Medo šetajuća ljubav

Projekt “Medo šetajuća ljubav” ima za cilj osnaživanja i radno osposobljavanja omladinaca po izlasku iz Dječiji domova. Naša djeca u svom humanitarnom djelovanju u korist navedene populacije odlučila se za navedeni projekt kako bi uključila omladince u socijalnu zajednicu i kod istih razvila svijest da svojim radom i zalaganjem doprinose svom osamostaljivanju.

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Volonterka Asia Odum i medo

Naša djeca su u korsit osnaživnja omadinaca sa i bez ravojnih teškoća odlučila da proširi navedeni projekt tako što će uz medu uskoro  ponuduti nove animacije, koje će naši sugrađani imati priliku da naruče za svoje proslave, društvene manifestacije  i tako doprinesu humanitarnom radu Udruženja na zadovoljstvo i u korsit omladinaca, njihovog radnog ospospljavanja i osamostalivanja.

NOVE ANIMACIJE USKORO NA VAŠE I NAŠE ZADOVOLJSTVO !

 

 

Fashion Show at Kids Festival 2017

About two weeks ago we learned about the Kids Festival which was going to be hosted by the students of UWC.  Different schools and groups of kids would be sharing something at the festival, whether it was a song, a dance, or something fun.  Something unique and really unique about this festival is that it included kids with special needs.

Lejla told me that I could do something with our kids and automatically I thought of another fashion show.  We have so many great clothes at the Second Hand Shop and with the changing of seasons, the festival was going to be at the Spanish Square so I thought an outdoor fashion show sounded lovely.

I wanted as many kids as possible to be in the show but we only had 6 who were ready to commit.  I understand, modeling sounds kind of silly, maybe even a little weird and to be in a fashion show with your peers watching, woof!  Intimidating is an understatement.

But the kids who did commit took it very seriously.  Monday before the show we started practicing…  I lined everyone up by height and showed them how I would walk.  The kids clapped, it was cute but just like my fashion show for the Winter Concert I did not want the kids to think they had to be like the models on tv, they were allowed to be kids and have fun too.

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For the song I chose Justin Beiber’s Beauty and the Beat.  All of our kids love Justin Beiber and this song was ‘upbeat’ enough to set the atmosphere for the show.

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Picking clothes for the kids was a little challenging.  I know how to pick clothes for adults, but fashion for kids is so interesting.  When I was a kid we didn’t wear skinny jeans and some little kids dress like grown ups.  However the most important thing was that our kids were comfortable in whatever they wore.  To be honest our Second Hand shop almost had too many options to choose from, which made it hard to decide.  With the help of Dajana I grabbed several outfits and figured all the kids would try on everything, I would take pictures and then decide.

Wrong…the kids knew what they wanted to wear from the start.  Whether it was the first outfit they tried on or the last, they knew already what was most comfortable for them.

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The dress rehearsal the day before the show was great.  These were not the same kids that I saw at the beginning of the week.  They knew when to start, had already decided on their 3 poses and I could see that they were ready.

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I remember my first fashion show as a kid…  It was for the Springfield Mall Summer Show.  Lots of different stores donated clothes and I think I was 12 or 13 years old.  I knew as a little kid that modeling was something I was interested in but a fashion in front of maybe 100 people, oh I was nervous.  I think they had me wearing womens business wear which I was not happy about.  I was 13, I didn’t want to wear stuff for a grown woman.  Needless to say I loved the feeling of being on the stage and having all eyes on me.  It’s safe to stay I still feel that way today…

The morning of the show I helped get everything together for our table that we were going to have at the festival.  We brought along different crafts and items that our girls and kids have made over the years.

Belma went to the orphanage and helped to get the kids ready.  Our ‘frizerski’ Mirza did the hair for our kids and the UWC provided transportation for our kids to the festival.

Our kids were already at the Spanish Square when Lejla, Albina, Marina and I arrived.  When we got there, a group was performing and we started to set up our table.  Some of our kids were going to be in a dance and then after they would change.  Our kidss were amazing in there dances.

Lara danced to Justin Beiber and everyone looked at her in awe.  She had the crowd clapping and having so much fun.

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Then ours kids danced to Shakira Waka Waka and were amazing.  Watching them all dance together made me wish that they could have danced to the song they learned in the winter.  SO MUCH TALENT!

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Tajra asked if she could be in the fashion show too.  She showed me her walk and of course I said yes.  That kid has had the model attitude since the day I first met her in the summer.  Total diva!

We had a few hiccups with the music but were able to get it together before the show.  When the music started, so did our kids and they killed the fashion show.  Such attitude, such style, grace and fun.

Before the show…

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The show…

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The most exciting part was how I was able to watch my kids confidence grow as they practiced day by day.  I know that it’s a little intimidating to stand up in front of so many people and have to be the center of attention but they owned it.  No one was shy, no one looked afraid, my kids were amazing and I’m so proud of them!

The Kids Festival in Mostar got to see our beautiful kids dressed in clothes from the Second Hand Shop and our kids got to take a step out of their comfort zone and do something a little different.  I hope that it was a good experience for them and that they had some fun with it.

Here are more pictures from the Kid Festival.  Thanks to Marina for taking pictures with our professional camera.  She captured the event perfectly!  Mickey Mouse, Sponge Bob, Hello Kitty and our Naša Djeca medo were there and so many awesome performances.  Kids were painting, laughing, having fun and just being kids.  At one point there was a wheel chair race…it was a day to remember.

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After the event ended we got to go for ice cream and just hang out with the kids…

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I love my kids soooooooo much!

 

Proljeće u Mostaru

I am happy to share that it is officially spring in Mostar.  The winter was a cold one, considering we had freezing temperatures but no actual snow fall or accumulation.  I am not a fan of snow but when it is below freezing outside, I feel like it makes more sense for it to just snow…the two go quite nicely together even if that means I won’t leave my bed.

