August 11, 2013

I’ve MOVED!

New blog!  Big news!

http://www.sisterhaiti.com 

Come on over and follow me there!  This blog will be re-directed soon.  

August 2, 2013

Uganda/Zambia Trip – Part 3

Our time in Uganda was a flurry of activity so instead of sharing day-by-day I’ll just share some stories, highlights and pictures.

One of the highlights, for me personally, was the chance to see a family that is very special to me.  I won’t go into details here how we are connected to this beautiful family, but we are.   We were in the neighborhood anyway (as close as you can get to being in the neighborhood!) so we decided to swing by and see how they were doing.  They were very excited to hear that we were coming.

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The red dirt of Uganda.

We were told it wasn’t far.  I’m not sure what standards these folks are going by, because it was far!  To get to their home we took a small, dirt road.  We bumped and bounced down that road past tiny little villages until we reached smaller dirt roads where we bounced and bumped some more.  Finally we got to the end of the road where we stopped and started walking on a path through some coffee beans into the middle of a field.  There was a clearing in front of us and then, the most darling little home.  This is where the mother of this family and her three children (and one nephew) live.

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The home.

The home is one room.  There is a  bed with a mosquito net over top.  The children sleep on mats on the floor.  All cooking/bathing/socializing is done outside.   There are few other small homes like this scattered around the clearing.  This is their community.  While we were talking the girls came back from fetching water at the well.  This is how they get all of their water.  There are no sinks or bathtubs, there is no electricity.  But their little home is beautiful and they clearly take pride in it.

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The children who live in this small community.

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Carrying water from the well.

It was such a blessing to see their family and home.

One of my favorite parts of these trips is checking on the kids who wait for families and trying to find ways to show all of YOU just how amazing they are.  I had the privilege of visiting with some absolutely adorable kids – of all ages and abilities – who are waiting for families.   One of them was this little guy.  He just couldn’t stop giggling!  He has the most infectious and beautiful smile.  Can you imagine how much a family would have with him?  He really needs to be adopted!

Collin from sister haiti on Vimeo.

Collin

July 30, 2013

Uganda/Zambia Trip – Part 2

Mornings in Zambia were chilly, the air felt like fall at home but smelled like Africa.  So interesting to me, I’ve never been to a truly cold part of Africa…I’m fascinated.  

Each morning I bundled up in my sweater and headed out to meet my new friend Beth from Special Hope Network.   Beth controlled our schedule and planned all of the meetings, I was just along for the ride!   

Our first meetings with the government were slightly disappointing in terms of information we were given.  But by our last day in Zambia we had enough information and positive reactions that we were all feeling hopeful.  A special needs adoption program is truly possible here (and desperately needed!) but it’s going to take adventurous and flexible families with pioneering spirits to get things started.  I’ll write more about our hope for this program soon. 

We visited orphanages.  No matter how many times I walk into an orphanage, I never get used to the sight of children being raised without families.  The orphanages we visited were all nice places.  Clean, organized, the children looked healthy and well cared for.   But still, they’re orphanages and no child should be growing up without a family.   

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We spent time at Special Hope Network and my heart was so happy to see what this small group of people are doing for children with intellectual disabilities in Zambia.   Equipping families to KEEP and PARENT their children, shouldn’t that be the #1 goal for all of us?  

I was blessed to be invited to participate in a Special Olympics program that was coordinated specifically for the families and children of Special Hope Network.   It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and the children had so much fun.  

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My time in Zambia came to an end too quickly.   Soon it was time to say goodbye and I was packing my bags back up to head to Uganda.   

It seems like getting from Zambia to Uganda shouldn’t be too hard, right?  They aren’t that far away from each other.   Well, it was an all day affair including a 6 hour layover in Johannesburg, South Africa.   I left Zambia at 7am and arrived in Uganda at 7pm.   I was met at the airport by our friend and driver Ken and friend Kendra and her beautiful family.   

After a quick hello and then goodbye to Kendra’s mom and daughter (who were flying out that night) we headed in to Kampala where I got settled into my cottage at Red Chilli Hideaway.   People ask me what I like about Red Chilli’s.  Despite the fact that it can be loud (it really depends on the room you get) – I like being surrounded by people.   Some people might prefer the peace and quiet of being in a small guest house with only one or two other guests, I’m not crazy about it.  I prefer having people around.  The cottages are quiet (for the most part, one night there was a party next door to the compound and it was loud), it is cheap, the food is good and well priced, there is free wifi, a small pool, interesting people to talk to (always interesting people!), a generator (but power rarely goes out), hot water and nice staff.  Downside, it isn’t fancy – the place gets dirty really fast.  There are bugs and lizards and monkeys and the bar area gets loud on the weekends.  But I feel at home there so it’s been my go-to place for several years.  

