be raised! If anyone has any ideas, please contact me!!!!
After saying our tearful goodbyes to Sasha and Olya, I then said my good byes to the children. There was not a dry eye in the place! I promised the two care workers that I’d be back and that Leeza, Ivanna’s and Igor’s families would be there soon and will keep them updated on their adjustment to life with their families in America. That’s all they want: the reassurance that they will live a good life. These women love the children and have a bond with them. We must remember that when a child is adopted, a little piece of their heart goes with each child. Anything that you can bring the care workers, such as pictures of yourself, your home and a map of the USA indicating where they will be is treasured information for them, just as tidbits of information you get ahead of time on your child is priceless for you!
Over at Groupa 3, I said my good byes to Ruslan, whom I presented an Amercan Boys Rules tee shirt and videoed him saying ‘I go to America’ over and over again. The staff explained to him that a family was coming to get him and take him to a house with a mom and dad, brothers and sisters. He thanked me. (I cried.). He asked if the house had furniture (chair? bed? table? FOOD?) and cheered after I said ‘Da’ to each one! Unfortunately, I was not able to assure the staff that Timothy would also have a home but promised to try and find him one. So check him out under Other Angels on Reeces and I will update his blurb at a later time, or you can contact me via email, or phone for more information! (PLEASE?) He needs a home too soon!
Back at Groupa 5 I said quick good byes to Angelica, Masha, Anya, Katya, Sasha, Daniel…… the list goes on. My heart was in knots and I knew it would not be good to break down in front of the children so I left.
I ran back to Groupa 3, blew them kisses and told Ruslan “I see you in America” and he shouted back the same!
And I took the bus to the Metro pulling an empty red tote and a plastic bag of 24 ceiling tiles (2’ by 2’) which the construction workers removed from the ceiling in what will be the Early Intervention Therapy Room in Groupa 3. These will be used to raise funds to complete the room and hire the Associate Teacher! So look for your opportunity to OWN a little piece of Vorzel soon!!
Back at the room, we packed with a heavy heart, knowing that what we started will continue through the ministry of Almaz Church and that we will be back!!! And that the families are coming for their childen soon!
On Monday, Ana and Yurig, Ivanna's parents, took us to the airport. They were so happy that they had read that the Stratton's had received the approval for Ivanna and would be coming soon for her. Please pray for their strenght during this bittersweet time. I grew to love them and will hold a special place in my heart for them forever. They are the true heroes in Princess Ivanna's story, a Hallmark special!

Monday, June 21, 2010

More barriers melt at Vorzel!!!