Spring in Mostar is really beautiful. Flowers are starting to blossom, you no longer need to wear your heaviest jacket, and the kids are full of so much energy and can play outside.

Last Saturday at the Kids Club I thought it would be a good idea to highlight the first day of spring which is March 21.  I saw this really cute craft from Facebook that my colleague Aida Kajan shared and knew it would be a perfect way for the kids to use their imagination while having some fun.  Pćela stands for the word bee in Bosnian.  With just a simple toilet paper roll and some construction paper, every kid that wanted to make a pćela could…

Here are some pictures from the activity.

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The finished product…these pćelas could make a great form of hand puppets.

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On Sunday it felt like total dejavu as Belma had the kids making paper roses.  The first time I was introduced to Naša Djeca was when Belma, Albina and Mirza came to MSYP to do a rose making workshop.

By now it is safe to say that Belma is a pro at this.  I have to admit that I have gotten better as I was able to help other kids on there roses after I finished my first one.  We had so many pretty colors to choose from and each one came out so incredible unique and beautiful.

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Mirza had the idea to collaborate both weekend crafts by bringing the pćela and cvijeće (flower) together.  Is this not the cutest thing you have ever seen?

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Last but not least on Mondays night workshop Belma found a great craft to make cherry blossoms.  In Washington, DC the cherry blossom festival is huge and cherry blossom trees normally grow in Japan.  Over 100 years ago the Mayor of Tokyo City gifted DC with cherry trees.  Now people come from all over the world to see these trees with the prettiest flowers.  I think years ago I went to the cherry blossom festival but for the last few years I have either been out of town or just not living in the DC area at all.

To make this craft was much easier than it looked.  Belma sent two kids outside to find old and broken branches from trees.  We used tissue napkins that were pink and flower stencils that we already had.  Afterwards you layer the flowers on top of eachother, a twist of the tissues and a pinch.

The kids cut the flowers out while Belma did the twisting and pinching…

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The finished product was incredible…

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I literally got chills as I thought about being back home in DC for the cherry blossom festival. The unique thing about these flowers is that they only last for two weeks or so and then they die.  It’s beautiful in a way because every year they come back to life and the celebrations pick back up.  It was nice to have a little bit of home here in Mostar…

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Another great thing about Spring is that it’s no better time than the present to start getting healthy…also let’s be serious bikini season is right around the corner 😉 In the Kids Club we are taking that into consideration as we have so many kids who are training for sports and wanting to get into better shape.

Thanks to a donation from Indira in Sweden (with the special delivery of Amra), we were able to have fresh fruits in the kids club and make smoothie-juices and fruit bowls over the weekend.  The kids were able to get involved as they cut the different fruit and helped to prepare for serving.  The kids did not complain about the fruit bowls topped with homemade whipped cream.

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Smoothie time….

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Fruit bowls…woof!

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Today is a high of 25 degrees Celsius which translates to 78 degrees Fahrenheit.  Woof!  I love Spring time and am so excited that we got the opportunity to make some fun crafts, have healthier options for food and drinks, and most importantly have fun with our kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dobro Došli Novi Kids Club

When you walk into the Kids Club the first thing you see is a big sign that reads ‘Dobro Došli’ which translates to ‘Welcome.’ Since I have been with Naša Djeca, I have seen these kids embrace and welcome visitors from all over the world. There hearts are so big and they have so much love to share.

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The Kids Club is a place that I instantly fell in love with on my first visit.  I normally spend 6 days a week here doing homework help, learning with the kids, helping to practice good study habits.  I also get to play with my kids here, we laugh, play games and are silly together.  This space was created to give a safe haven for our kids to just be themselves.

A few months ago the Kids Club was broken into.  Furniture was thrown all over the place, heaters ripped from the walls, the tv and router gone, bikes missing.  It was very unfortunate opening the doors with the intention to do homework only to find a catastrophe before my eyes.  I saw something in my kids eyes that I was not familiar to FEAR.  An investigation was done by the police, several news and web portals shared the stories, as far as I know nothing turned up.  Material items can be replaced, but the feeling of safety is not so easy to fill. It was and still is hard for me to accept the the feelings of comfort and security were stripped from my kids due to the act of greed. To the children, it is there home and a piece of them. Their photos, artwork, and ideas grace the walls of the hallways and rooms. I’m still grateful no one was present as the safety of our kids is a priority. Our kids are tough, our kids are strong, and our kids got through this. On that day I vowed to stand with Naša Djeca to return this place to a space of growth, laughter, enrichment of young lives and the potential for dreams…

After the mess from the break in was cleaned, Belma had the idea to talk about ‘leptiri’ or butterflies and the process that they go through in life.  They start as caterpillars that must then go through the process of metamorphosis.  Butterflies symbolize growth, hope, resurrection, joy and new beginnings. After watching several videos and reading stories the kids spent the rest of the day cutting out there own butterflies.

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The next day we we painted the living room with the kids.  What used to be covered with flowers and animated characters became a blank slate.  This was the start of the renovation for the Kids Club.

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The next few months we spent a majority of our time upstairs in the Kids Club, learning and playing with the kids.  But then winter break came and most of our kids left for Italy while others went to be with family members that lived closeby.  I was so sad when the kids were gone, but I was really excited for the opportunity they got to spend time with a family or host families and to have a real break.  Then the real renovations started…

With the direction of Belma and the guys from the halfway house, the painting of the Kids Club began.  I have to tell my readers just how incredible this was, none of us were professionals, just a group of people that wanted to bring a smile to our kids faces.  This was in the middle of winter when the temperatures were in the negative during the day.  I still don’t fully understand Celsius, I am an America, we measure temperature in Farenheit.  One day it was -5C and it felt like my body was going to freeze.  One night it was -13C.  Woof!

