Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Each Life That Touches Ours For Good

A friend to some, a brother to others, a beloved uncle to two of our grandchildren and a beloved son of our Heavenly Father went home this last weekend. He died of a broken heart, and left many broken hearts behind. Our sweet daughter-in-law, Noemi, lost her older brother, Israel, on Saturday. The Erickson's will remember him fondly. He followed Noemi to Utah a few years after she married our son. He wandered in and out of our family parties for years. Joining in our sometimes rackas conversations, eating bar-b-que, chicken, roast beef , just about any thing we threw his way. He would politely tell me, "no, you don't need to do that" when I would pack him a bag of leftovers, Then thank-me with his beautiful brown eyes when I insisted. I  loved it that he knew he was always welcome. At the Erickson house there is always room for one more. This song has always been one of my favorites, but I feel it a little more deeply tonight when I think of Israel and how he touched our lives...
Being on a mission when someone you care about leaves this earthly existence is a little bit of a challenge. Not because I could really "do" anything about it, but I know my sweet daughter-in -law is hurting, and I just would like to be there to hold her, and let her cry, to assure her that we won't forget him and that he will be missed by the Erickson Clan.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Birthday in Bosnia!!!!

    I had a great Birthday in Bosnia! Who ever would have thought that I would celebrate my 58th birthday in such a far away place? We had an appointment in  a little town called Prijedor, about an hour away from Banja Luka to go see a hospital that had sent doctors to the NRT training. They were so happy to see us! I was touched by how  excited and proud they were to give us a tour of their facility. My favorite place to see was the  "Baby Box"  That's what they call the nursery. Each little exam room was labeled , Box 1 or  Box 2. So just think. Instead of decorating the nursery...you can say, "Well, I'm going to go in and finish painting the baby box...or on Sunday, you can say, "Honey, you take (insert child's name) to the baby box for me, I need to get to my SS class as fast as I can."  For some strange reason, I just LOVED  the name! What's funny is it's ENGLISH !!!!!  They told us that since the November training they have saved the lives of about 7 babies, using the training and equipment that they received. The two doctors that took the training, have now trained all the staff that has anything to do with deliveries, also the emergency room and the doctors and nurses up in the pediatric department. The only reported difficulty was that the nurses here are not allowed to use a stethoscope, and using the NRT training they must use one. Because they are not accustom to using it, they are having to practice, practice and practice more. My concern is that they might give up.
We were just about to leave the hospital and one of the cute little doctors said, "Don't you want to come up to the pediatric ward to see my ultra sound machine?" So up we went .  She was just adorable! She had our translator, Predrug, shed his shirt and lay down on the table. Poor guy, he had to translate while having a gooey sensor rubbing over his upper body! She was so proud of her 10 year old ultra sound machine that a company in Germany gave them along with a EKG machine. The EKG machine has long quit working and now is garbage, but the Ultra Sound machine just keeps on purring away. She does all the Ultra Sounds herself and I was impressed with her enthusiasm and dedication for her work. She told us that she was 65, but you sure couldn't tell it from her energetic desire to serve her little patients. She asked if we could get an EKG machine for her...medical supplies are proving to be difficult for us to buy, there are no suppliers in Bosnia, so we are on the hunt. Anyone have a spare EKG machine they want to donate???  Send it this way! We know a cute doctor in Bosnia that could use it...

The three doctors in Prijedor, Jim and I and Predrag

No Computers....

Our darling friend, the pediatric cardiologist. Can you believe she's 65 ?

