Last week was a very special week! We had a week-long day camp at Romaniv orphanage! For the older, higher functioning boys the staff of Mission to Ukraine does a full-on VBS type camp for them with games, snacks, crafts, and lessons about Jesus. They had Olympic games, opening and closing ceremonies complete with the Ukrainian flag and National Anthem, and LOADS OF FUN.
Since the doors to Romaniv were open to us all week we just had to take advantage of it and spend some special time with our Boys in Isolation. Our boys could not handle, nor participate in a camp like the bigger boys, so we decided to spend the week taking small groups of boys aside each day in order to have some more intentional interactions with them. It was AMAZING. It was like a dream to be able to be with them one on one, to see them every day, to give them the individual attention they need. Woohoo!
I shared a small glimpse of each day on the Wide Awake Facebook page, but I know many of you aren’t on FB. Plus, there were sooooo many wonderful pictures to share- totally deserving of a big fat blog post. Here you go! I’m just cutting and pasting the FB blurbs and then you can see the pics of that day following the blurb. Mmmmk?
ROMANIV DAY CAMP, DAY 1: I can’t even express the joy that was today. We decided for the Isolation Room kiddos we would use this week to focus on one-on-one interactions with the boys. So each day we will be taking a group of 5 boys aside and interacting with them more intentionally.
The Directors gave us the use of the sensory room and it was like heaven. Today we heard the first laughs ever (for us) from two of our boys. Big, hearty, belly laughs that we didn’t even know they had inside them. It was like hearing your baby’s first laugh- PURE JOY. These boys are growing and changing. It’s miraculous. Praise God for His love that never fails!!!
ROMANIV DAY CAMP, DAY 2
Today we fell in love… again.
It started out a bit rough, with miscommunication and WAAAAAY too many boys with high needs in too small of a space. Ha! We really want the Sensory Room to be a safe place, and boys were stressed and self-harming, so we had to act fast. We switched boys in and out till we has the right mix, and then had a super great time.
Yuroslav, oh sweet boy. He rarely joins us on our Friday visits, content to sit outside in the hall calling out “Mama! Papa!” every so often and sucking his thumb. Today we learned he is strong and he LOVES to play ball. It’s awesome to have the time to connect with the harder-to-reach boys. We can observe them closely and try different ways to make that human connection.
Two days down, three more to go!
ROMANIV DAY CAMP, DAY 3:
Today was interesting and different and goooood. When we arrived, we learned it was “bath day”. We didn’t know, since we never go there on Wednesdays. So, we first waited for baths to be done. It was pouring down rain outside and when we asked the caregivers if we could take a few boys to the other building to the Sensory Room after bath time they WERE NOT having it. So, we winged it!
We brought all the boys together and basically did what we normally do on Fridays. At first the caregivers said we could only have one hour with them because they needed to clip their nails and such (remember, it’s Bath Day), but once we got going they relaxed and let stay for the whole time.
There was some great connection time with several of the boys. Zhenya even fell asleep in my lap! Happy sigh… We got to connect with a caregiver we had never met before and ease her load for a couple of hours. All in all it was a very sweet time. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. Pray we have a dry day tomorrow so we can visit the Sensory Room again! Thanks
ROMANIV DAY CAMP, DAY 4:
Today was a day of hopes fulfilled, and dreams dreamed.
The sun was out so we got to take a few boys to the Sensory Room! There were 4 boys in particular we were hoping to work with today and lucky us, the caregivers were like “Go for it! Take whoever you want! Take them all!” Ha! We took our 4, plus sweet Yuroslav and Valera for extra cuteness sake.
We had amazing interactions with two of the boys we brought. They are usually very medicated and they sleep a lot. During our time in the Sensory Room they were alive! They smiled and giggled and responded very well. Just what we had hoped for!
The other two boys are always highly medicated and distant. They don’t interact with others at all. Unfortunately we were not able to break through to them today. Their bodies were in the room, but their minds were far away. We have much work to do before we can connect with them in a meaningful way. We dream of that day- the day we truly see who they are.