Most of the days we listened to music and talked while we worked, it made the time go by quicker.  I remember feeling so nostalgic one day, like is this really my life?  We were listening to Bosnian rap, and I looked over and see Lara and Adil trying to sing as fast as possible to keep up with the beat…  I remember not knowing what they were even saying but smiling.  It’s still hard to believe sometime that I’m really in Bosnia.  And I’m not here as a tourist or visitor, I’m living among the locals, listening to the music, eating the food (oh my gosh Bosnian food is so amazing), learning the language (ja govorim malo bosanski), exploring new places, and I’m trying to soak it all in as I know this opportunity will not last for forever….

One of my favorite parts of the renovation was how some of our kids came to help.  We would have Saud, Mirza, Lara and Nadira drop in, pick up a paint brush or broom and get to work.  Such unity came from this renovation.  I also got the opportunity to just hang out with the guys from the halfway house.

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Standing on ladders was my favorite!

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How many guys does it take to sand a wall…

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Love this group shot…

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The day we made FIREEEEE

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Special guest from Zenica

I know that we had a deadline to meet.  The kids would be coming back soon and that meant they would be returning to the Kids Club.  I truly love the transformation that took place.  One must undergo changes, even challenges to get to where one should be.  I think we can all learn a great lesson from the butterly, and embrace change as it comes.  That is the one certainty in life, all things will change.

Well somehow we did it…we finished before our deadline.

GO SPOON TEAM!

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Temporary tattoos are the cool thing

The Kids Club looks like a totally new space.  Our kids love it, from the carpet floors, to the white walls to the old toys they didn’t even know that they had…which I will admit I played with a lot of the toys while the kids were gone.

Here is the final product…

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Dobro Došli

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The carpet is beautiful

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We have a mini hair salon, where Mirza our head stylist does hair

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The little people need a table too…

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The bathroom is equipped with rugs for the floors, soap, tooth brushes, deoderent, lotion and anything else you need to stay fresh

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Shower anyone?

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This used to be the pink room, now its the perfect space for parties, and watching movies and relaxing

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Another couch for relaxing…

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The learning room has beautiful desks and chairs

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A big white board for practicing schoolwork

Now here are some pictures with the kids enjoying there new space…

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A special thanks to our team in Sweden, many of the new items in the Kids Club came from our donation from Vara Barn…like I mentioned in my last post – the donation is a gift that keep will on giving.  I hope that this space will provide comfort, laughter, learning and a place to set goals and achieve them for years to come.

These kids are so special and it feels so good to see them be able to enjoy the new Kids Club.

Dobro došli novi Kids Club…our doors are always open for visitors!

Od Vara Barn za Naša Djeca

What do you get when you take a team living in two different countries that want to do something BIG for charity…

You get a two trailer truck full of donations from Sweden to arrive in Mostar on a rainy Thursday evening!

I knew that Naša Djeca relied on donations from Vara Barn in Sweden and Our Kids in the UK.  I have seen pictures of donations from the past and you can find a lot of the items, in the Kids Club, in the girls house, in Pazarić and in our Second Hand Shop.

I got to hear of all of the work that the volunteers of Vara Barn put in.  Turns out for the last few months the volunteers in Sweden have been working their BUTTS off since the last donation in April 2016.  Once a month since last April they have been meeting up to receive donations from people in Sweden.  They open up the boxes, sort through the items and then reseal them, and then put that box in storage.  The leaders of this monthly and ongoing project were Amra, Alma and Dženeta who have spent roughly 100 hours getting these donations in order.  You read that right…100 hours!  Through these donations the people of Sweden are able to learn more about Vara Barn and Naša Djeca (which is the part I really like) while also finding out about other ways to engage with and help the charity.  Our partners in Vara Barn and the people in Sweden have really big hearts.

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They had a great turn out of support from the community and were able to load up two trailers full of boxes and items and send them to Mostar.  I also saw some of the paperwork that was required from Naša Djeca and Vara Barn to make the delivery of these items go smoothly.  Grad Mostar was the place to be for getting documents certified, etc.

For two days we had been expecting the shipment.  We hit a few hurdles which is normal I think when it comes to a charitable donation, it once took us a few months to help get a wheelchair from the UK delivered to Bosnia for a small girl who had muscle dystrophy.  Lejla refused to take no for an answer, she made so many phone calls, sent so many emails, and on the day of the delivery spent several hours at the terminal and had to come back to the office for ‘one more paper’.  I am not a fan of that term ‘one more paper’…

But alas the truck arrived with the Naša Djeca van leading it down Marsala tita.  We had the guys from the halfway house, the girls from the house, Slaven leading the pack and our heroic driver who had to sleep overnight in the truck awaiting the final signatures to come through.  This driver was so sweet, I thanked him and made sure that he knew he was our hero.  He was so incredibly friendly after a long journey with our donations and still managed to smile as we unloaded the truck.

Once the truck arrived I was in charge of taking pictures which I love, but then I realized I needed to jump in and help if we wanted to finish ever.  The rain lightly fell but the team worked until we got the first trailer finished.  The magasin which we were using to store items became so packed that we started redirecting items to another storage area.  Up the steps, down the steps, across the street, back across the street.  I count this donation as a workout for everyone involved.  Towards the end we started just stacking the boxes on the curb and tried to get the truck as empty as quickly as possible.  Our heroic driver was not able to sit and have coffee and juice with us.  He had another shipment to go take and several more hours on the road.  God bless that man!  I have cousins that drive trailers and it’s a lot of time on the road, away from family with a lot of waiting around.  I can see now that in Bosnia, it’s very similar.

