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 :) 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

MCFC in Romania

The first European Member Care Foundations Course was held in Prod, Romania and as I am working more and more with people across the Central European Region, it felt right for me to come and learn some more skills to help with leading the wonderful people of YWAM in this region. It was also useful that they had shortened the school to two weeks, which is more manageable for me, and with pre- and post-courses it will still be all of the wonderful content of the 3 week course.

There were 17 students and 4 staff, and we had a wonderful two weeks together:
We were in deep rural Romania, and the terrible internet was sometimes annoying, but at the same time also meant we had some peace from the outside world. It is as if time stood still:
 We did work hard, we only had one day off in two weeks and spent most of the time together in the classroom working around tables during lectures, or in pairs:
We did sometimes take time for more fun activities:
Outside the classroom, there was a little time at lunch to go for a walk: This is me with some of the walkers: Rod from Australia, Bodil from Norway and Jessi from the US:
That day we walked to the horse farm across the village and I go to treat the horses to some clover. The rest of the time when we went past the horses they weren't interested, but it was fun that one day!
Most evenings a new friend, another Jessi (also from the US) and I went walking together. I didn't get a pic of us walking in the dark (with her torch!) but we went to Sighisoara on our one day off and so here the two of us are in the old city:
Besides making new friends, I also had one fun evening with some old ones: Anni from Romania, Helga from Germany working in Romania, Bodil from Norway working in Bulgaria and Misha from Bulgaria working in Hungary. It was a lovely time together with others who work in our region! 
On our last day we had a lovely festive lunch together. The food all week was cooked for us by two lovely Romanian ladies (standing in the back with Rod) and the food was beyond delicious! I walked twice each day to be able to eat it all and not come back with more kgs! (and managed to come back at the same weight as when I left - 15kgs down since May!)
I felt I learnt so many useful skills and have a lot of good tools to be able to use to help people to help themselves. These are things that will not only be useful in my leadership role with YWAM in Central Europe, but also in whatever I do. I am so grateful that I decided to do this course and for all the wonderful friends that I made while doing it! 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

YWAM Central Europe Leadership Meetings

As many of you know, I am co-leader of the leadership team for YWAM in Central Europe. Alongside our monthly Skype meetings, we also try to meet twice a year in person. We met in April in Albania, and we decided then that I would host them in Bosnia in the autumn. One of our number is on sabbatical in the US, but the other 3 came along and we had a great time - Alket from Albania, Arlen from the US, serving in Romania and Florin from Romania:
The first whole morning we spent having Skype meetings with people from different locations across Central Europe. It was our annual Prayer Day for Central Europe, and we managed to meet up with people in 10 of the 16 countries and prayed together with them. It was so good to connect with so many of the over 200 YWAMers who are in Central Europe! Below is a photo of us with two locations in Greece and one in Macedonia:
The rest of the time we spent meeting mostly just us, but we did have one fun night at our house, and one meeting with our former leader, Yohanan, who Skyped in from Ireland: It was great to have him impart some of his wisdom before he goes on sabbatical to decide what he will be doing next.
We also got out and about in Banja Luka, so they could enjoy the city and see how beautiful it is: here we are at the Kastel Fortress:
It was good to see each other in person and not just on Skype, and it helps to be together so we can make important decisions and we also did a lot of organising for our Leadership Gathering which happens next spring! 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Danish do Banja Luka

We were visited by a crazy team from Denmark who came by bus/train for a couple of days here to check us out. I think it worked out that they travelled as much as they were actually here. Luckily for them, the weather played along (we have been having an incredible October after a miserable September) and they really enjoyed the SUN that we had all week. 

Here I am with them: Jonas, Christer, Bjorn, Camilla, Christina and AnneMarie. They were super fun and enthusiastic about everything... I took them the first day to have pita/burek (Bosnian pie) and ćevapi and they were so excited to have typical Bosnian food!
While they were here, it wasn't all play and no work... We had a great Danish Evening: 
 Christer explaining (with Mihajlo translating) about the Danish flag:
 We learnt about the important concept of hygge, and how to do it for ourselves:
Then it was time for a taste test... here they are trying Danish salty licorice... you can see from their reactions how much they liked it!
While I was trying to get paperwork together for my visa, they took themselves on a hike to a place overlooking Banja Luka and prayed over the city:
And I put them to work sorting out our craft supplies as I got a whole lot of stuff at the Brela Women's Conference: (and Christer is behind the door changing the light switch as he is actually an electrician!) The others are downstairs sorting out another storage room, but I didn't get a pic of that...
We also went to the children's home with them to help out at book club: and a pic as proof that Christina got right in there:
We have realised that our reading club activities last about 1/2 hour. And then we need something else. The team was the "something else" this week! They shared about Denmark and then it was onto the fun stuff... Here are some of the kids trying the salty licorice... the rest of them got a go later. Not many enjoyed it - it is definitely an acquired taste!
They also entertained us with a play about making good choices about how to react. Very cute, and with a good message!
 At the end they taught us a song and dance with chicken movements...
 Afterwards, they entertained in other ways and eventually we had to drag them away so the kids could go to bed! The kids and the team didn't want them to leave!! Next time they will have to stay longer and go a few more times!
On their last day we went out to have some more traditional food:
 It really was fun having them, and hopefully they will come back again soon! 