Another great day in Vorzel and Bucha

I can not stop and be amazed at what has happened today. JoAnn and I slept a little later today (7:45) and headed out with bags packed. I believe we are the unofficial American Bag Ladies!! I have a Hawaiian print backpack or the worlds LARGEST fanny pack PLUS a rolling red bag I picked up at the flea market and she is carrying three tote bags of hair supplies! What a team we make! After breakfast at the buffet which involves potato pancakes and chicken with cheese, two glasses of orange juice and a coffee which can keep me going until dinner around 9:00, we hailed a taxi for the orphanages. We were not too successful at bartering this man down so a ride ran us 250 grevnas today but this man did understand ‘hurry’ and I arrived at Vorzel just on time to meet with Olga, the head speech therapist. Unfortunately, we had no translator to assist us but true to our determination to communication we did quite well. Before starting, we ran into the Lorraines who were enjoying feeding their beautiful daughter Oksana a yogurt. I had assumed that Olga worked with all the children in VORZEL and could tell us about Oksana but was mistaken. It seems only the children in groupa 3 have her services.
Olga had wanted my opinion on Timothy so together we attempted to test him using my standardized tests, her materials and pantomime! At one point, Olga laid down on the floor to tell me that he had responded ‘sleeping’!!! The barriers were broken down as we laughed together realizing that we understood each other. It is hard to believe that as aq speeh therapist she has NO computer, standardized tests, or speech materials as we have in the States. Not only that but there methods of intervention have not changed in years! SThere learning/intervention is passive; whereas here it is hands on, active learning experiences that enhance language development! Ahh! (More later on this!) I have so much work ahead of me to bring Early Intervention to Vorzel! I’ll be looking for people to join me in this endeavor!
Timothy’s patience wore out when he heard the Borsh pots clinking for lunch and quickly exited. He sure loves to eat!!!
I then showed Olga, our favorite caregiver from last year, and another woman the pictures on my lap top of the girls at school. They were very interested to here the children’s schedule and how I ran the program. I believe the children get more of a ‘pull out’ service. Olga loves using art and was very curious about some of our art projects and bulletin boards. Luckily for us Sasha and Olga arrived and she was able to translate. It was wonderful to then be able to engage in a real conversation then! She would love to have smocks, glitter, and food coloring for playdough. She was so surprised when I reached into my bag and pulled out food coloring and cookie cutters which I presented to her! JoAnn laughs that my bag is amazing!! It amazes me too! Wherever I go, I reach into the bag and have just what they need!!
At this point the next mission group arrived and Olya had to join them, so we started to say our goodbyes for this time! I was a bit concerned because I did not know where Joann was ( cutting hair in Bucha) and knew she had no cell phone AND mine was dead and I needed to put money on it! Not a good feeling! Sasha called me over to meet the new group and I welcomed them and explained my mission. As I was talking, Olga joined and thanked them for coming and explained a bit about her role at Vorzel. Apparently she was as excited to meet me and was her, and together we hope to bring Early Intervention Services to Vorzel. Some children from the community, including her grandson, do come to the orphanage for speech already!!
After saying our goodbyes again, JoAnn and I joined the group to see the progress on the therapy room and then headed to Groupa House 5 to use the bathroom and sit and eat. We dined on cheese, bread and some meat roll, jelly crousants and cookies! And what to wondering eyes did appear… but the father and grandmother of a little boy with Down Syndrome, age 18 months, who are considering taking him home AND Masha’s grandparents!!!! Sooo….with my card in my pocket (w/email address) we approached them both!. Masha’s grandmother was so relieved that she could have a contact and fought off tears a she posed proudly with her for photos!! She loves her so much!!!

After playing with Angelica for a bit, I went and got one of the walkers I had brought with me, and tried it out on the little guy! I’m not sure who was more excited: ‘little B’. or his Papa!!(or me) His grandma couldn’t believe it either. And I watched teary eyed as ‘little B’ mastered walking with the walker, pulling himself up into it and turning around, and turning it when he hit obstacles!!! Sasha, JoAnn and the mission group cheered for ‘little B’ as he cheered for himself. A few care workers came out to watch and were amazed! Sasha explained that they need to let him have access to it daily, along with Anya! Please say a special pray that this father, who so loves his son, has the courage to bring him home and that we, through Sasha’s ministry can support him! AND that the careworkers use it! I think the new mission workers will follow through!!!

Little B’s father gave JoAnn and I a ride to Bucha, where we spent a few hours sitting outdoors with Yura and his little friends. These three boys are also orphans and available for adoption so if anyone is looking for an older boy let us know!!! One of the boys was a little mischievous and I gave him a purple trivky happy face beach ball which I had for the younger ones. This brought a smile to his face and I ended up giving out the rest of my supply. Imagine this: 30 boys outdoors with only ONE soccer ball which was Yura's. It‘s hard to believe that children can not only be deprived of a mother and father to love them, but a ball as well!!! There are so many children who need to be saved!

Friday, June 18, 2010

WInding Down!

We continue to keep up the fast pace despite JoAnn's swollen feet and my sore knees but we know we must pursue! Yesterday JoANn spent her day at Bucha sutting the children's hair and hanging with Marco. She has really gotten to know him which is unheard of!
I spent the day at Vorzel again! First thing I had the opportunity to meet up with the Lorraines with Oksana in Groupa House 1. I witnessed the bond between mother and daughter develop over cheerios! I gave the doctor a hand knitted pink sweater set from a woman at my Church for Peaches! And guess who was in the waiting room holding her? Her Grandmother!! That's right, little Peaches! I quickly explained to her that she had a family in America, hoping that she understood and blew her blessings and kisses!
I joined Sasha and the Mission Group at 5 and we distributed the bonnets to the children, choosing a special bonnet for each child based on the size, color and sponser! Off to Groupa 3 where we once again distributed bonnets. The Mision group from Michigan presented the supplies that they brought for the children and careworkers.The children were all so excited and thanked them when directed!
Sasha then took me to the back of 3 where they have started demolition on the room that will soon be the 'Sensory Room' or Early Intervention Room. I will be consulting with them on this project and we made a video explaining the purpose and their needs! I'll never make it as a reporter as I stumbled over words, etc. But it was fun!
I met up with Dr. Yurig B. who evaluated Ruslan and Igor and discussed American philosphies vs. Ukrainian on evalution, treatment and prognosis. He is a great contact and available through the facilitator for assessmenta, plus works as a family doctor. I'll share his information later because it's good to know a doctor in iev
At night Ivanna's parents picked us up and we went back to their house for dinner. We had a wonderful time, eating real Ukrainian food and getting to learn them better. They are a very courageous young couple and should be admired for their dedication to their daughter! We have developed a bond with them that is a treasure! I feel as though I have another family in the Ukraine as they are the samae age as my sons!
After a tour of Kiev and a good night sleep we are off once again to Bucha and Vorzel. 2 heads in Bucha left to cut, more bonding time with Marco for JoAnn and I will be meeting with the speech therapist and evaluating Timothy. Please continue to pray for Monroe. And pray that more doors open! We have broken down barriers through JoAnn's touch which allowed me to touch the children. When people allow you to touch them physically they are opening themselves up emotionally. We have melted the walls and made a difference! More later!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Another very busy day at Vorzel