This is their delivery room.  The green cover is where they take the babies after delivery. This is the second hospital that has no baby warming lights for new borns that we have gone to. We are trying to find a source for them. Notice the flow chart on the wall above the baby station.  That's part of the training that they received. It was wonderful to see it on the wall.
After our appointment with the hospital, Predrag told us we were only 40 minutes away from a National Park area that he would really like for us to see. So we started up this mountain road, it reminded me of going up North Ogden Pass  to go for a picnic. When we got to the top there was a hugh WW Two
war memorial. We hiked up the muddy grass area to the top, that was fun in heels, and looked at it from close up. It was sobering to say the least. When the Germans came into Banja Luka, the patriots knew that they couldn't fight them in the city, with all their tanks, so they took the fight to the mountains. On this mountain top over 10,000 Bosnians were killed. At the end of the war, Yugoslavia and communism took over, so no religious monument was ever erected to honor them. So as soon as the break up of Yugoslavia took place and religion was once more , they had a religious memorial put up and our translator said he remembered coming up as a child with his uncle to see it put in place.  We were amazed at the 10,000 names that were on the wall. It all seemed rather cold and depressing. I couldn't help thinking of other battlegrounds, Gettysburg, Pearl harbor and so many others..  They all became sacred places and I believe that was what I was feeling. Not cold , not depressing, but sacred...10,0000 souls, fighting and dying for what they believed in. I will be happy to go back to this spot in the summer time, It will be beautiful, with the lush green of the Balkan Mountains.

World War 2 monument

It was pretty muddy, but we hiked up to it, on the right side of it, the box looking thing is where all the names are.

This is just one little section, it goes on and on...it lists their name, the city they were from, birth and death dates.

Just when you think you're really in a modern city, you come upon something like this. We think he carries fire wood in the back of his cart.  We passed him on the way to the National Park.

Mosque near National Park

This little town was on the way to the park, Predrug told us that it was almost all Muslim, it had 4 mosques with prayer towers.

 We went out to eat at our favorite restaurant with Predrag, his girlfriend and her twin sister. I totally derailed my diet of the new year, but had a wonderful evening.
Saturday we went for a walk in down town Banja Luka and I captured this picture, I think it's my all time favorite....at least for this week.

Isn't she beautiful! Oh how Heavenly Father must love her! She just melted my heart. I made Jim give her money for letting me take her picture. He gave her about $5.00. She was thrilled!

This is the rest of the story... As we walked up the stairs we noticed the cardboard she was sitting on. We see it all the time. They can't sit on a hard surface, a bench, cement , or the ground even.. It will make them sterile. So a newspaper, piece of cardboard or a paper sack will protect them from that fate. She must still be worried about it.

  I want to thank all of you who sent me birthday wishes via face book, cards and packages. I've never felt so loved! 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Potential Projects for the new year...

I didn't get a post out last week, so I guess I had best catch you up to speed. We've  been putting an emphasis on developing new projects. Here is a little bit of what we have been doing.

1. We've are submitting projects for the children's hospital that is located out in the beautiful countryside between Zagreb and Varazdin. There most urgent need was for sheets, pillow cases, and duvet covers. They also need about 25 sturdy wood chairs. We've been shopping around, I think the high school will come in with a good bid for the bedding, but they don't make chairs. They have a great wood-working program, but chairs are not on their list of things they do. One of the employees at the school however used to work at a chair factory here in Varazdin. It is closed now, but he has some connections and told us he would look into it for us. Do you know we are on a shopping mission!  When we figure out how much the project will cost for big things, we will add a little for some new toys as well.

2. We are submitting a water project for Eastern Croatia, this is one of the hardest hit areas of the homeland war. The church has been helping,(by supplying the money) to clean out hundreds of wells that were contaminated by the war. Live ammunition's, dead bodies, and carcases of dead farm animal were thrown into the wells to pollute them. Over the last 4 or 5 years great progress has been made to clean them out, thanks to the partnership of the Church and the Red Cross. We will continue that work, more and more Serbs who left during the conflict, actually ran for their lives.... are starting to come home to wells that are polluted, but they are using them anyway. Having no other choice. This project is a major initiative of the church and has already been approved in S.L.C. but we need to put in the final paper work to get it moving forward.

3. There is an after school program in Osejek, Croatia that is amazing. They identify at risk children, those with parents who can't or won't supervise their children after school hours. Younger ones, do crafts, dancing, drama and of course home work. The older teenage children actually are wards of the state, usually having been taken away from neglectful parents. They sleep in a facility close by the after school facility. but while the younger children are at the site, so are the older ones. They are teacher aides, helping to run the program for the younger kids. They do all sorts of odd jobs, cleaning, laundry, (yes, the younger ones get their clothes cleaned) and they play and interact with the younger students. It was really fun to see them in action. They were doing a painting project when we were there. The older ones had painted a room and then the younger ones were doing art on the newly painted walls. It was well.....kids art, very colorful and fun! When asked what they needed most they said a sewing machine. So now we are looking for a sewing machine. After we find out approximately how much that will cost, we will submit a project for that.

