Project Playground - Mission Trip 2010

Today's guest blogger is Susan Serra, a fellow Kaz adoptive mom who has graciously agreed to tell us about a life-changing trip back to Kazakhstan.

 

Adopting our daughter, Leeza was like nothing else I have ever experienced. We gained so much more than our precious daughter from our time in Kostanai, Kazakhstan. For 11 weeks (and 3 days), we visited Leeza at the Delphin baby house daily and fell not only in love with her, but with all the children that were in her group. At the end of the adoption process, as our plane took off from Kostanai, I couldn't stop myself from crying. Although I was happy to be on my way home with my new daughter, I knew I'd never forget the children and the beautiful country we were leaving behind.

 

Upon returning home with Leeza and resuming life in the US, I was honored to be asked to be a board member of Two Hearts for Hope, an organization started by Stacy Segebarth and Kim Prud'homme, two adoptive moms committed to bringing hope to the orphans of Kazakhstan. Two Hearts started small, by collecting donations from families and having adoptive parents take donations with them when they flew over to Kazakhstan to adopt their children. However, that started getting expensive, and harder to do, and Two Hearts knew they wanted to do more.

 

The founders of Two Hearts started working with a humanitarian group in Almaty called Reach. Reach was working with the largest children's home in Almaty to build a playground for the children who lived there. Two Hearts took the project on, and raised $25,000 for the playground.  Now they just needed a team to help build it. I really wanted to go, but I was skeptical on how I could make that happen financially and how I could find someone to take care of my daughter for a week. I also wanted to take my son Sean (12), which would mean his missing over a week of school.

 

After praying and talking about it with close friends, things came together quickly.  A close friend offered to watch Leeza during the week while my husband worked, and my son's teachers were overwhelmingly supportive of him going. Another close friend gave me fundraising ideas, and "Cakes for a Kaz" (cause) was born. I started baking chocolate chip pound cakes and advertising on Facebook. Friends began insisting that I ship them, and I ended up selling over 300 cakes and 35 loaves of banana bread. Between my cake sales and donations from friends and family, I was able to raise enough money to not only get myself, my son, AND my stepdaughter Jillian to Kazakhstan, but also to purchase much needed Bumbo's for the babies, and over 100 baby toys as well.

 

Going back to Kazakhstan was surreal, and it was so much different than going over to adopt a child. Our focus was totally different. Our team was made up of 11 people, and amazingly, we all got along incredibly well. Our team in Almaty was amazing, and had laid the groundwork for the playground ahead of time. We still had to dig about 10 holes, and mix our own cement, but we were able to finish the playground IN JUST TWO DAYS!

 

The rest of our time was spent with the kids. We each brought duffel bags full of donations: tons and tons of clothes, bubbles, arts and craft projects, wikki sticks, and t-shirts. We had the kids color the shirts, and let them keep one. We then had them color and extra one and fill out a short bio on themselves. We are selling the shirts as a fundraiser to purchase a new water filtration system for one of the baby houses. The kids loved it and we loved them!

 

The older kids in the children's home really touched our hearts. When we adopted Leeza, we were really only in contact with the babies. These kids were so sweet, loving and helpful, and just wanted your friendship and attention. It was hard to come to grips with the fact that they didn't have families to go home to at night. We met a 15 and a 16-year-old who told us about this little girl they were friends with who was adopted by Americans in 2003. They said "she went to America and we never hear from her. How come no Americans come for us?"

 

Sean really connected with the kids. He had his "posse" we'd always see him hanging out with. The language barrier was not a barrier to their friendship in the least. It was hard to leave on the last day, because we all had gotten so attached to these children. Our visit to Almaty was emotionally draining at times, but also very heartwarming and exhilarating.

 

We also spent two days at a baby house in Karakestek, Kazakhstan. It was close to a 2 hour drive to get there, and it is a very poor establishment. We brought 12 bags of donations which included new shoes, clothes, medical supplies, and baby toys.  We visited with the babies and the toddlers. They broke our hearts. Many of them were self-soothing by banging their heads against the wall, or rocking. After about an hour, most of them would let us hold and comfort them.  I will never forget their scared, sad, sweet little faces. There was one little boy who wouldn't let any of us near him. In the end, after over 2 hours, it was my son, Sean, who ended up connecting with him.

 

To say that this trip was life-changing is an understatement. Although we were only there for a week, I know that the contacts we were able to make will help these children in the future. Many of these kids are not adoptable due to paperwork issues, but I do feel that we made a difference in their lives, and we will continue to forge on and do what we can to help the children left behind.    

 

It's easy to feel that there are so many people that need help, both in Kazakhstan and in our country, and that maybe our efforts won't make a difference. I'm so glad that Kim and Stacy never thought that, and I feel so blessed to be part of Two Hearts for Hope. This experience has provided my son a passion to help others, and hopefully when my daughter Leeza is older, she will have the passion and pride to make a difference too.

 

For more information and to see how you can help, please visit: www.twoheartsforhope.org/

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  • Es muy interesante la experiencia de Susan en Kazakhstan. Me gusta mucho conocer sobre las experiencias de otras personas y comparar copn la tuya.

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