Friday, March 26, 2010

Red Dirt

Red dirt – that has been our home for the past three weeks. We have walked countless miles around the village and on that red dirt we practiced our Kihehe and Kiswahili terms.

On that red dirt we saw the smiling faces of mothers, fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers, and the crying faces of babies who couldn’t handle the paleness of our skin.

On the red dirt we came together with locals through playing soccer, reconstructing/building a house, fetching water, spreading grass seed, hiking to waterfalls, and dancing while watching stars.

The same red dirt has come into our house and around the table where we shared countless hours of laughter, insightful conversation, cultural learning, candlelit eating, and competitive card playing. Here, we became family.

That same red dirt was carried upstairs where we spent each night writing in journals, reading or discussing the future, boys and bodily functions. Each night like a small girl’s sleepover with rolling laughter as new inside jokes were created.

As we leave the red dirt, I know that each of us will take part of it with us wherever we go. The world will look different as we have seen a new culture and way of life. Forever we will reflect on the endless memories we’ve created.

-Kayli, Tanzania Volunteer, January 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

It's a Small World...of Volunteering

Now as I'm on my way with Global Volunteers to serve on a team in the Cook Islands, I remember when I was first inspired by Global Volunteers with a 2004 newspaper photo featuring a local woman, Kristina Flanagan, in Romania with twin babies sitting on her lap and her lovely story. It was definately something I wanted to do one day. I kept that story in my mind, and when I retired in 2008 I took the opportunity to go to Romania. I'm not related to Kristina (although we share the same last name) and I never met her, but I did communicate briefly with her by e-mail shortly before I left for Romania on my first Global Volunteers service program. While serving in Barlad, I also communicated by e-mail with Kristina's daughter who served with her mother in Romania when she was age 16. She shared some of her exciting experiences with me regarding her team and her work at Tutova clinic taking care of babies and toddlers.

I spent the majority of my time at the clinic in the infant room. There were seven babies (six girls and one boy) and the average age was seven months. Celine was forever smiling in spite of her congenital hip defect and our "little gymnast" Alina, who was very active, had Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Our team of sixteen volunteers really bonded and we traveled together on the weekends to Transylvania to see Dracula's Castle and to Moldova to visit the painted monasteries. The time I spent in Romania was one of the best experiences of my life!

Last year, I had the great pleasure of serving at Caritas in Poland, and now I'm on my way to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands! I look forward to spending time with the elders at their day program, working with adults who are developmentally disabled or tutoring children in reading and writing. Please follow my blog entries beginning in Mid-March at:

- Grateful Global Volunteer Ellen Flanagan

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Mother and Son Serve in Romania

Delta Wichner Nuthak learned about Global Volunteers' Romania service program online, but it was her excited phone call that convinced her son Trevor to join her on the humanitarian journey. “It took me about two seconds to decide, I just couldn’t say no,” Trevor said.

Within months, mother and son travelled to Tutova to help care for underweight, disabled and abandoned babies at a Pediatric Recovery Clinic in Tutova Hospital near Barlad in east-central Romania. To nurture the infants' natural growth, Trevor and Delta played with and fed them -- basically offering love to every child in the clinic, they said.

Delta explained that the clinic is not an adoption agency, but rather a place for the children who have medical conditions and whose family can't afford to care for them. “In Romania, there are no outside adoptions. That means, in order to adopt a child in Romania, you have to be Romanian. You can’t be from another country,” she said. Many of the children in the clinic are orphans, but a small number of the children in the clinic have parents, but they are too poor to afford medical care for their child. Throughout their three weeks, Delta and Trevor became attached to each child, but they still formed favorites. “Sammy was probably my favorite. He was definitely a hair-grabber,” laughed Trevor, who also taught English language skills at the area high school.

Read more here about Trevor and Delta's Romanian Journey of the Heart. Learn more about Global Volunteers' Romania Service Program here.