So much has happened since the last post! I’m sorry I haven’t been keeping up with the days. As wonderful and fun as this project is, it is still exhausting, and all I want to do in my free time is sleep.
So let me start with day two of the project…
I was overly pleased with how day two went. I didn’t think that it could get much better than day one, but I was wrong. This day blew day one out of the water. We did a lot of similar activities as the previous day (arts & crafts, played games, sang songs), but the connections that were made between the children and the volunteers were strengthened immensely, and it was very evident.
During much of the day Cornelia was busy planning for the next day. She was contacting media stations, planning a banquet for people who would visit the center the next day, and working out so many other details. She did a wonderful job, and we are all so blessed to have her.
Even though the day was much like the previous day, we still had some exciting new activities. In the morning, the children and the volunteers did a service project. We wanted to do this for several reasons. First, to show that these people can be an active, helpful part of the community; that their disabilities don’t mean they’re a vegetable that cannot help others. And second, to allow the children to have an opportunity to give back to the center. For our service project, we picked up trash around the center. It looked a lot better when we were done! I was a little hesitant at
first to do a service project. I was worried that the children wouldn’t like it and would complain. But from what I could tell, the children and the volunteers had a great time with the project! They were very helpful and willing to participate.
We also played another Olympic game, bocce! The kids really liked throwing or rolling the balls to hit or get close to the target. It was a great competition between the US and Moldovan teams.
At the end of the day, we introduced tie dyeing to the kids. The volunteers were a great help in assisting the children with the process. It was a new experience for them as well, and I feel like everyone liked the outcome of this arts & crafts session. It was fun to introduce a little bit of my American experiences with Moldova!
Day two at the center was a success, but there was still work to be done when we got home, because day three would be a BIG day for us.
After hours of work and organizing things, we were able to get about 3 hours of sleep. We woke up early so that we could get to Chişinău, because we were going to be on Buna Dimineata, the Moldovan equivalent of Good Morning America. From what I understood, I felt that it went really well. Unfortunately, time flies so fast while on air, so we didn’t get to say everything we wanted to, but that is ok. The point is that word got out about our project, and that word got out about the need to help and accept people with special needs. We were fortunate enough to have Mihaela, one of our volunteers, join us on Buna Dimineata. She is a wonderful advocate of our project, and did a great job!
When we got back to the center, the volunteers were already there with the kids. They were dancing around and having a blast. It’s a great feeling to walk into the place and see that we can trust our volunteers with the kids, and know that everyone is safe and having fun. Soon after we arrived, it was time for my American presentation with the kids. It went really well. I showed them some pictures of popular spots in America: NYC, the Grand Canyon, the mountains, the plains, Disney World, etc. I showed them videos of Disney World, and also bull riding. And in the end, of course we did some traditional American wedding dances. It was a great success and the kids loved it. After the dance, we gave the children and volunteers diplomas of participation in the program.
Next, it was time to switch gears really fast, as a few important men were coming to the center. We had a meeting with them about the center and their need for help, but also the need to improve the integration and acceptance of people with special needs in Moldova. Unfortunately, most of this meeting was in Romanian, so I did not understand much of it. But here is what I gathered in the end. In Moldova, people with disabilities are viewed as vegetables and a burden. There are a few centers in which parents drop their children with disabilities off and leave them there for weeks on end, because they do not want to deal with them. Or there are other cases in which the parents of children with disabilities won’t even be in pictures with their kids. When Cornelia told me this, I couldn’t believe that this is happening here, and my heart broke. Unfortunately, nothing can be done fast in a country that is not extremely wealthy. Our best chance is to get the word out to the Moldovan people that people with disabilities are people too, and that is exactly what we are doing. Maybe then they would be more willing to help them out. However, on a better note, one of the men at this meeting was generous enough to donate some money to the center. We don’t know the amount yet, but every penny (or lue) counts, right?!
During this meeting, a man from a local TV station was filming the meeting and the kids as well. So, this was another opportunity for us to get the word out to Moldova. The story should air soon, so I’m excited to see it!
In the afternoon, we went outside to play games, sing songs, and have smores. Unfortunately, the smores did not turn out. But it was fun for some of the kids to roast the marshmallow-like (but tastes completely different) treat and eat it. It was far too sweet for me!
During this time, another news station came to do a story on us! This is the big station in Moldova, which is WONDERFUL! They interviewed me and Cornelia and got footage of the kids singing songs, and roasting mallows. The story should air tomorrow. I just hope that this actually makes a difference to at least a few people of Moldova.
It was a long, packed day. As soon as we got home (around 6 pm), I was going to take a quick nap. But the next thing I knew, it was 6 in the morning! A 12 hour sleep was very welcomed, and very needed to be energized for the zoo the next day.