Today was another busy day at both Vorzel AND Bucha! We met Natasha at the Metro and took the ride via metro and bus. It hard to believe that last year we were so afraid and cautious as we navigated the rails and this year we are telling a native where to get the bus to both places. It's really quite easy, even for me who gets lost when you spin me in a circle! At the flea market in 'Sveeatocean' where you leave the metro and catch the bus, I brought a large red tote bag on wheels as my backpack and 'the world's largest fanny pack' were getting too heavy to carry. I am toting my laptop back and forth to show the careworkers the pictures of JoANN's girls in my Early Intervention Program, my daughter and her school Christmas pagent so they can undertand that these children lead productive lives in AMerica! I think they are finally getting it as today the head doctor (the one I was so scared of last year!) asked me to demonstrate my techniques tomorrow and train them. I think she wants me to set up a classroom tomorrow. I gave her the head doctor the donated walkers and she was so grateful. Both her and the head doctor from Groupa 5 accepted them and asked me how to use them. They remarked that they have NO access to equipment like this there! She sent me over to Groupa House 3 and 2 to assess the needs of some of the children! I broke down and cried tears of joy when I saw Ruslan who was NOT at the specialized therapy house. Nadia, our translator and I went to Groupa House 1, where we entered a back door, and were greeted by careworkers who asked for materials for three children. They are in great need of musical crib toys and a blender to prepare the food for a tiny little boy of Vietnamese descent who has failure to thrive. I demonstrated techniques for decreasing his spasticity. The careworker was so grateful and excited to learn that he was visually tracking and responding to her voice. We choose a simple suction cup toy for a highchair for another child who happily spun it over and over again. These children are so deprived of the stimulation that they so need, and the staff has been so receptive! I feel I am making a difference!

Meanwhile, JoAnn took her new son and two of his friends on a trip to the market where they brought soap, detergent, shampoo, sponges, kotex for the orphanage at Bucha. This is what they reqauested instead of balls! She did give him his own soccer ball and found out that he will be going to Italy for the summer (sort of like the Fresh Air Fund in America)! They also purchase fresh fruit and vegtables from the locals for the children. All of this had to be carted back on flat carts such as the kind you get at a lumber store. JoAnn had such a wonderful experience with Yura aqnd will see him tomorrow when she goes back to cut and style the hair of 9 girls graduating from the school. The children graduated after 11th grade , with some trade/skill and are sent out into the world, alone with no family. How alone that must be, no family and now you're on your own! Imagine turning your teenager out on the streets when they turn 18 like that!

JoAnn headed back to Vorzel, via the 'BOP 3' bus, and found herself called by the doctor in Groupa House 2 who was waiting for her to do her hair! I could not believe when I found her that she was all set up in 2 and had already done 3 cuts and getting ready to do the doctors hair when I walked in! I was surprised to meet up with Nadia and Oleg there too!! Pastor Sasha arrived and we had a great visit with the doctor who brought us back to meet Monroe! As I was measuring him for equipment needs, the doctor told me what he really needs is a family real soon. In six months he will be sent to an institution which is like death row. He will be restrained in a crib in a dark room and barely fed. At this point, she broke down in tears and begged me to find him a family. Please get your prayer warriors going for this beautiful little boy! I will update his profile also. Here again, I had caregivers posing with the children! I had the pleasure of seeing PEACH from across the room. She will be have surgery to repair the ventricle in the beginning of July. She looks wonderful but they are concerned she will get sick so she is 'protected' from the others! What a cutie!