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Our driver and Sanela

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Lejla riding shotgun on the truck, big smile on her face

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Alright team, let’s do this!

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Truck number 1…woof

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After the trailer pulled away we all quickly scrambled to get the last of the boxes off the curb, the temperature was dropping,  and my body was dead…

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As the last boxes left the curb I ran into Zejna on the stairs, she had only made it halfway up before resting and sitting on her box.  I love the photo I took of her, so tired but big smile on her face…

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Then of course the group had to take a photo too…

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It felt good to be finished, to lay down and drink some water.  I’m so proud of our team, thank you Vara Barn in Sweden for doing such an amazing job getting all of these donations together and shipped to Mostar and to our Naša Djeca team for getting everything off the trucks, the sorting has already started and items have already made it to their destinations like the van that took donations to Pazaric (PS I miss you guys), the multiple vans that have taken items from storage to the Kids Club and the sorting of items in the shop.  To my friends of Mostar – the Second Hand Shop already has new merchandise with great prices.  Last week Naša Djeca was able to donate a hospital bed and supplies to the local hospital.

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The Naša Djeca van arriving in Pazaric with donations

The hospital bed  and supplies heading towards the ambulance

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Naša Djeca also helps former residents of the orphanage.  Here are diapers, soap, blankets, baby food and clothing that was given to a young mother and baby from the donation.

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I love baby Adin

Last weekend the kids got new clothes and shoes at the Kids Club which came from the donation from Sweden.

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I love my team!!!!!!!!!!

 

Holiday Show at Pazarić

Most days I learn something new about the work that Naša Djeca does.  It’s a small charity but very powerful in the different projects that they do all over Bosnia.  Pazarić is a town about 2 hours away from Mostar that has an institution for children and adults with hard disabilities.

I recently learned the proper way to address the different groups of young people that Naša Djeca helps.  The term normally used for children living in an orphanage is ‘dijete bez roditeljskog staranja’ which means kids without parents.  And when I refer to people with disabilities or special needs I should address them as ‘djeca ometana u razvoju’ which means children disturbed in development.  Thank you Belma for my new knowledge!  I promise to use this language from now on…

The morning of Wednesday December 28 we left for Pazaric.  Lejla, Đana, Ilma and myself got into the car and away we went.

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I was surprised after just 20 minutes in the car we came across snow covered mountains.  It doesn’t snow in Mostar but mountains only a few miles away were covered in snow and clouds.  I was so confused.  Also really beautiful to see because I prefer to see the snow on those mountains and not on the sidewalk and streets of where I live.  The ride to Pazarić is a long one so I napped and woke up to snow all around me.  On the trees, the street, the houses, it was so beautiful.  Like a winter wonderland that I could visit temporarily…

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After we arrived to Pazarić and parked we immediately went to see the housing unit for the kids.  When we walked in the door all eyes turned to us with smiles and looks of curiosity.  I got to meet a few women who worked at the center for kids and everyone was so friendly.  I met a young girl named Jasmina who loved to play a small game of hide and seek.

After we left the house we went to the office for Naša Djeca.  We were greeted by Dika, Elvedina and Amila.  They are our three personal assistants who work with the children with the hardest disturbed development at Pazarić.  I also got to meet three of our beautiful kids: Irma, Zejna and Harun.  When Harun and I first locked eyes I believe it was love at first sight.  He reached for me and gave me the biggest hug.  He then wrapped his legs around me so that we would not part our embrace.  I instantly felt so much happiness being with him and the other kids.  His smile was so big and he was so comfortable with me.  Lejla played with Zejna and her doll baby.  Ilma and I talked to Irma and Harun.  Still Harun kept his legs tightly wrapped around me as we played and exchanged smiles.

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It was time to go to the show.  It took Amila and Elvedina to get Harun to let me go.  I couldn’t help but smile and laugh at the situation.

We went into a giant room where the kids were gathered and the program started.   During the show Naša Djeca was recognized and Lejla and Dika stood to a loud applause.  All of the performances were incredible, I can tell that a lot of time and energy went into preparation for this show.  Everyone knew there lyrics to the song and every dance move had so much power and precision.  I was so happy to be in the audience and to watch these young and older people shine in front of so many others.  One of my favorite performances although I don’t believe in picking favorites was done a group of young people who did there entire show in sign language.  One girl danced around the room to the music while the others kept signing and then she joined them.  It was really beautiful sight to see.  I also loved the Santa Claus song, the song about being different, the lip syncing act, the belly dancing…everything was so perfect.  When the show ended to say that I was bummed out is an understatement.  I wanted more…I wasn’t ready for it to be over…

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As everyone got up from there seats, I was greeted by a woman who spoke perfect English.  I answered her in Bosnian but she refused to switch languages.  She told me that her brother is teaching her English and that she enjoys it very much.  We walked out into the halls and headed to grab coffee.  There we were greeted by so much food and cakes! Harun was on my mind and I kept wondering if I would get a proper goodbye.

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After we ate I asked Dika if I could see Harun one last time.  I was looking at the clock and hoping there would still be time.  Lejla said we would have to see.  Dika asked the Director of Pazarić if I could stay for one more goodbye and he said yes.  I was so happy to hear this.  The Director was a nice man, very interested in why I was in Bosnia as I’m sure many others were who saw me in the room.  When Dika mentioned I am a model and a dancer he talked of the samba which made me laugh.

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Lejla said I had to make it quick as we still had a journey ahead of us to get home.  When I walked back into the house for the kids Harun saw me and his eyes lit up.  I believe that my eyes lit up just the same, seeing his beautiful face.  He walked over to me, I picked him up and his legs locked around me like before.  I gave him so many kisses and did not want to let go.  The other kids came over to greet me.  It was such a beautiful moment, one that I also did not want to end.  When I finally gave Harun his last kiss, I put him down and waved goodbye.  The other kids waved me goodbye including little Jasmina who I did not get a picture of.

