Friday, July 28
What a day! We began by shopping for toys, games, and cleaning supplies for the three group homes. Our church family as well as others in the community have generously donated to the Bulgaria Fund throughout the years. We even have one family in Wyoming who has donated monthly for several years. We and the children are extremely grateful.
Next stop was one of the group homes. This home originally housed younger children but now is home for about 8 young teen-aged boys and girls. We knew most of the children from their years in the orphanage. The house is neat, clean, and cheerful with a play area outside.
Fortunately, we brought jump ropes. When Sasha was at the orphanage, she was definitely Queen of the Jump Ropers. She demonstrated those skills once again. Several other kids took turns too. Hula hoops were also a big hit. David Applegate played soccer with the boys while others made several dozen silly band bracelets. As I write this, I am wearing three. After lots of hugs and photos, we went to the second group home.
This home houses children and young adults who are mentally and/or physically handicapped. What a wonderful place for these children to live! The home is new and was built specifically for their needs. They have a colorful new playground in the middle of a well-kept lawn which is surrounded by attractive plants. They even have a cat and kittens!
Again, some of the children had previously lived at the orphanage. Bobo, one of our most memorable children from the orphanage, lives in this group home. We met the triplets; Bobo, Krassa, and Misho; on our very first trip to Lom in 2007. Bobo will never be able to live on his own; he will always need someone to take care of him. Misho and Krassa now live in Sofia where Misho works to take care of himself and his sister. The separation has been difficult for all three of them.
When we walked in, Bobo recognized us and immediately began to cry. Everyone in the room was teary-eyed. I think we were a reminder of his years in the orphanage when he was with his sister and brother. We all knew how much he loved and depended on Misho; he misses Misho and Krassa terribly. The director was able to cheer him up by giving him the task of showing us around the home. By the time we had refreshments, Bobo was smiling once again.
Gloria also lives in this group home. When she and her brother came to the orphanage a few years ago, Gloria was severely malnourished. She was the skinniest child I had ever seen. Amazingly, she was a very happy little girl. She loved playing games and doing crafts. She was thrilled with the little prizes that she won. The other children were especially kind and encouraging to her. Although she is still thin, she is healthy. It is easy to tell that she is being loved and cared for in her new home.
It was hard to leave Bobo, Gloria, and the other children, but we had one more group home to visit. This home was the first group home in Lom and is home to eight children ranging in ages from fourteen to eighteen. The boys and girls in this home are all old friends of ours. Many were living in the orphanage in 2007 when we first visited Lom. They always give us an enthusiastic welcome when we come to their home. They had all participated in preparing refreshments, cleaning, and making welcome signs.
Our big surprise was the appearance of Svetli who just happened to be in Lom for the day. He had left the orphanage before our 2013 visit, but we all remembered him. He drove Wayne CRAZY!! He always wanted to help with the construction projects but wasn’t really much help. In fact, he probably made more work for the others. Wayne tried to fire Svetli, but Svetli just wouldn’t give up. He really liked helping the guys and really liked Wayne in spite of Wayne’s failed efforts to fire him. Svetli told me that he still worked in construction and planned to make a career of it. He said it was all because of the work he did at the orphanage with Wayne and the other men. I told him I knew that Wayne would be very proud of him. (Wayne would also be very surprised, but I didn’t tell Svetli that.)
Have you ever thought it might be fun to take fifteen non-English speaking teen-agers on a shopping trip with only one translator? I can tell you it is not fun. I don’t know who thought this up and why we all went along with it. Anyway, we all walked to downtown Lom and let the children lose in a clothing store. They were thrilled; most of them had not ever had the opportunity to choose their own clothes. They were accustomed to wearing other people’s hand-me-downs. They were actually getting to pick out several different outfits and try them on. They just didn’t want that fun to stop! After visiting four or five stores, trying on countless outfits, and annoying dozens of sales people, we were done. We all celebrated with a round of soft drinks and headed back to the group home. Later that evening we saw three of our boys strutting around town in their new outfits (see photo). I guess it was worth the trouble after all.