Back at Groupa 3 I met with the speech therapist who would like me to assess Timothy and a few others this Saturday. Next week, Sasha's mission group will start tearing down and building a 'sensory room' for that house. He would like us to fund raise and provide materials if possible.

I was so busy all day going back an forth from one Groupa to the next and meeting with doctors and careworkers that I never met up with the psychologist, Dr. Yurig as planned. I just don't have enough time to do all that they need in the 5 Houses but will try my hardest. I need to stay longer!

The helmet I had does not fit Volva in Groupa 1. Does anyone have access to one? I will be gathering a list of requested items and will be posting them at a later date. Sasha and the Almaz Church are doing amazing things for the children at Vorzel. They are so committed to the orphanage and the children so please remember them and their mission in your prayers as they are truly Guardian Angels of these children!

We will be dining at Ivanna's house tomorrow night with her family which will be a wonderful opportunity for us to get to know them. It's after midnight here and we will be up at 5:30 to start the day again! We did not leave Vorzel until 8:00 tonight so we are putting in really long days. It's a good thing we did our site seeing last year because we have spent 10 hour days at the orphanage. Next time I will stay at the Vorzel Sanitorium which is only 32 dollars per night, including 3 meals and a five minute walk to the Groupa Houses!
Can anyone tell me how to get pics out of Kodak Easy Share and into blog?!!!!!I can't upload the pictures and videos!!!!SOS!!!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Very busy in Vorzel.