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What these personal assistants have been able to accomplish with the kids at Pazarić is an astounding achiement.  Harun, Irma and Zejna have truly transformed in development due to the one on one assistance that they receive from Dika, Elvedina and Amila.  To hear about it and see pictures is really nice, but to physically be there, well that is much more rewarding.  I am so grateful that Lejla took me along to visit Pazarić for the day, I would LOVE to return to just spend time with the kids and adults that live there.  You know the saying that somethings are ‘too good to be true.’  I feel that way when I think about all of the beautiful and continuous acts Naša Djeca does for the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Goodbye to my new friends of Pazarić…until next time!

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Plešimo Za Našu Djecu

When I first started working with Naša Djeca, Lejla told me about a winter concert being her favorite fundraising activity that the charity did.  My expectations of what this winter concert entailed were blown through the roof…literally.

Two months before the concert took place we had our first meeting with Jasmina and Tea who are the owners of PS Flash in Mostar.  They run a local dance company for young girls of all ages.  Upon meeting me they were interested in my past dance experience and invited me to join in on there dance classes.  I was really impressed by how talented the young girls were and how much you could see the love of dancing and determination to be the best on there faces.  It was a great experience to be apart of two of there practices and very humbling of the girls excitement to have me there.  That I will never forget.14344327_1817330375165223_1261801793577186856_n14355193_1817330488498545_6683172250612465842_n14516559_1820653908166203_959245239772926858_n14519709_1820653871499540_406777454000550512_n

So like I said we started planning this two months ahead and by the last week I was so ready for the show to just come and be over.  I was having a bit of anxiety as I took on two projects that I wanted to be successful.

My first project was teaching girls at Egipasko a dance to a song by a young Serbian singer.  The first time I heard the song I was instantly moved by the lyrics.  Lena sang about children suffering in pain but that together they could make a difference.  I felt like it could potentially describe any child who feels lost, who needs love, who needs just one chance to make it in life.

The number of girls and at one point boys that I was teaching the dance to frequently changed.  I think we started with 7 or 8 kids and by the end we were only down to 4.  I think 4 is a good number so I had no complaints.  Have you ever taught a dance to kids who don’t speak the same language as you?  Well let me just tell you it’s SO MUCH FUN…on the end of the teacher and on the end of the students.  I would say phrases and the kids would look at me with puzzled faces.  I would do movements, and they were even more confused.  Thanks to Belma, Lara and a few others we somehow made it through rehearsals to finally finish learning the song.  I couldn’t believe how far the girls had come in not only memorizing the dance but feeling it with their bodies.  I would also like to just mention that they learned a few English phrases along the way…up and down… 1,2,3,4…left and right…pose…and slow down which was there least favorite form of direction.  Perhaps they learned more but through the experience I was able to see something totally different from what I see with these girls everyday.  I got to see there dedication, hardwork, love of dance, their doubt when there spirits would fall but also when they would push themselves and believe in eachother.  It was an incredible experience.

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Sugar, spice and everything FIERCE!

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We had a few hiccups like what would the girls wear as costumes and thanks to Alma, she got the girls exactly what they wanted which was to be beautiful ballerinas.  On the day of the show I couldn’t be there to do the hair and makeup of the girls but Belma helped in that department and they truly looked like little princesses.  We didn’t know which version of the song to use, the English version or Serbian.  I thought that both versions were the same.  Turns out they are very different, the English version was about kids and the Serbian version was  about war.  Woof!

My second project was to help promote Naša Djeca’s Second Hand Shop.  I’m not sure how many of my blog readers know but for the past 3 years Naša Djeca has had a Second Hand Shop that sells clothes donated from Sweden and the UK.  The clothes are really nice, most of which are brand new and range from kids to adults in sizes.  They also have shoes and jewelry for sale.  The proceeds of this shop go towards all of Naša Djeca’s projects.  My favorite part of the shop is who you will find working there.  The girls from the house work at this shop: Dana, Zejna, Aida and Ilma all work at this shop where they recieve occupational therapy while providing excellent service assisting customers.  As soon as I heard about the concert I knew I wanted to do a fashion show, but before that I wanted to help promote the shop with the help of our girls from the house.  When I first suggested the fashion show idea, the big question was who would be the models?  I thought it would be best to just use people from the town of Mostar as that is what the show was supposed to be about.  But the models I was most excited about are the girls, I can’t think of more confident people who just love the skin that they are in.  To me that’s what modeling is all about.  Owning who you are.  I asked the girls to be in my show and they got so bashful – well except for Dana, I knew she already had the confidence of a model.

After I got my list of confirmed models and there sizes I went to the shop and was able to easily pull clothing for the show.  We have some really great dresses, sweaters and jackets for men and women and fun accessories too.  A lot of my models were first timers and were anxious to have a rehearsal.  I scheduled the rehearsal the Sunday before the show and gave everyone who showed up an opportunity to walk.  I was impressed, I was excited, I knew that this show would be a success.  At the rehearsal the models got to try on there clothes and almost everything fit no problem.  There were a few hiccups but we pushed past them.  I thought it was most important that everyone felt as comfortable as possible in there clothes.

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I never want to see balloons again in my life.  In order to help promote the show we blew up balloons and had them handed to children and families around Mostar.  Such a cute idea…so many balloons.  I’m coughing just thinking about it…

The staff of Naša Djeca made a few tv appearances while being interviewed for several local news stations.  It was so much fun watching the segments with our girls from the house, we would shout at the tv in excitement.  It was cute…yes, but the coolest part is that everyone in Mostar and beyond was learning more about Naša Djeca and the good things that we do to help the country of Bosnia.