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The next morning I got up, met with Linda & Ken and we immediately headed out to start visiting and meeting.  It was scheduled to be a busy week!   

Part 3 coming soon. 

July 29, 2013

Uganda/Zambia Trip – Part 1

I am headed to Africa today!  I’m going to miss my kids so, so much!  But I know this is going to be an incredible trip.  I’m excited!

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My flight to Detroit was delayed.  Looks like I may miss my flight to Amsterdam.

Well, I made it to Detroit and after a record setting stop in a Detroit bathroom I ran to my gate and found that they were still boarding.  Thank the Lord my gate was in the same terminal!  Otherwise I wouldn’t have made it.  7 house to Amsterdam, here we go!

The flight to Amsterdam wasn’t bad.  I saw next to a nice Dutch man going home.  Food was decent.  Read and watched movies for a few house then fell asleep for two hours before we landed.

Hello from Amsterdam!  I had a quick breakfast at McDonalds then headed to my gate.  I decided to stand the whole time I was in Amsterdam since I had been sitting for most of the last 8 hours and will be sitting again for the next 10 hours.  Just waiting to board now.

We are in Harare.  Man that was a long 10 hours.  We have an hour here and then we’ll be headed to Lusaka.  Interesting fact – on my flight to Harare I sat next to a professor of psychology who did her master degree on the effects of institutionalization on children in Lusaka’s orphanages.  We had some great conversations and exchanged contact info.  Headed to Zambia now!

Hello from Zambia.  Oh my goodness, there was a lot of drama getting to my hotel.  We got to the airport at 10:30pm but because immigration took so long (long!) it was after midnight by time I got my bags.  I was the last person to go through immigration (boo) so by time I got outside the airport to find my ride I was one of the last people there.  My hotel shuttle wasn’t there.  I turned on my phone to call the hotel but my phone wouldn’t work.  There were a couple of porter type guys milling about and I asked one of them if I could use his phone to call the hotel.  He said yes.  I got a hold of the hotel and the man at the desk said he would call the shuttle and then call me back.  No one called back.  I tried the hotel again and he said he was sorry but the shuttle was no longer running and I should get a taxi.
I asked the men standing around about taxis.  Of course, every one of them claimed to be a taxi driver or knew a taxi driver and offered to drive me or call their friend.  I felt weird about getting in a car with a strange guy from the airport – it was at this point 1am in a city I had never been in.  I was alone at the airport and was nervous.   A man with a uniform from another hotel came up and said his shuttle could drop me at my hotel (for the right price of course).  It seemed like the safest option so I agreed.   I was still a little nervous but we finally got to the hotel safe and sound.

My room at the hotel is nice – it’s modern and clean.  But you know what else it is?  COLD.  Oh my, I didn’t realize it would be this cold here!   I went to bed with ALL my layers on.

Good morning from Lusaka!  I’m here a day early so I’ll just be exploring a little today and then will have dinner with some new friends tonight.

Lusaka reminds me of Kampala in some ways but is also quite different.  It seems strange and familiar at the same time, if that makes sense.  It seems more developed in some ways – lots of shopping malls and the streets aren’t as crowded.  I got my money changed to Zambian Kwacha and got airtime for my phone (my Ugandan sim works in Zambia!).  I got a few groceries and then headed back to the hotel to nap before dinner.

I had dinner tonight with my new friend Beth and her adorable son!  I’m excited to see what this week brings, we have a lot of meeting scheduled for the next few days.  Our goal is to determine whether to government will be willing/able to have a special needs adoption program to the United States.  We are praying that everyone is receptive and the path is made clear!

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Part 2 coming soon.

 

July 27, 2013

Back from Africa

I’m back from Africa!

Wait, you didn’t know I’d been gone?

Poor neglected blog.

I had two families approach me recently to ask why I haven’t been blogging very much.  They both shared that reading my blog and seeing pictures/videos of my kids encouraged them to adopt their children with special needs.

If that isn’t encouragement to continue blogging, I don’t know what is!  I made a decision  to try and blog at least once a week, even if I don’t feel like I have anything particularly interesting to say.  :)

So, I’m back from Africa!  I met some incredible people and had some great experiences.

Tomorrow I will start posting  my journal entries and pictures from Africa.  I can’t wait to share more about the trip with you all!