4. We visited the Red Cross in Osejek and asked them what their needs are as well, they have a soup kitchen that works very well, but they do an outreach program for about 50 families out in the villages. They need containers to transport meals in. We are having difficulty finding the ones that they want, but in Bosnia this last week I think we found some similar. Now to see if we can find a Croatian distributor so we don't have to bring them across the boarder. We have a policy to buy "in country" so as to help the local economy. Still working on this one.

5. Our wheelchair project with Caritas is marching forward. Lot's of little hurdles to jump over. Mostly our inexperience. This is the first wheelchair project that we have done all by ourselves. The others were ordered and we just did the first distributions of them. We found out yesterday, that a "pre-clearance " customs form had to be filled out by Caritas. We had no idea. Thought the chairs were in progress and moving along. Then just by accident, Jim found out it was all on hold waiting for this pre-clearance paper work. Oh...we will learn. But unfortunately this puts the project behind 3 or 4 months.

6. Bosnia....we are working on several developing projects. but mostly this last week we visited two of the clinics that participated in the Neo-natal resuscitation training that we had a few months back. It is our job to do the follow up for that training. The two clinics that we went to were small, but enthusiastic about the training that they had received. They were both using the new technique and excited for the equipment that they had received at the training.. The OB department was a far cry from what we have in the United States, but the doctors and nurses were dedicated and determined to give the best care they could. One clinic asked for warming lights for the new-born baby and the other asked for infusion pump. We are on the hunt.

7. We went to a school that needs desks, chairs, and chalkboards. The ministry of education paid for a remodel of 3 new school rooms and new bathrooms, but then refused to fund the new rooms with books, desks, chairs and other supplies. So they sit empty and unused as the school battles to have enough room in their small class rooms.  Way over our budget, so we had to tell them "Sorry, no can do".

8. We meant with a parents advocate group for some 150 disabled children in a collection of small villages.
 They want us to build a community center where they can come, bring their children, get support from one another and have some training. A wonderful cause, but WAY out of our league. It was hard to tell them no. We are thinking of bringing in a partial shipment of wheelchairs for them. They struggle because the children grow out of the wheelchairs and are always needing a new size.

9. We went to a wheelchair basketball game. What a great experience! These super athletes have disabilities that were so sobering to us. One leg missing, both legs missing, and paralyzed legs tightly strapped into the wheelchair so they don't go flying every which way. We noticed some wheelchairs had bucket like seats with no backs and others had high backs. Some where very tall wheelchairs, some were very short. Which to us seemed like a real disadvantage to the short ones. But we found out after the game that they were  all custom made according to each individual injury. They asked if we could help get some athlete wheelchairs in. It was so hard to tell them no. Each one of these wheelchairs cost about $9,000. But what we saw that they need the most was a new wood floor. It just made us cry to see them struggling over this horrible floor that the boards came up about 1/4 inch when they rolled over it. I kept waiting for them to get hung up and end up on the floor, but they have got skill I tell ya, nothing seems to stop them. Does any one have an "in" with the Utah Jazz? Next time they replace the hardwood floor at the arena, I know a great tax deduction/humanitarian project here in Bosnia! Spread the word .

10. One last little project that we are working on. Our little Roma pre-school. We were authorized to go ahead and start the project to replace all the bathroom fixtures. That will be done in a couple of weeks. We are trying to get heat into the building as well, but are running into a few problem with that one. The city close to the Roma village won't bring in a gas line, so we are trying to find a safe, affordable alternative. Right now a pellet stove it at the top of the list, but it requires a chimney to be built and some building modifications which are over our budget. But our partner organization, Caratis, might be able to spilt the cost with us or find some other donors to do so. The bathroom is a go, but heat....well, it might be next fall before we get it all figured. out.

I hope I haven't bored you all to death! We love doing what we do. We think of you often, miss you tons and pray for you always.