Well, I finally was able to get the internet at the room and translate my Blog into English! It's amazing how fast one can get frustrated when you can't get into your blog or email!! We have had three amazing days at VOrzel! On Sunday, we went to Vorzel with Ivanna's perents and brother and had an enjoyable visit with them! They love her so much and want her to have a life in America where she can get the services she needs! Today got there by 11:00 and didn't leave until after 7:00. We met with Sasha and Olya from Almaz Church who have helped us through their mission, achieve our mission! As a treat to for the careworkers they arranged for JoAnn to do their hair! JoAnn has done the hair of at least 30 woman in two days! That's cuts, color and highlights! She has softened the hard shell of the careworkers and has really made a difference in their relationship. These woman are remarkable and truly care for the children!!!She has had the assistance of a young woman, Nadia to translate ! They were 'partying " with leis on and gave us champagne and chocolates! (Yumm!) This may have been the biggest thing that has ever happened for these woman. They were so grateful. JoAnn continually reminded them that she was doing this to Thank them for taking care of the children!I will tell you more and send photos in future updates.
While JoAnn cut hair I 'helped' myself to the children! Yesterday, I spent the day in Groupa House 1 with Igor/Ivan, Ivanna and Leeza along with Misha, Mikey, and Timothy. The workers allowed me to interact with the children and even filmed me with them when I gave them my camera! These are the same women who escorted me to the office last year! Leeza and Ivanna were transferred to Groupa House 1 from 3 and Ivan/Igor from House 4 and they have blossomed! Ivanna and Leeza are both repeating words and saying some words spontaneously.They can both do the actions for simple Russian Children's songs when sung by the workers and try to sing along! They are so proud of themselves! They look so much better too, healthy, longer hair, less scrathes and abrasions! Both girls can follow simple one step directions in Russian. I taught the three of them how to play Ring Around the Rosie and they LOVED it! I even had the careworkers doing it too! Once I stopped they continued to do it themselves and I heard lots of words, especially "FALL DOWN"! So the girls are verbal and should take off once in a language enriched, loving environment!!Leeza held onto her book and pillow, looking at the pictues, repeating Mama, Papa!But she was so sweet and shared the album with Ivanna and Sasha. He's a little guy who is verbal, hydrocephalic but not signed off yet by his parents. Ivan/Igor runs Groupa House 1. He is SOOO verbal, some echolalia but lots of spontnaeous speech. He sings songs, recites poetry and gives everyone a quick back massage when requested! He uses all the workers and children's names, and learned mine rather quickly.I was amazed at his progress from last year! The children in this House have no toys to play with, despite a room full of educational toys locked behind a pink door! Supposively this is where the teacher works with them 1 on 1. The entire situation got me very annoyed and really upset me so I'll tell you all about that later. The saddest thing in that House is that three children were transferred to the Internat: red headed Ruslan, Katya and Vova. These children were never released for adoption by their parents! Little Misha is pathetic, pale and in a brace for hip dysplasia. Please pray for him, he looks like he will be leaving us soon! Vladik is still there, a little stronger, but still needs surgery.
I found a boy lying in a stroller who has severe cerebral palsy and microcephaly whose mother and grandmother are rasing him and drop him off there for babysitting! He was too big for the strolller so I was able to position him in a chair donated from Dave Dalton and his group from Virginia last week. Isn't that wonderful! One hand sows the seed....
When his grandmother saw him positioned in the chair she asked if she could buy it. So look around, I need to get them a chair for home!!Send me pics if you have one,so I can get the right one! I'll figure out how to get it to him! The careworkers and Doctor assisted in adjusting the chair for him so they had hands on training. They never saw anything like it and were so happy to have an upright position for Jana!
I even met the orthopedist who thought I was a doctor and explained the conditions of each child! When he asked me my techniques on 'nerve repositioning" after tendon release I explained that I was 'only a teacher' but will get his surgical information from USA! They use Botox injections and do surgery only on the children who they think are 'candidates' for it based on 'potential'.
Today we were in Groupa House 5 where Milena and Lillia were raised! Again we were welcomed with outstretched arms and smiling Groupa workers lined up with a schedule ready! As JoAnn cut hair, I showed a slide presentation on her girls at school. The Doctor was especially interested in HOW they learn and their functioning in the communitiy. I shared pictures of my daughter and we discussed how America deinstitutionalized in the 70's and built in the supports for the family! The workers all agreeded that he children would be better at home and I was approached by a worker who has stayed in touch with a family that took their DS child home! In addition, there are two other 2 year olds with DS there whose parents visit them weekly and also are considering taking them home!!Isn't that wonderful! Hopefully tomorrow those parents will come to meet me for strategies and support!
So, I spent a lot of time with Masha and Angelica in the afternoon! And may have five other children without DS who are available also! Both girls are doing so much better than last year! And wear 18-24 month size clothing. We had so much fun playing RIng around the Rosie and imitating the gestures to songs such as "If you're happy and you know it clap your hands..." and Head Shoulders, knees and toes". They are both imitating gestures and following simple directions. They are HAPPY and HEALTHY and BEAUTIFUL and I couldn't hug them enough!! I kept telling them that they have Mama's and Papa's. Angelica kissed the pictures in her book and they both blew kisses and waved 'hi'. This entire experieince has been so awesome for me and I know that God has directed me to do more! Anya is now standing and imitated arms up and clapping! She is lower functioning but is interactive and I did get her to laugh and smile! Tomorrow I will bring her DJ's Rifton Walker and see how she does with it!
And tonight I got a worker in Groupa House 2 to bring PEACHES to the window for me to see! She is more beautiful than her picture if you could imagine! And she looked very healthy too!!Now hopefully, we will get into this House tomorrow!!!
I have been disappointed as RUSLAN is still at a specialized medical theapy center recupperating from surgery. I will be meeting with the doctor/psychologist who evaluated him for his family and will see if he can take me to see him.
I have so much to tell everyone about their children and once home you can call me. I am so tired now. JoAnn is fast asleep but I will to attach some photos!Please be patient with me as I am so technology challenged. Next trip I need to bring a tech expert along!!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

We're safe in Vorzel , Ukraine.