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June 21, 2013

Jovia feeding Benjamin

Jovia is such a good big sister!  She’s so motherly with Benjamin – comforting him when he cries, scolding him when he’s doing something he isn’t supposed to, yelling for help when he’s fallen down or needs something, trying to help dress him and now…. feeding him.  :)

(It’s melting ice cream cake, in case you wonder what kind of green goo we feed our children!) 

Jovia feeding Benjamin from sister haiti on Vimeo.

June 19, 2013

Benja loves his “Signing Time”

As many of you know, Benjamin has hearing loss.  He is deaf in one ear (the ear with microtia) and has moderately severe hearing loss in his other ear.  He wears a Cochlear Baha hearing aid with headband.  When he’s about 5 or so they will surgically insert a cochlear implant.

In addition to having hearing loss, Benjamin has a craniofacial condition that essentially “locks” his jaw shut.  He can open his jaw a few centimeters.  He also has a large un-repaired cleft palate.  These things combined means that Benjamin is mostly non-verbal. He attempts to speak (makes sounds) but no words actually come out.

We began introducing ASL to Benja in the form on baby signs shortly after he came home.   We did this through the book and DVD system “Signing Time”.   I can’t recommend this program enough.  The videos are so informative while at the same time very entertaining.  Benjamin happily sits and signs along during his daily Signing Time.  He loves it!   He now has a vocabulary of about 10 signs he does regularly on his own and a handful more he does when prompted.  Believe me, the difference between no language and being able to “say” 10 different things is huge!  We have seen such a decrease in his frustration level now that he’s able to tell us what he wants.  And the best part is, he really WANTS to sign!  He makes up signs constantly (babbling in sign, so cute!)  and seems eager to participate when we try learning new words.

I wanted to share our success so far with Signing Time and recommend it to anyone who is looking for an easy and fun way to introduce ASL to your young child.  We couldn’t be happier with it.

Benja signing time from sister haiti on Vimeo.

June 5, 2013

Waiting Child Alert!

This adorable young man is Barry. 

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Barry is 8 years old and has cerebral palsy.  He is described as very, very sweet and very cognitively aware.  He seems to understand most things when you are talking to him, can answer questions with “yes” and shake his head for no.  He will move his limbs when asked but because of his cerebral palsy is not able to do much else without help.  He isn’t yet sitting independently.  Barry has a few more words and can let his foster mom know when he wants to walk, when he wants to eat, and when he wants a drink.

A volunteer who knows Barry says this: 

“I consider myself very blessed to have a bond with him that I can’t explain. His foster mom will let him know I’m coming, and he starts smiling and laughing and want’s his “ma.” He and I both light up when we see each other! This little boy has so much love to give, he is always smiling! He loves to play and interact, but most especially practice walking. He is still so small for his age, still easy to carry and transfer into his wheelchair. His foster home is doing a lot of things to try and get him stronger and moving more on his own. Barry has so much potential in his movements, his verbal skills, and his communication! He needs a family now!  He does really well with relaxing massage and being stretched, and can move so much more after these exercises. We all want to see Barry get a family of his own that is committed to his care. Barry is one of the sweetest, happiest children I have known. I care deeply for this little boy and want to see him adopted as soon as possible. He is going to bless a family tremendously!!”

Barry lives in West Africa.  His country program has flexible requirements for families adopting children with special needs.  Families interested in Barry or with further questions should contact me using the form below and I will email you contact information for the agency/program.

PLEASE help us spread the word about Barry!

This sweet boy has so much potential.

I can’t wait to hear how he flourishes under the love of family.

June 1, 2013

Three Years Ago {Mayer’s Homecoming}

Three years ago, after months in Uganda, I posted this picture and announced to the world that I was finally bringing our beautiful son home.   (How cute is my baby?!) 

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I will never forget picking up that visa and realizing that I was really, truly going to be able to take him home, to OUR home, to see his daddy for the first time in 3 months and meet the rest of his family for the first time ever!

 He fit in perfectly, like his spot in our family had always just been there, waiting for him to fill it. Image

Mayer has brought such joy to our family.  He is the funniest, most creative little boy.
He loves his family fiercely and we love him more than we can begin to explain.

We are so, so thankful and blessed to have him in our family.  We love you Mayer!

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Read about Mayer’s homecoming:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

May 23, 2013

Baby Girl Waiting for a Family!

UPDATE:  Baby Cooper has a family!  Thank you to everyone who helped spread the word! 

This beautiful baby girl is in Liberia and looking for her family.

She is only about six weeks old.   

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Look at those cheeks!

This sweet girl is a congenital quad amputee like our little Jovia.  I would love to talk to families about what parenting a child without limbs looks like.   This little girl is going to be such a blessing to someone’s family!

Interested families please contact me using the form below and I will put you in touch with the agency involved.

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