We are not discouraged. We are hopeful! We are thankful for an open Director who cares, willing and cooperative caregivers, those who have paved the way for this work. and most of all for a God who is bigger. NO ONE is beyond His reach! One step at a time…
ROMANIV DAY CAMP, DAY 5:
Today was the end of a wonderful week spent with Our Boys. Almost all the boys got to go outside to spend some time in the sun and it was WONDERFUL. Their faces lit up when they saw the team arrive for another day. Like “You guys are here AGAIN???” It’s awesome to see them begin to walk, scoot, and crawl to the door when we arrive, hoping they get to go out to play for a bit.
Today after camp all the volunteers, the staff of Mission to Ukraine, and a couple of the orphanage staff went to a park for a picnic. We celebrated the wonderful strides that have been made this past year, and began to dream of the work that is yet to be done.
Our dreams are BIG. We dream of each boy having an occupation- a way to spend his time, a way to contribute to the world around him. We dream of the Boys serving each other in greater ways; we dream of boys learning to read, learning to walk, learning to speak. Mostly we dream of a place for the boys to be where they can know the love of their Father God through the love of a family. I could go on and on.
One day at a time, one boy at a time, one YES at a time. Thank you for sharing in the journey! Today, wherever you may be, may you live this day Wide Awake- ready for the next YES that lies before you.
Our dear friend Olya, from Kyiv, came to stay with our family Monday through Wednesday so Jed and I could both be at Romaniv those days. On Thursday I went, and Jed stayed home with the kids, and then on Friday Jed went and I stayed home. We both really wanted to be at the picnic on Friday, so wonderful Dima, the driver for MTU, drove the kids and me out to Romaniv on Friday to meet the team and go to the picnic together.
Our kids have been longing and dreaming of visiting Romaniv. They hear about the boys all the time. They see their pictures almost daily. These boys have become a huge part of our lives and our kids were dying to meet them in person. We haven’t gotten permission yet for Addy and Ezra to visit the boys with us on Fridays, but we feel like they are ready (Hava and Seth are too young). I wasn’t so sure before- I was afraid Addy and Ezra would be frightened, we didn’t know the boys as well. But they have been asking more and more, so Friday was a good chance to give them a little taste of Romaniv to see what they thought.
Dima drove us to Romaniv and I told the kids if the team wasn’t quite finished and if they were still inside we would ask the caregivers if we could come inside to see the boys just for a minute. You would have thought we had backstage passes to the concert of a lifetime they were so excited!
When we arrived the team was still cleaning up, so I took the kids to the Isolation building. They were immediately greeted by the boys who were outside and I was so proud of them! They looked the boys in their eyes and shook their hands- even Hava and Seth! They looked a little unsure, but not really afraid. Then Addy and Ezra came inside the building and got to meet several of the boys inside. They knew them from the pictures and they were OVER THE MOON to meet them! You could see they were excited, but also nervous. I mean, it’s a big sensory experience even for adults, so I thought they did really well. The boys can look kind of scary, it’s super stinky, but they both really loved it. They have been begging to go back, so we just need to pray and ask God what He has in store for our kids at Romaniv. I hope soon they can be joining us regularly. It’s part of who they were created to be!
Overall it was a fantastic week. I can’t even tell you how extraordinarily thankful we are for those who have gone before us. For years, MTU and several volunteers have faithfully poured in to the boys and the staff at Romaniv. Without their faithfulness and perseverance we would have never had the week that we did. The Directors are so open to the help- that is a huge answer to prayer.
There is a lot of work to be done. There are many boys not pictured here because they were too medicated, or too withdrawn to participate at all. There are many boys still locked inside themselves. Our boys still spend the majority of each day tied to their beds because there isn’t enough staff to keep them safe from themselves and others. Many of them only see the sun when we come on Fridays. Oh there is so much to be done. BUT weeks like this remind us of just how far things have come. God has done the miraculous in Romaniv and He’s not about to stop now.
Praise God for his abounding love for these boys and their caregivers. Praise God that what was once hidden is now brought to light. Praise God that He has a hope and a future for each boy, for each person He created. And praise God we get to partner with him that!