Thursday, February 08, 2018

Northern Ireland Team

A team from YWAM Rostrevor came for 12 days, and it was great having them. They were from all over: Canada, Syria, Hawaii, Germany and Northern Ireland and we managed to get a lot packed into their short visit! We hit the ground running with our last Christmas package distribution at the Children's Home: Our child/teenage actors finished off well:
And the team sang a song to complete the program:
Then it was time to hand out the packages (we can't show the faces of the children for child protection reasons, but you can imagine the joy on them for yourselves :) )


All of the team either sing of play a musical instrument (and usually more than one!) so we decided to do a music workshop with our sponsorship kids: 

Here they are making a fruit choir: each of the parts is singing a fruit name: Mango or Banana or Kiwi. And the great thing is that they are the same in Bosnian, English and German (where the song came from!)
 While we were downstairs, Ljilja had a business workshop upstairs with the moms:
We had one full day of practical work around our building, cleaning up and sorting out stuff... such a great help! And then we prepared for the Christmas party for my volunteers. It was postponed from December as I was not well enough to do it then, and it was so great that they could help out and also hang out with the volunteers:
We had prepared a program of more Christmassy songs with the team, but we were also giving the treat of a new local band... They had started practicing together for the first time in our building, so we asked them to come and play a couple of crowd-pleasing songs:
 For having just got together, they did a great job!
 And they got even everyone on their feet and dancing, so I think it was a success!
 After that, we had more hanging out:
 And enjoying the food:
Two of the girls on the team and I spent ALL afternoon baking, but from the expression on these two volunteer's faces I think it was worth it: all unusual cakes for here: brownies, pumpkin pie, cinnamon rolls, and other specialities!
We did end off the program with some more "Holy" music and a good message about Christmas:
During the week we went again to the Children's Home and the team did a great cultural program for the kids there, including Syrian dancing and a Hawaii shout which went down really well. But then it was time for the
 The team sang some songs to get things rolling...



And then the locals joined in...
 Including sharing the Uzicko Kolo (a traditional circle dance)
I even got involved in the fun by the end of the night... It was a great evening and everyone enjoyed themselves!! (and thanks to Ljilja for the funky photos!)

Before they left they had fun hanging out not just with the volunteers, but also with our teenage actors from our Christmas plays, and also ran another children's workshop with our sponsorship kids. As I said, we packed in a lot in their short visit!

It was with sad hearts that we said goodbye to them and sent them on their way to Sarajevo... 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

January trip around Central Europe

As my good friend, Janice, is now living in Vienna, I decided it would be a good place to go to spend New Year's, before heading out to see some YWAM people around the Central European region. My first adventure was being kicked off the bus from Zagreb to Vienna as it was overbooked and put on the bus 3 hours later. I did get vouchers for my trouble, but as it was my first journey with Flixbus, I was not impressed to say the least!

But I eventually made it to Vienna, and seeing Janice again made the trip all worthwhile. Janice used to live in Sarajevo, and Ljilja and I last saw her 4 years ago in Israel, so it was time for a nice catch up! After celebrating New Year's I spent a week with her and we also managed to fit in some sightseeing in between the catching up! The highlights were Schönbrunn Palace:the summer palace of the Hapsburgs, so much history!
And a #bucketlist item: the Spanish Riding School and the lipizzaners. We went to the practice session, and I managed to sneak a couple of photos (which aren't allowed...so hopefully I won't get into trouble putting them on this blog). It was just so amazing to sit there and watch them do their dressage steps, but also realise that this place has been in existence for almost 300 years.
I managed to have my camera focused on the right spot at the right time to get this shot of an "airs above the ground" move. This is not done every day at the practices, and it was the ONLY one of the day, so it was a lucky shot indeed!!
I also managed to meet up with fellow Capetonian and friend, Richard at a traditional Viennese coffee house: He is living in Vienna now, so it was nice to have a good catch up!
Then it was time to do some "work". I travelled  by bus and train to YWAM Hurlach near Munich in Germany. It was my first time at the castle bought for the 1972 Olympics and one of YWAM's heritage sites. It was great to spend time here at the base and see old friends. I spent time in YWAM Hurlach staff meetings, but mostly spent time with our Member Care people for Central Europe, Hannes and Doris, but unfortunately I didn't a get a pic of them, so you will have to do with a pic of the castle instead:
Then Hannes and I drove together to the Czech Republic to meet with our YWAM team in Cheb. We had a great time with them and I think they enjoyed our visit as well: 
I then travelled by train to the lovely city of Budapest, but unfortunately all the other travel caught up with me, and I got sick. So I didn't actually spend time with almost anyone (after setting up many appointments, which had to get cancelled :( ). My last day I went to the doctor and got some antibiotics for my throat and asked her if I should cancel the next leg of my trip to Bucharest (by plane) and she said that with the antibiotics I would get better and there was no reason not to go... so onwards I went: 

It was a whistle-stop visit to Romania for some meetings and of course I didn't get any photos of that either, but on the way back I got to enjoy the stunning sunrise in Bucharest airport: 
After 3 weeks of travelling, by car, bus, train and plane it was really great to get back home to Banja Luka!! 