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The morning of the show we all woke up early to go set up at Kosaca.  The venue was beautiful, I had seen it before during one of our meetings but wow – I got such a rush being on the stage the day of the show.  We also had Medo the bear handing out balloons to the kids.  The kids LOVED Medo and were chanting his name outside of Kosaca.  img_5930img_5946img_5928

Thanks to Frizer Sandi and Frizerski Džana 10 of our models were able to get there hair done.  Watching the transformation of Dana, Aida and Zejna was priceless.  Each of them was so happy with how there hair turned out and the smiles on there faces were so big.

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Sanela did the makeup for the girls and I rushed to Kosaca for the rehearsal.  The taxi system in Mostar makes no sense to me…in any city I’ve been in you can hail a taxi and it will stop for you as long as its empty.  In Mostar – no chance.  But just when time was coming down to the wire Salih appeared and gave me and two others a ride to the event.  I still couldn’t believe that Salih made it considering he lives 2 hours away and had plans that started halfway through the concert.

After arriving to Kosaca, the place was packed and the public wasn’t even there yet.  Dancers everywhere, rehearsals on the stage, lights, music, the suspense was getting to me.  My girls got to practice on the stage and I was confident they were going to do a great job.

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My models got to practice on the stage for the first time and it was a little unorganized but I figured, it couldn’t be any worse during show time…  Positive thinking does wonders!

Time for the doors to open…

The audience flooded into Kosaca and it quickly became packed.  The bottom floor had been filled and people started to sit on the balcony seats.  I kept an eye on the the schedule as my girls were number 7 and the fashion show 17…I think.

Within minutes it was time to grab the girls from there seats and get them backstage.  They started freaking out and I felt terrible because I meant to have a text translated to read aloud to the girls but with the help of Tajma, my girls were able to hear what I wanted to tell them.  I let them know just how proud I was of them, the transformation over the months has been amazing and that I wanted them to remember was why they wanted to dance, for themselves.  The girls hugged me, I gave them big kisses and off they went.  I was in tears watching these girls ages ranging from 6 to 17 years old on the stage lighting it up.  They shined brighter than the lights, the music, the sun, the moon and the stars.  This was my first time as a dance teacher, the skill level was different for each girl, I made a few adjustments as certain moves were painful or uncomfortable.  But would I teach again even with the language barrier?  In a heartbeat!

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My hearts

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Photo Credit Selma Hodzic

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Photo Credit Selma Hodzic

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Photo Credit Selma Hodzic

I took the girls back to there seats and my models were already backstage.  My very last minute thinking made me realize that the music was too long for the models to walk.  We lost one model just days before and I hadn’t made a proper adjustment.  After running up several long stair cases to try to find the sound people, knocking on doors only to run back downstairs, I finally got in contact with them and told them to cut my music after the finale walk.  Thanks for running with me Sonja.  Racing down the stairs, running backstage, realizing I still had to change into my outfit and the models told me we had 2 minutes before we were on.  I quickly changed, we got in our order and were ready to rock it.

I have to say considering only one of my models had previous modeling experience, the show was a success and everyone did an amazing job.  The confidence, the pizazz, the giggles, poise, smiles and poses were everything.  I always get nervous just a little bit before runway shows but that’s because I’ve been in shows where I have been told I have a to walk a certain way, that my walk is terrible, that I don’t look good in the clothes, etc, etc.  But for me runway is really exciting because most shows take months sometimes even years of preparation and you imagine that your only on the runway for 30 seconds to a minute.  In that time you have to sell the heck out of those clothes.  You have to make everyone in the audience wish they owned that dress or jacket or shoes.  The finale walk was amazing and by the time the finale ended, so did the music.  I still laugh about all of those stairs I ran up and down (for nothing) but hey exercise is exercise.

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Zeljka – Photo Credit Selma Hodzic

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Đana – Photo Credit Selma Hodzic

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Tajma – Photo Credit Selma Hodzic

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Adnan – Photo Credit Selma Hodzic

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Zejna – Photo Credit Selma Hodzic

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Lamia – Photo Credit Selma Hodzic

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Amela – Photo Credit Selma Hodzic

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Nehad – Photo Credit Selma Hodzic

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Petra – Photo Credit Selma Hodzic

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Elvis – Photo Credit Selma Hodzic

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Martina – Photo Credit Meliha Nametak-Long

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Aida – Photo Credit Selma Hodzic

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Josipa – Photo Credit Selma Hodzic

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Todd – Photo Credit Selma Hodzic

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Me (Asia) – Photo Credit Selma Hodzic

After the runway show, we took a group photo together.

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My models !!!!

The models changed but I stayed in my dress.  It was so beautiful I knew I had to have it for the rest of my life.  I was able to catch the end of the show, hand out balloons to dancers and kids in the audience and watch Albina light up the stage with her amazing voice.  I hear her singing all of the time in the office but on the stage, it seemed more powerful, full of more love and the kids flooding the stage, my dancing girls waving there hands in the air from side to side, Medo the bear joining them.  Oh, it was the best ending to the show.

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Photo Credit Selma Hodzic

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After the show officially ended, our kids from Egipasko, the guys from the halfway house, our girls from the house our special guests from Stolac received presents.  It was really beautiful.   Everyone was so happy.  I felt the true spirit of why we start planning months in advance.  I understand now why this concert is Lejla’s favorite event.  This concert is now my favorite event and I wanted to do it again on Saturday and Sunday.

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Photo Credit Selma Hodzic

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There were a great number of media outlets present, staff members from Naša Djeca and PS Flash were interviewed before and after the event ended.  Naša Djeca is on its way to becoming a household name…

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Photo from City TV

I have to admit one of my favorite yet potentially super vain moments of excitement was my name appearing on the marketing poster.  Albina’s too!  Oh and all of the different media outlets wanting to know more about the fashion show and who Asia Odum was…  Ha, I’m honest.

