In January, this smiley, passionate girl moved into my house. At first, I had no idea who she was, or what to expect. The only information I had about her was that her name was Cornelia, and she was from Moldova. I had never even heard about Moldova before, for all I knew, it could be a country in South America! However, little did I know that I would be in Moldova in several months.
Cornelia came to study at Augustana College through a program called IREX. Part of this program allowed her to select an American student to travel to Moldova and do a service learning project with her. I was honored and excited that Cornelia chose me. While we tried to decide what our service learning project should be, we thought of a significant evening in the semester that we shared together. Cornelia and I helped at a dance for people with special needs. It was a very eye-opening experience, and it had a great impact on our lives. Because of this, we knew we had to do something with people with special needs. Furthermore, for those who know me, I have been a camp counselor for the past four summers. We thought it would be fun to incorporate part of my life into this service learning project, so we decided to do a day camp for people with special needs.
We named our project “Bringing the World Together – One Ability at a Time”. Even though this day camp is for people who have disabilities, we do not want their disabilities to define them. Rather, we want to show the world the abilities that they have. We believe that they have a lot to teach our world. Through this project we will be able to show the people of Moldova that these people are people who are contributors to society and long to be loved and accepted just like any other person. We are privileged enough to have wonderful volunteers help us, as well as the Moldovan media come and do a story on us!! So thank you in advance for all of you who will help get the word out and make this possible!
Likewise, it is also our goal to spread the word to Americans. As we all know, people with special needs don’t just live in Moldova. There are people with disabilities all over the world, and even in our communities. Time after time, I see people stare at and judge others with disabilities, and I don’t want to continue seeing that. I want people to accept them for who they are, talk with them, and be their friend. Upon returning to the US, I will have several presentations sharing my experiences and new-found knowledge. It is also my desire to become more involved with the communities of people with special needs in Sioux Falls, and encourage others to get involved as well.
So what will the day camp look like? It will be a 4 day program from 10am to 3pm in which the campers (people with special needs) will come and participate in different activities. The activities include games, arts & crafts, songs, a service project, a scavenger hunt, a presentation about America, a dance, etc. In honor of the 2012 London Olympics this summer, the day camp will be Olympic themed. So we will have our own Olympic games! The last day of the program we will take the campers to Chisinau, the capital. There, we will visit the zoo and a museum so that the campers can experience something that they may have never experienced before. It should be a good time for everyone: the campers, the volunteers, Cornelia, and me.
Now here I am sitting in the Chicago airport with so many thoughts and emotions. I’m nervous, excited, scared, and filled with a sense of love and warmth for these people that I haven’t even met yet! As I sit here with hours to think, these thoughts run through my head, “Will I be able to express myself in a country that speaks Russian and Romanian (two languages that I don’t know)? Will the program run smoothly? Will the campers like the activities that are planned? Will we make an impact in the community?” Unfortunately, only time can answer these questions.
However, I feel very blessed and thankful for this amazing opportunity that I have been given. Thank you, IREX! I hope that you all will continue to read my blog. There will be a lot more exciting things to come! Get excited for some pictures and videos!! Don’t hesitate to send any questions, comments, or ideas my way! They are all gladly welcomed.
Until next time,