IN HIS ARMS AT LAST

BASHAR 1

Bashar seeing Hanan and his boys for the first time in a year. Happy, relieved, overjoyed, overwhelmed and many more emotions.

Oh my, I have no idea where to begin this post. Maybe last week. When I met Bashar for the first time. Bashar is a computer engineer from Syria. His wife a medical student. In 2014, as they moved from place to place, watching bombs drop on their neighborhood in eastern Syria, they decided that it would be best if he settled in Europe and then send for them. Bashar left Syria about a year ago, crossed Turkey, took the inflatable rubber boat across the Aegean Sea and got to Greece. From there, he reached Germany, where he began making a life for his family.

2 weeks ago, Bashar came to Lesvos. His wife, children (boys aged 1 and 2) and other members of his family had escaped Syria into Turkey and were making their way to the west coast to cross the sea. They were in Istanbul, they hired a smuggler to assist them across, as so many hundreds of thousands others have done, and took the 7 hour bus ride to the western shore of Turkey. They set out, they were forced back by the Turkish Army. This happened THREE MORE TIMES. Two nights ago, on Friday night, she and the other women in her group were arrested by the Turkish police and forced to pay a fee to be driven by bus to the jail in Ankar, hours and hours away from the shore. Bashar was completely distraught. There was nothing any of us could tell him to make him feel better. They were released from jail and took the bus up to Istanbul, where Bashar made other arrangements (ie. got a new smuggler). Last night he got word that they were going to the leave this morning around 7 a.m. I set my WhatsApp notification for Bashar VERY LOUD and went to bed around 2 a.m. after saying prayers for safety.

Monday morning, 0738: Bashar: They arrived to the beach. They will cross after 10 minutes. Me: Okay. Praying for safe passage!

I get up, get dressed and head out to the beach with Tamara, Wayne and Tara. I want to take a walk by myself and pray and listen to Come Close by Cageless Birds. The lyrics, “Holy Ghost, won’t you come close to me”… “I’m in need of your help, in need of your hand, in need of your love”, seemed exactly what I needed to sing this morning. I prayed that they would be brought right to us, safely.

0756 – 0759: Me: The sea is perfect for crossing. Bashar: Are you there? Me: Yes, Is she on the way? Bashar: I don’t know. Me: Well we are watching the sea. I’ll keep you posted if we see anything. Bashar: They sent a position before half hour…

GPS1

The starting point is the dropped red pin, we are the blue circle on the left. She’s starting out right across from us.

0805: They are on their way…

GPS2

1 mile down, 10 to go. Waiting anxiously on the beach. Bashar is still at the camp.

Then no word for 40 minutes!! 0845…

GPS3

About half way there, but drifting to the south. At least they are in International Waters and past the chance of being sent back to Turkey!!!

At 0857, Bashar decided he couldn’t sit at the camp and wait for word. So he got in a taxi and I dropped a pin to our location so he could find us. While in route, at 0912 he sent this…

GPS4

More than half way to us…

At 0931 Bashar pulls up in a taxi… he hasn’t heard anything since the 0857 pin drop and is worried. All around us boats are landing, but their’s is still too far to be any of these. Wayne has been searching with his binoculars and south of us there is a boat “floundering”… it’s turning in slow circles, apparently drifting. We see that there is a small coast guard boat on it’s way. We are hoping this is not Hanan’s boat in trouble. We don’t want to worry Bashar. I send him with Tamara up the road to the house so he can call via WhatsApp. He comes back at 0950 and tells us that her boat has engine trouble. He is very, very worried, as are we.

Wayne then tells us that the little coast guard boat has left that rubber inflatable and is heading our way (we are about 3-4 miles from this inflatable). The odd thing is, the coast guard boats USUALLY take them straight to port, not to shore, EVER. He comes up towards us at about 0958 and we notice he is waving his arms at us, we wave back and see there are women and children on the boat. Bashar is besides himself and as the boat gets close, at 1002, just 20 feet away he sees his precious wife and sons on the boat. THE BOAT BROUGHT THEM RIGHT UP TO US. The photo at the top is just moments after we have both boys and Hanan off the boat. Everyone, all of us, are overwhelmed with joy! I prayed about this morning. I prayed they would come right to us, safely. That Bashar, this dear man, who is now like a brother to me, would be reunited with his family.

This trip has taught me so much. But mostly what it has taught me is that with HOPE, great things happen. It happened this morning on a beach in Lesvos, Greece.

BASHAR 2

Bashar, Hanan and their 2 boys.