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To all of my friends in Mostar and those that will visit, you now see for yourself how great our clothes in the shop are on the runway and they will look just as good on you or your loved ones/friends, consider stopping by the Second Hand shop just off of Marsala Tita.  We have a 50% sale for the rest of the month.

Naša Djeca and PS Flash put on a show to remember.  Dancers, singers, a choir, bands, performers, clowns and the fashion show all went so nicely together.  We raised almost 1,600 km after all of the expenses it took to put on the show.  To me it was a success.  I want to do another one.  I’m so glad that I work for an organization where they include me in everything and when I have a new idea, they let me go with it!

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Photo Credit – Selma Hodzic

 

 

Naša Djeca meets HERO

A few months ago Naša Djeca received an email inquiring about a donation for the charity. After some discussion the team decided that a donation of laptops to the kids club would be the best addition.

When I think about my childhood I have flashbacks to the computer that we had in the dining room of the house.  We had dial up internet so anytime anyone would call you would instantly get kicked off the net.  I had to share the computers with my sisters so I didn’t get as much time to play on it as I had probably hoped.  My favorite game to play was the Berenstein Bears and I loved the adventures sister and brother would go on.  I remember when that computer broke and I was so sad.  I also remember all of those AOL discs that would come in the mail for 1,000 free minutes.  Even with all the free minutes, we didn’t get AOL until years later.

Today the world is centered around the internet.  I once took a class where we had to read a book by Thomas Friedman called The World is Flat.  The book talked about the ways that globalization has changed the world including how the internet has kept people more connected and thus the world more ‘flat.’  Today kids use the internet for homework research, exploration with many valuable resources for impromptu learning mixed with a fair share of playing, games and videos.  The Kids Club got wifi a few months ago and with laptops I was just imagining the productivity that could take place during homework sessions and on the weekends.

Turns out the inquiry was from two Americans that have there own project called Hero.  Hero stands for Humanitarians for Education Recreation and Outreach and was founded by Alex Antilla, Brian Hindman and Michael Slavik.  The project started in India when they were on vacation and saw that the conditions for children in the community were not the best.  After India they went onto help children in the Dominican Republic, Laos, Brazil, Peru, Belize and now Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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Both Alex and Brian were very interested to learn more about the charity when they were in town so Russ, Lejla and myself sat down with them and chatted over coffee.  I got to share my personal stories about the charity, tell them about our amazing kids, our girls and everyone else that we assist.  I love talking about Naša Djeca 🙂  After coffee we went and found some laptops from the tech store in Mepas Mall.   With the funds that HERO raised, they were able to donate 6 ASUS laptops.  Woof!  Unfortunately the laptops needed to be ordered and sent to us, but we got to take Alex and Brian to the Kids Club to meet our amazing kids.

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The kids were so excited to hear about the laptop donation and to meet Alex and Brian.  Within days the laptops were delivered and with the assistance of Russ, they were updated with the proper Anti-Virus software and Microsoft was installed.

During homework help the kids are able to use the laptops for assistance with school, on the evenings and weekends the kids are able to use the laptops for play.  One of my favorite parts of having the laptops is that we can hook them up to the projector and show powerpoint presentations and/or watch movies as a group.  Movie nights are the best!

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The night we watched White Chicks

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The day we learned about Bosnian Independence day

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The day we watched 10 Things I Hate About You

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The day we watched the Pursuit of Happyness

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The donation by HERO was very generous and  greatly appreciated. The children love the laptops, are slowly learning the concept of sharing and information about the world around them is now literally at their finger tips.

Thank you again to Alex, Brian and the supporters of HERO.  Hvala vam puna!

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Naša Djeca meets the Heathland School UK Part 2

The fun continues…

On Wednesday, after a few hours of homework help we took a different group of kids bowling.  I haven’t been bowling in months and in America had quite an obession with it.  My father picked up on this and bought me a ball with my name on it, a bag and the cutest shoes.  Of course none of these items happen to be in Bosnia with me now and I will say that is why my bowling game was not as strong.

Turns out that not only does Mepas Mall have a movie theatre, but also a bowling alley.  The bowling alley is small but they give you a pair of socks to wear with there shoes.  Free socks is always a good idea.

We all sorted ourselves into teams of 4 per lane and had a good time.  I was not the best bowler of the night but I slowly got better with tips from the kids.  It was fun watching everyones different strategies to bowl.  Some better than others but I have to admit everyone had a great time.

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There was also an area to play pool if bowling was not your thing.

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After bowling we had worked up quite an appetite.  We all walked over to a pizzaria for dinner.  I was really surprised how much the kids could eat.  Some eating an entire personal pizza.  The pizzaria was so loud with us all there, everyone was laughing, talking and playing with the people at there tables.

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Thursday was the Heathland Schools last full day in Mostar and our plan was to make it count.  We did our usual homework help but I have to admit the kids were so anxious to just have some fun.  After homework help, we played all day long.  Kids were upstairs, downstairs, outside, everywhere.  I went and played a game of football in the Sports Center at the orphanage.  I have kicked a soccer ball a handful of times in my life.  Football is a hard sport and requires so much running.  But I’m glad I played, it was a great workout, I was exhausted by the time we got kicked out.  I was happy that a sports game was scheduled there so we had to leave.  But I did score one or two goals after many failed attemps.