Greetings! We arrived yesterday in the Ukraine and were met at the airport by Yurig, Ivanna's father. After managing to get my 100 pounds of luggage plus the walkers into the car, he drove us to our apartment at 19 Besinia Street Kirv. Unfortunately, our apartment wasn't ready til 1:00, and we were ready to sleep, but it gave us enough time to go to the buffet and eat!!!! After stuffing ourselves, we went back to the room to rest before heading out to the baby House at Vorzel with Yurig Ana and baby Igor to meet Ivanna. Jo Ann and I were not allowed into Groupa House 1 where Ivanna, Leeza and Igor/Ivaan were so we took walk while Ivanna's parents visited with her. We strolled into Groupa House 3 where Masha's careworker, our favorite, recognized JoAnn and I and was anxious to see and hear updates on Masha. We saw Timothy ther who looked really good,, thinner however, and he respoded 'Hello' and waved to us!! Out inthe road, we met up with Lillia's Careworker who excitedly kissed her photos! We got to visit with Ivanna, right before leaving and were thrillled to see her imitating and interacting very positively with her mama, papa and brotheran and Leeza who climbed out of the window. I got some great information on Ivanfrom Ana! We also got to see Igor/IvArt night we made it back in time to meetat TGIF with Okasana's parents, Erin and larry Loraine, Sophia and her mom and dad, the Sanchez'z, jospeh's parents and another couple adopting 4 little ones!!! (Sorry I forgot their names.)
This morning we met up wwith Natasha and took the metro and bus to Bucha and met 'Marco/Yura' and I am proud to annouce I witnessed JoAnn confirm her papper pregnancy. It's a BOY annd I don't know what he weighs but he's 12 years old, and has the cutest smile, twinkle in his eyes and looks like he was their biological son! hE WAS ESTATIC WHEN HE MADE THE CONNECTION BETWEE 'GOING TO America ' and Mama and Papa. Not many people get to watch a mother and son meet for the first time but once again I was blessed to be part of this experieince!We then took the bus into VOrzel, missed our stop and was helped by a young woman who turned out to be Tatina's daughter, who was the wonderful careworker who posed Ivan for his picture last year!!!Could you believe it! Tomorrow we will go meet with her and her daughter will translate for us! She is in Okasama's Groupa House!
We are currently meeting with Sahsa and Olya and will be heading over to the Baby House in a few mintues to meet the children! Tomorrow we will bring all the equipment and meet with the Heaad Doctor! We hope to post pictures tonight! See TORRESFAMILYADOPTION.BLOGSPOT.COM FOR MORE!

Friday, June 11, 2010

More stuff just arrived!

My boyfriend AL, just showed up with more things donated by some of the families of the children I work with! I now have 3 walker (a purple gait trainer!) to figure out how to bring! Al has this great idea to 'shrink wrap' them with the material you get at Home Depot to secure things to your car top! So off we go.... I hope Ivanna parents can fit us in their car!
Jillian came by with her Dad to give me a hug and show off her Challenger Baseball League trophy! She was so proud and I'm proud of her! She sure made a difference in my life and I hoipe I can make a difference in the life of at least one other child (one at a time!) in Vorzel!!

Getting serious now! Will it all fit??!!

Okay so I'm home now and trying to figure out how to pack all of the stuff I have to take! I've got Rifton walkers, a therapy ball, a helmet, 100 hats and sun bonnets (approximately 100, only 1/2 with committed donors), lots and lots of craft supplies, Croc kneepads, rattles, music boxes, a laughing dog, an evaluation kit, 50 pairs of socks, a slip n slide (FUN!!!!), side walk chalk, sign language booklets, 25 beach balls, hand crocheted sweater sets, bubbles and wands, and so much more!!! I have't started on my 'Ukrainian' wardrobe, and emergency medical supplies (antibiotics, hand sanitizer, meds, sunscreen, etc.).
I've got the cutest shirts for Ruslan and Ivan that say AMERICAN BOYS RULE! I'm so anxious to see them as they were both little guys that I 'found' last year and now have committed families!!!We also have gifts for Ivann's family and Sasha and Olya. Jo Ann's suitcases are loaded with hair supplies for her Hair Salon for the Careworkers and children in Vorzel', gifts for them and everyone else. I have my electrical plugs especially for there, a wattage convertoer, my lap top, iphone, and camera. I just brought a video camera that films at different angles, and a voice recorder. I did forget the kitchen sink, so the hand sanitizer will have to do!!!
It's not too late to sponsor a bonnet! For a $10 donation, a sun bonnet will have your name in it and be given to a child. We will continue to label them right up til we deliver them!
So...please pray for us; that we arrive safely and have a productive mission!!! Follow along on our journey....

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Please see the SPONSOR A BONNET campaign below (older posts) and donate in memory of little IRA! I still have approximately 45 bonnets without a Sponser!!!