Friday, October 13, 2017

8th year of Book Club!

So, I have about 25 faithful volunteers already, but it is always good to have a few more, so I put out the word about needing volunteers, thinking I would get 10,12 new volunteers. We ended up getting 35 NEW volunteers. To say that I was a bit overwhelmed is an understatement, but it is a good thing to be overwhelmed by! It is always so hard to say "no" to someone who wants to volunteer, as they may be the best volunteer we ever had... but usually after a while people realise that it isn't as easy or fun as they thought, and so we end up with about the right amount of volunteers, so it all works out in the end!

I had a couple of meetings with them to sort out the paperwork - they have to sign our Child Protection Policy and then every year we have a volunteer contract and they get their hours collected in their "Volunteer book". It is quite a lot of admin, but it is worth it as it gives them the ability to use their volunteer hours when looking for a job! Here we are at one of the meetings: 
Then it was time for the first book club. And of course we had more volunteers (38) than kids (35) - but it was still fun! And I took a microphone/speaker combination along and it was amazing! I can't believe I didn't think of it before now!!! 
We brought books from the library for the kids and so they didn't have anything they could work from, and so one of the volunteers read a story by Branko Copic (using the microphone!) and we all worked from that. It worked really well! I also found some great activity books which we will be using with them - on ecology, manners, working with manners, etc. So we worked on one of those worksheets as well. With all the volunteers and the microphone, it was probably the best Book Club ever! After 7 years, I have finally got it right! Long may it continue!!  

Monday, October 09, 2017

Montenegro and Croatia

Every year in August/September there is a Samaritan's Purse conference called nConnect for those working with Operation Christmas Child. As I am part of the national team for Bosnia and Herzegovina I get to go along to connect with others working in the region (and with our team to work on how we will be moving forward in how we do things). This year the conference was in  Cetinje, Montenegro. It is always great to reconnect with the wonderful people who work with this project, this time with the Albanians and Montenegrins:
 We also got to enjoy some of the historical city of Cetinje:

On the way back we were going to go to Budva on the coast to at least put our toes in the water... But in the end this is what we got to see of the sea. The road was closed for repairs for an hour and so we decided to turn around and go back the other way. 
As we were heading back, we came across a one-car accident where the car was destroyed but the lady had somehow managed to get out of the vehicle. We were able to help her until the ambulance arrived... and she was soooo grateful that we came along :) (she just had one broken rib, having airbags saved her life for sure... she fell asleep and hit the rock wall alongside the road and the car overturned). 

We also discovered that the roadworks were not just on the coast and had to wait another 2 hours at the border as they were fixing the road right there and then when that opened the border took forever because of the backlog! But eventually we made it to Trebinje where Ljilja and I stayed for two nights to see her family (and somehow I don't have any pics of that!) and the others carried on back home. 

The next weekend it was time for another conference that happens every year in October on the Croatian coast: the Brela Women's Conference. I was one of the people on the founding committee and it has been going for 15 years now! It is always great to go and get refreshed and reconnect with people serving in the Balkans. 

The weather wasn't as good as it has been in the past, so no swimming this year, but it was still beautiful... and the wind reminded me of Cape Town! 
I enjoyed getting a little break away from it all, and it was great reconnecting with people I haven't seen in a long while!! 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Three workshops in one weekend...

This past weekend, we held three workshops for our sponsorship children and parents. On Saturday, the older kids (now teenagers) were treated to a workshop by our friend Dijana on peer violence which was very well received.
Dijana talking with one of the groups:
Discussing what is bullying and what is just friendly joking...
Then it was time to work on Christmas cards for their Finnish sponsors... we gave them a lot of different things that they could use:
And as you can see, they all worked hard to make a nice card for their sponsor!
On Sunday, it was time for the younger kids to make their cards...
We have a lot of new volunteers who have joined us, and it was so great to see them in action with the kids:
 And the kids really enjoyed making the cards!
We did have time for one selfie so you can see us all:
While this was going on upstairs in the classroom, the parents were downstairs having their own workshop on business ideas, and hopefully we will be able to help some of them realise them.
At the end there was time for a great group photo of the kids and volunteers:
And that is how you do 3 workshops in one weekend! 
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