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! 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Summer mini day "camp"

After I got back from the Ukraine on Thursday night late, Ljilja and I had Friday to organise for our one day "camp" on Saturday. We had enough volunteers wanting to help, but at the last minute had to do some reorganising of who was doing what, but it all worked out! And the volunteers did a wonderful job!

We started altogether with a rowdy game of Simon Says (hands up!):
And then using a hat Mom got when she was here to protect her from the sun, we played musical hats:
 So cute! Youngest partipant:
While the children were having fun at their "camp", our friend Gaga had a session with the parents to help them to prepare for their kids going back to school...
And it looks as if they had a good time as well: 
While that was going on downstairs, we were dividing into 3 groups which rotated through three different workshops: one was English with me: 
The second was also a "going back to school" lesson on being safe in traffic: Our volunteer, Dragica did a good job of leading them through the different activities. Group 1 watching the video:
 Group 2 answering the questions:
Group 3 doing the worksheet:
They also had a fun game at the end (if they were good!) where they had 1 minute to take out as many sweets as they could with chopsticks:
 Sometimes help is allowed, right??
The third workshop is something Ljilja and I recently picked up in Ikea in Zagreb - Hama beads - and they were a hit!
 Even the boys enjoyed it!
They had fun putting the beads on the templates and then our wonderful volunteers ironed them all like crazy so they would be ready to take home...
Even the volunteers got to have a go: Adelisa is one of the kids who has been in the project for 10 years already, and now is helping us with the younger kids:
Here she is with her finished designs:
And below are Sofija and Vidoslav showing off their designs: (and enjoying the snack at the end of the camp - the best "kifle" in Banja Luka are from the bakery down the road!)
Then it was time for the wonderful volunteers to clean up after a job well done (or hang out for a little while longer before going home for a well deserved rest 😊)
As you can see, our kids and volunteers and parents all learnt something while having fun: job well done! 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Ukraine | LTS Europe Module 5

For the last of the 5 modules of the Leadership Training school, we headed for Kyiv, Ukraine. I got there a day earlier because of flights. We were put in hostels around the city, and luckily at my hostel there were already some people who arrived early too, so we spent the day hanging out in the city: Me with Neil, Gunhild, Johan, Suzanne and Courtney:
It was great to see some of the sights: main square - Maidan Nezalezhnosti
St Michael's
St Andrew's
We spent the week having fantastic teaching from Ina Snyman, and others on the staff. We also had presentations of our final projects (which we did between module 4 and 5). And then it was time for graduation: After being 35degrees C all week, it fell to 18 on the day of graduation, so my planned dress didn't happen... warmth wins over style! (and yes I am in the front row on the right!) This is most of the participants and staff - over 100 of us!
The best part of this whole leadership training school has been the relationships... and we did have some time to hang out . There was a Swiss bakery down the road from the YWAM base where the training was held, and it was nice to get away for a bit each afternoon (the days were long -as we were commuting, we were gone from the hostel from 7am until 10pm). Here I am with Dale and Cynthia on out last day. 
It was great to be able to hang out with people from all over Europe, but here are (most of) the people who are in Central Europe: from Greece to Hungary to Romania! Such a fun bunch! 
As I said, we were scattered around in hostels, and there were 22 people in ours. We had fun in the mornings and evenings trying to get all of us showered in the 2 showers after 10pm and before 7am... but we managed. And we also had a moment of bonding when the lift decided to get stuck on the first morning (it may have been the fact that we were 11 and it was made for 10...). Luckily the handyman came quickly and freed us under 1/2 an hour... but still we were very, very careful after that to not overfill the lifts!  
We also had one whole evening to hang out on a boat ride on the Dnieper river through Kyiv. The best part for me was when we went through a huge lock to get into a higher part of the river. I was just as excited as the kids to see how it all works! 
After we got off the boat we went downtown... we were a big group and it got unmanageable, so we decided to split up... Siril, Cynthia and Krystal wanted to stick with me as they think I am awesome... or maybe it was because they knew I could get them back to the hostel ;) Here we are going down into the metro which is the deepest in the world! (I was wondering why it had such long escalators!) 
We had fun hanging out at the main square, which was getting ready for independence day in a couple of days... so it looked a little different even from the week before.
And the fountains turned out to be a music and light show... so we took a seat (and some food) at the McDonalds (I know, I know) and enjoyed the show...
As always it is hardest when something comes to an end... and it was incredibly hard to say goodbye to so many quality people. This was the first time that this leadership training has been done in module format, and it worked so well it looks like it will be done again elsewhere! In the meantime, we will have a module per year somewhere in Europe, so people who did this school can renew relationships, and also have more input, and we are all excited that even though it has ended for now, there is still a "next time". So, until next time... 

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Italy/Slovenia trip

As I have some friends who rent out their house on the beach in Italy for a reasonable rate, Ljilja, Sina and I decided to go this year to Italy for our vacation. We worked out this is the 9th holiday we have taken together (7 years in a row in the summer and 2 times to South Africa!) For our jubilee 10th one, they are trying to get me to go to Morocco - we will see!

We started off in Tuscany. It was so beautiful there... just like in the paintings :)

 We saw some of the cities there too - here Sina and I are in Siena.
We then went to Francavilla al Mare, near Pescara, on the east coast of Italy. We soon discovered that this is where Italians go on holiday and we did not see many other foreign tourists. And we loved it for that reason! Here is some of the typical "fast food" pizza which was delicious!
The beach was long and sandy and there really weren't that many people... and I spent a lot of time in the water!!! The other two enjoyed the beach - Ljilja catching her tan, and Sina reading her book :)

We took one day to go to Rome... and the Vatican:
 And we managed to pack in quite a lot of things... the Spanish steps:
 Trevi Fountain:
Piazza Venecia:
The Pantheon:
And the Colosseum:
But the highlight of the day was when we tried to get into St Peter's Basilica and they wouldn't let Sina in as her shorts were too short (you have to cover your upper thighs and your shoulders). Ljilja tried to show them other people with short shorts and he wasn't having any of it "there are other entrances, you can try them, but you are not coming through here"... until Ljilja had a brainwave: Sina had two tops on, as the top one was a bit see-through, but pulling the vest underneath down made a lovely skirt and we got two thumbs-up from the previously grumpy guard: Here we are celebrating our victory: Luckily Sina could carry it off!!
We left the beach and headed to San Marino...
Where we enjoyed the lovely little country (the 3rd smallest in the world, after the Vatican and Monaco) and especially the fact that they have a series lifts up from the carparks at the bottom of the hill all the way up to the old town at the top (where you are on your own... but saving 20 flights of stairs made me very happy!)
We then went to Slovenia on the way back and enjoyed some walking in the mountains and some thermal baths  (yes we know how to do a holiday right!). Here is the lovely Bohinj lake:
We also stopped in Ljubljana to see some YWAMers there, but of course I forgot to get a picture of that... oh well.

All in all, as you can see, it was a fantastic and varied holiday. We did drive a LOT, but it was worth it! And here's to our next holiday/adventure wherever it may be... 
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