Sasha and Olya Skripak

I will be joining Pastor Sasha and Olya Skripak from the Almaz Church in Kiev on their mission in Vorzel. The men who are on the mission will be working on the buildings and the women will be attending to the children. I will be training Olya and the mission workers on early intervention techniques. God brought us together last summer over the children in 'the forbiddden house' after meeting two of their mission workers, one of whom had ben raised in Vorzel. Sasha was instrumental in getting us into the House and helping us get some photos of the children. Olya, his wife had been wanting to learn what to do with the children to stimulate them and that turned into an opportunity for me to do some training with local woman who were interested. Hopefully, I will be able to do more trainings and these women will be able to go in and support new families so the children don't end up in the Baby Houses!!! Every summer Sasha, Olya and their three children Liza, 5, Gera, 4 and Martha age 2, spend six weeks at the Sanatorium ministering to the orphans in Baby House 12. And Olya is blessed to be pregnant with Skripak #4 this time!I'm not sure where else they will go this summer but last year spent time in Sri Lanka at an orphanage there!

Why do they do this?
Reason 1. God adopted us when we were orphans. Jesus promised: I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you. (John,14:18) Blesses the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spirituaal blessing..., just as He chose us in Him...He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will (Eph.1:3-5). reason 2 God commands to serve the orphans and we want to obey Him. Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan,...(Isa. 1:17) Pure and imdefiled religion in the sight of God and Father is this: to visit orpohans...(Jas.1:27).

Six days to go!

Well, it's Sunday night and we leave in six days!!! I feel I have so much more to do and no time to do it! It's my last weeek at school and I have to plan a Graduation Ceremony for my preschoolers who will be going off to a kindergarten program for next school year! I got hit with a sinus infection and lost most of the weekend to sleep...but my body needed to rest up for what lies ahead once I arrive in the Ukraine!
We will leaving on Saturday, June 12 and arriving in the Ukraine on Sunday morning. We willl be picked up at the airport by Ivanna's parents, Ana and Yurig. I hope our suitcases fit in their car! Last year, while visiting with Masha in Groupa House 3 , Jo Ann and I met Ivanna's parents who visit with her as often as possible. They are a beautiful young couple who represent so many of the birth parents over there. They were encouraged to sign over their baby Iva within weeks of giving birth to her, never taking her home from the hospital out of fear and the lack of support to raise a special needs child in their country! This is where more efforts need to be made, in order to support these families by encouraging Early Intervention services to be available for families and children!!! And this is where I'd also like to focus my work!! Ana begged us to find a home for Ivanna in America. Her fears were that once transferred to the institution she 'would disappear because she had a goood heart.' Indeed that night on TV we saw a news report about an arrest of an 'organ ring' in which orphans were snatched and shipped to other countries for their organs!! This was real!! Could you believe it?!How frightful for a parent who loves their child! It's bad enough that they were unable to get her back once they placed Ivanna but to have to sleep every night with that hanging over your head!!! Once I got home, I circulated Ivanna's story and begged people to pray for a family for her. I sent Andrea updates for ReecesRainbow and one night two very special people in Mississippi fell in love with little Ivanna after seeing her face on Reeces Rainbow! Now hopefully, their story has a happy ending. God had BIG plans for little Ivanna and her parents. Darlena and Andy Stratton are 'this' close' to being on a plane to picking up their new daughter, Ivanna. And they are open to sharing Ivanna's life with her biological parents. Now isn't that a story made in Heaven and a Hallmark special!!! I feel so blessed to have been a part of this. I am hoping to encourage Ana to be an advocate for new mother's to keep their babies once she sees the progress Ivanna can make! Part of it is the bleak message and prognosis they are given at birth, And the belief that these children are victims from Chernobyl!!!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mission to Ukraine, Vorzel Orphanage

Sad News!

Tonight I found out that Ira in Baby House 1 died in Vorzel. I am overwhelmed with feelings of sadness and anger. She is the precious little girl below as the model for my Sponser a Bonnet campaign. How could this be allowed to happen? Little Erra (Ira) had hydrocephalus and was severely visually impaired and may have been autistic as well. But she was a bundle of giggles and laughter and a great little cuddler! How sad that she would die alone without ever knowing the love and comfort of a mother and father. Please pray that she did not suffer for long and that she rests in peace in the comfort of our Lord's arms! This is the reason I am so passionate about helping these little one's. They are all alone, discarded and 'warehoused' until our Lord reaches out and calls them home. Could you imagine if your child had noone to hold them when they were ill, sad or scared?! Please help me to help these children. Spread the word...pray...and open your hearts to either adopting an orphan with special needs or helping another family bring a child home!!! "It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish. " Mother Teresa

Please go give your little ones an extra hug tonight as you thank God for all the goodness that He has given you through your child!