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Operation Christmas Child Shoebox packages

After spending two months preparing hard with my teenage and child actors, we put them to work in December to do our plays and then give our shoebox packages. Here we are after the first distribution: The actors are in front without packages :)
This year instead of one long play, we had 3 little plays with 9 actors in total. We had one presenter who announced each of the plays and one was offstage in this play - playing the angel that appears to the these two shepherds:
 Then we had two mice talking about the true meaning of Christmas:
Both of these were actually poems that I found online and adapted. The last was a play I wrote and when I wrote it, I actually had my teenage actors in mind! It was a conversation between them (and at the end it turns out they were waiting for a bus as they run off the stage!)  about Christmas and Jesus' birthday. I included interesting facts like Christmas is in summer in South Africa and Australia :) It worked really well and I am proud of my actors:

I did manage to take a video of the plays, and I need to mention that the shepherds and the mice were interchangeable (we were supposed to have two groups, but in the end it didn't work out, but they had learnt both parts so we mixed and matched) and the video is actually the other way round from the pictures: (and if you click on CC you will get English subtitles!)



After the plays, Ljilja did a great job of getting the children to understand what they were all about :)
Afterwards it was time to give out the packages: We had various sizes of groups as we did performances for different organisations, but it was fun every time!
And a lot of variety of children: this group was for autistic and children/adults with special needs.
We also did some presentations in schools: First grade, sooooo sweet:
And for many of the groups, we also organised beautiful Children's Bibles: 
I love how proud he is of his Bible:
After the plays there was also a chance to interact with the actors. And yes, the mice were the most popular!!


A fun thing that happened is that I was chatting with my sister (who lives in England) and she told me that she had actually organised for her company to put together shoebox packages. Although we don't know if those packages are the ones we are given out here, it is a possibility as our packages come from England! I offered to do some thank-you pictures for her to show to those that collected, and here they are below: 
I think it was fun that we could do that and I know her company appreciated it!
She also wanted some package opening pictures, and so I made this video in one of the schools:


Also, the actors were able to go and help out our friends in Prijedor do a show there where they had about 200 children in the audience. And it went well! Also, we will still do one more show in January for the children at the Children's Home... And even though it has been hard work, seeing the smiles on the children's faces makes it all worthwhile!

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Wonderful Volunteers!

At the end of the year and again at the end of the school year, we give prizes for those who attend the book club at the children's home regularly. We decided to make some of the prizes this year, so last week we invited the volunteers to come and help us make some fun things for the kids. As you can see, we had a fun time while doing it!
Then this week, it was time to pack the presents, and again we got the volunteers to come and help out with this. Packing 40 different prizes - 22 for girls, 18 for boys and making sure that they are mostly the same is not an easy task, but again we had fun!
As you can see, we have lots of wonderful volunteers, who love helping out with the kids as well as with other things on the side! 

Monday, December 04, 2017

Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child


I am part of the National Operation Christmas Child Team that helps get the 30 000 "shoebox" packages to the 35 partners who then give them out to children throughout Bosnia Herzegovina. There are many thousands of volunteers working in these kinds of teams throughout the world, here in Bosnia there are 6 of us on the national team, and another 10 or so on the 3 regional teams and it is great to part of this project! A couple of weeks ago I went to Sarajevo to spend the day with the National Team and two of the regional directors to work on strategic planning for the next 3 years:
The next day we held a training for the partner in and close to Sarajevo and we each took turns doing the training. Here I am doing my part:
Then last weekend, we held another training in Banja Luka for the partners in this area. And here is proof that I also helped with this training :)
It was also a fun weekend as people from the national and regional teams came before and after the training and so we enjoyed hanging out! Here are some of us in downtown Banja Luka, enjoying some of the Christmas lights.
The trainings are now over, and the shoeboxes are on their way from England - and the kids and I have been rehearsing our Christmas plays to be ready for our distributions! And I have been having fun getting some of the costumes ready:
Yes, we have a mouse in our play - in fact two of them talking about getting ready for Christmas... and two other short plays! Looking forward to seeing how they will work out :) 
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