Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Day One -- Success!

What a day! Today was the first day of our project. Cornelia and I were filled with both nerves and excitement. A camp like this has never been done in Moldova before, so there are definitely people watching to see how it will go. Furthermore, neither Cornelia nor I have led a camp, let alone one for people with special needs. But we are happy to say that the first day went very well! 
One of the roads in the villages

            I’m going to start at the end of the day to bring the story into perspective. After the volunteers left, Cornelia and I rode the bus to bring the children home. My heart broke for these children and for the people of the villages. There is a huge gap between people who live in the city, Chişinău, and those who live in the villages. The villagers are quite poor, whereas people in the city have nice cars and can afford a lot more. When we drove into the villages, it was rather surreal to me, and I realized how much I take for granted in America. The roads were terrible, children were running around without shoes or clothes (which could be by choice, as well), animals roamed freely throughout the village, and grandmothers were hunched over walking up the hill with a cane in one hand and vegetables in the other. 
The center in  Tătăreşti

            The people in the district are very thankful for the center for people with disabilities in Tătăreşti.  However, I’m sure they wish that there were more centers. The center in Tătăreşti is the only one in the district, so some kids have to ride the bus for 2 hours to get to the center. This center started 8 years ago simply for the people with disabilities in Tătăreşti. But because the need for a center such as this is great, and there is hardly any funding, children from surrounding villages began to attend the center as well. The center is an NGO, meaning it’s a not for profit organization. So, if they can find money, the center can be open. However, if they don’t have any money, they cannot afford to stay open. Unfortunately, there has been no incoming money lately, so the center had to shut down for the summer. With that, Cornelia and I are very grateful to have this chance to give to the kids and this grant from IREX to be able to give this opportunity to the kids this summer.

Team Moldova!
So on to the camp! Despite the nerves of all of us, today went well. When the children arrived, they ate breakfast and played together with some balls and other toys. One boy really liked music, so he turned on the radio and danced. It was so fun to watch him be free and express himself! We then had our opening Olympic celebrations! We were worried that this would go poorly, but the kids loved it! We separated into two teams: Moldova and the USA. We paraded in with our flags and Olympic torches, and sang the national anthems. After a name game, which the kids just ate up, we did arts and crafts. What better thing to make than a musical instrument! Today we made tambourines out of paper plates and rice. They were very into decorating them with colored pencils, glitter glue, and ribbon. It was fun to see the kids carry them around the rest of the day and show everyone what they made. 
Tambourine Making
Team USA!

            Since it was unbearably hot, we changed things up so that the kids could lie down for a while. We played one of my favorite games at camp, Sleeping Cow. How this game works is that one person is it, and everyone else lies down. The person who is it tries to make the others smile or laugh. If they smile or laugh, they are it with that other person. I think that the kids really liked the game. It was fun for me to play the game with them, because it is a little harder for me to connect with them, since I don’t speak their language, and this was a great way to interact with them. Next was lunch. We have a wonderful woman who is helping us and preparing lunch for us. We couldn’t have done it without her!

After lunch we had a picture scavenger hunt. We took pictures of random things around the center, and the kids had to find it. Some kids were really into it, but some were not at all. It was getting to the point in the day where the kids were starting to get tired. It’s a long day for them, especially in the heat. We went outside to play some of our Olympic games, but we soon realized that most of the kids did not want to play at this point; they were antsy, tired, and struggled listening. So we got out some yarn and bandanas and made bracelets, as others played a casual game of soccer.  The next thing we knew, the bus was there to bring the kids home! It was a successful day, Cornelia and I felt, filled with learning, love, compassion, tears, joy, and so much more.

I know this post is getting long. I have so much more I want to say, but you will have to wait for the next post! BUT, I want to give praise to all of the volunteers that are helping us. I don’t think we could have found any other people more perfect for the task! Not only are they giving up 4 days of their summer, but they are genuinely into it. In my experience with volunteers, it is hard to find people who REALLY care about the project. They do so well with the kids, and their love and compassion is expressed in so many ways. Thank you!
A few of the WONDERFUL volunteers!

            Cornelia and I are very happy that one of our goals for the project is already being reached--that the volunteers are impacted and begin to see the world in a different way. Not only are we trying to bring the world together in the sense that we are making Moldova and the USA more aware, but we are bringing two different cultures together as well: the people with special needs, and those who are more abled.

I would like to leave you with a few quotes from the volunteers (my apologies for the bad translation from google translate):
“Thank you so much Cornelia, Megan (and all who were involved .. and will involve further) for the opportunity to participate in such a project, I was safe, but now I am absolutely convinced that they are very special children, are an example for the entire society, deserve our respect and support :)” -- Doina Cosolan

             “It was the greatest day in my last half of year! I'm excited, happy, overwhelmed, flattered and , in the same time,so proud that I am a part of this project. These kids are amazing. I'm missing them now. I wish people saw how good they are, even better than those who have everything to feel happ!... PS: It has passed only a day , but anyway I feel how my life is going to be changed...”   -- Mihaela Tataru

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