We got all different kinds of burek in the dining hall for dinner.  In the words of one my kids ‘I love you burek!’  Thursday was Almedin’s birthday. So our plan was to throw a surprise party for him.  We bought a pack of balloons blew them up, decorated a few paper lanterns and  had a huge  cake.  After dinner Slaven took Almedin to the store and we got in our places for the surprise.  During this 15 minute process half of the balloons were popped…but luckily there were some left for Almedin’s arrival.  Everyone sang happy birthday to Almedin in English…and we enjoyed cake, juice and more playing.

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I couldn’t miss another opportunity to take a picture with Davorka who is one of the founders of our charity from UK.  I still remember the first conversation that I had with her and from there I have been in awe with her and hope to start something one day that will be as amazing as what Naša Djeca means to the kids and to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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The kids signing t-shirts

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Some of our kids had realized it was the last day of our UK visitors and were becoming very emotional.  In just one week these kids had grown so close to the Heathland students and staff that they did not want them to leave.  I praise my kids for how big there hearts are, most hellos in life will lead one day to a goodbye.  Goodbyes are tough because even though they are not always permanent it leaves this unknown question of when will you see this person again.  I know that goodbyes are especially tough for our kids.

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The week before I watched our kids say goodbye to Alma and Lejla.  Alma is a long time volunteer, board member and supporter of Naša Djeca from Sweden.  Lejla is a friend of Alma who wanted to spend a week in Bosnia.  Their goodbye was also tough to watch.  My heart breaks when I see my kids cry.  However one of my kids Edin asked if I was leaving back to America on Friday and I responded no, and he the biggest smile on my face.  That moment made my day.  I want to just enjoy every moment that I get with these kids because I know the time will come when I will leave too….  It’s something I don’t want to even think about but I’m so grateful to spend so much time with my kids, the girls of the house, the guys from the halfway house and the staff of Naša Djeca.  They are my heart and my family!

Something really special about the time that the Heathland School spent in Mostar is that they weren’t just with the kids from the orphanage at the Kids Club.  That is just one of the projects that Naša Djeca does while also helping with the halfway house for young men who are former orphans and the girls house.  A few of the evenings we were all together as one, to me that is really beautiful and shows just how close of a unit this charity is.  I’m really proud to be apart of this organization.

Thank you Heathland School UK for your time, energy, laughter, compassion and big hearts.  Until next time…

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Naša Djeca meets the Heathland School UK Part 1

Every summer students from the Heathland School in the UK travel to Mostar for two weeks and go on different adventures with the kids from the local orphanage.  Each student fundraises to pay for there trip and they also raise enough money to sponsor one of our kids to partake in all the activities they do.  I was still exploring the Balkans when this took place so I missed out on all the fun.  However I have seen so many of the photos and heard of different stories.

We had some returning students but also a lot of newcomers.  From day one the bond that my kids formed with the students was beautiful.  It was a true representation that cultural backgrounds and language hold no borders between people when good intentions and love is present.

On Saturday students came to the Kids Club and we were able to do a lot of different activities.  Playing outside, making friendship bracelets, coloring, playing with toys, we even played a few competitive rounds of BINGO.  I did not win this game of BINGO and was a bit of a sore loser considering how long it took for a winner to be revealed.

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On Sunday Lejla and I thought it would be a good idea for the kids to work together to create something special.  After bouncing around a few ideas, a banner to be hung in the Kids Club was the final decision.  The rules were every kid would get 1 minute to draw or write something on the banner but everyone was supposed to be quiet while they did so.  I’m not sure how quiet the kids stayed but I liked how everyone left a piece of themself on the banner.  Here are some pictures from the banner making.

 

Here is the final product:

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Afterward we played games inside and out that let the kids get out some of there energy. A lot of the games were silly, had the kids laughing, working together and trying to beat the other team…I did make an announcement that everyone is a winner.  We even played games boys versus girls and I remember that the girls came out on top 🙂

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It was a successful weekend…here is a group shot of most of the squad from Sunday before we headed home.

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On Monday we had our normal day of homework help with the kids.  Math, Bosanski, Biology and writing.

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The students from the Heathland spent the day doing landscape work for the halfway house.  They helped dig up rocks and cleared the space for trees to be planted on the property in the future.  That evening we joined them for a barbecue and games.  The food was amazing, everyone was hanging out and relaxing.  After food and lots of cake we proceeded to play different card games and JENGA.

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On Tuesday we did homework help with the kids and the Heathland School joined us.

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Afterward we had plans to go to Mall and watch a movie.  The weather was fantastic so we walked to the mall and stopped at the park for a few.  Swings, the slide, monkey bars, the sea saw, it was all so fun.

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I had never been to this park before but learned that this was the location of the statue Bruce Lee.  I’ve heard a few different stories as to why he is in the park.  I recently watched an interview of Bruce Lee being questioned about whether he still continued to see himself as Chinese man or as being from North America.  Bruce’s response was ˝you know I want to think of myself as a human being because I don’t want to sound like as Confucious say but under the sky, under the heaven, man there is but one family, it just so happened man that people are different.˝  When I think of this interview and his response, I believe this is why Bruce is in Mostar.  He’s an icon but also believed that all people are the same and should be treated as such.  Anyways, the kids all took pictures with the statue and tried their best to imitate the legend.

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What are movie essentials?  Of course popcorn, drinks and a little toy.  Every kid recieved these treats after we arrived to the movies in Mepas Mall.  The movie we watched was called Sevmirska Avantura 2 which translates to Space Adventure 2.  It was in Bosnian language, no subtitles so I got to make up my own story about little dogs going to space.  The kids were laughing so hard in the theatre which we practically had to ourselves and enjoyed themselves so much.  We went for dinner at McDonalds, the kids had fun playing basketball and the mini-maze.  We walked the kids back to the orphanage and said our goodbyes.

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The fun has just begun and there are more stories and pictures to share….keep a look out for Part 2 in the next few days to hear about the end of our visit with our new friends from the United Kingdom.