BASHAR 3

In his daddy’s arms

A few facts as I wind up this post.
1. This trip costs thousands and thousands of dollars. The smugglers charge about $1200 per person for the boat crossing (they don’t accompany them).
2. These lovely people are humans, just like us. They are amazing, educated, loving, humble, gracious people. They do not mean any of us harm. They want what we want, a safe place to live and raise their families.
3. These lovely people are FLEEING certain DEATH. They aren’t immigrating because they want to. They are immigrating because they will DIE if they don’t. DIE. Women, Children, Men, Elderly, HUMANS. Their fear is PALPABLE and I will feel it in my heart forever.
4. Things Bashar said this past week that make this such a reality:
On Wednesday, “If this last time doesn’t work (this was before she was arrested), I will just drop my application to Germany, take a ferry to Turkey and take my family back to Syria”. Me: “But that would be dangerous! You may die”. Bashar, “But we would die together, as a family.”
Last night (Sunday), when he was telling me about moving from area to area to not be killed by the bombs being dropped from the sky, “We were looking up and saw the bomb being dropped on our neighborhood and I knew that we were going to die”. Me, “but you didn’t”. Bashar, “no, not that time. We decided to live just for that day, never for the next, because we didn’t know if there would be a tomorrow”.
5. And last, I have nothing but BIG love for all of these people, the refugees. ALL of them. Whether they are Muslim, Christian or Yizidi, I love them all. I love them all, as Christ loves me.

 

Ciao

If you’d like to support what is going on over here, money is needed for new shoes, warm clothes, socks, ferry tickets to Athens, bus tickets to the Macedonia border, etc, etc…
If you are so inclined, my PayPal is: flamidwyfe1@aol.com
and my fundraiser site is: https://www.youcaring.com/sandra-blankenship-480179

PayPal is the most convenient for most donors and for me, as well, as it is easy to pay for goods with the PayPal account. Thank you… thank you… thank you

 

 

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Serendipity and Love

Sometimes in life serendipity happens. Serendipity is the occurrence and development of event by chance in a happy or beneficial way. This happened to me this week 🙂

I am going to Greece and Turkey to work in the refugee camps. I will be leaving on February 14 and will be there for 9 weeks. I will be providing well women and maternity care to women that are just arriving or who have been assigned a camp. I absolutely cannot wait!

As a result of this, I am fundraising to enable me to afford transportation, ground transportation, accommodation, supplies and shipping costs. I put together an email and decided to send it out to everyone in my AOL address book. I got a message back from C, asking how she knew me. I was able to cross reference her email in my mail folders and realized that we were both included in an email from someone very special in both of our lives. And thus we began a conversation as to what my purpose was for this trip and a little walk down memory lane. C has generously helped me put together a message to share with others and is going to send it out to her friends and family and share it on Facebook.

Two people with common threads, working together to help refugees in a far away land. This kind of connection is what living is all about! To add to the chance happy part, myself and 2 friends have planned a girls weekend for the one and only weekend I will be in town the first 7 months of this upcoming year. A reunion long overdue.

Here is part of the letter:

Dear Good People,

My name is Sandi Blankenship. I am a mom to 3, a grandma to 10, and a midwife. I became a midwife in 1998 to serve women of all socio-economic backgrounds and provide equal, loving and compassionate care to all.

I have extensive experience in providing midwifery and health care services to women internationally. (I have included a brief description of my work at the end of this letter.) The plight of the refugee women in the current great migration to Europe is profoundly distressing to me.

And so I am traveling to Greece (5 weeks) and Turkey (4 weeks) from February 14 to April 20 of this year, and will be going with an organization called Sisters in Health. My goals are three: to give well-woman care, and maternity care to the women that are arriving and are temporarily camped in Lesbos, Greece; to travel to Turkey to work at the large refugee camp in Suruc, where I will provide women’s health care as well; and lastly, I want to bring with me 500 women’s comfort/hygiene kits to take with me and have the money to purchase more products while there. Listed below are the items that I am planning to take with me. (you can find these on my youcaring web page).

I am additionally responsible for all of my other expenses: air, ground transport, accommodation and excess baggage fees.

I am just one person, but one person, with an army of supporters, can do BIG things.  Every little bit will help. Even a $5 donation would help. Please help me make this trip the best that it can be!

And please feel free to share this opportunity with your family, friends, Facebook, and any other source you might have.

I am drawn to give my time and services and heart energy to these refugees. They are ordinary people, like you and me, in extraordinary circumstances. Thank you for considering supporting these brave women.

Blessings,

Sandi Blankenship, RM, CPM

https://www.youcaring.com/sandra-blankenship-480179

Ciao!syria header

 

 

Maasi Mara Kenyan Safari

So, all work and no play makes Sandi a grumpy person, LOL. I told our trip organizer, Natalie, I really didn’t want to go to Kenya without adding a safari in. That’s like coming to South Florida and not going to the beach! So our lovely host, Roberta, planned us a safari. And WHAT AN EXPERIENCE IT WAS!!! We did a 3 hour evening safari, spent the night in tents and then a 3 hour sunrise safari. Most pics are mine (taken on my iPhone 5) and a few belong to Natalie and Maya (both of whom had real cameras on them, lol) I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

CHEETAH

CHEETAH

BEAUTIFUL LION - WE SAW A MOMMA AND 3 CUBS THE EVENING BEFORE.

BEAUTIFUL LION – WE SAW A MOMMA AND 3 CUBS THE EVENING BEFORE.

ZEBRA... SEE THE BABY?

ZEBRA… SEE THE BABY?

STUNNING

STUNNING

AFRICAN BUFFALO

AFRICAN BUFFALO

YOUNG GIRAFFE

YOUNG GIRAFFE

CHEETAH

CHEETAH

GIRAFFE

GIRAFFE

LION

LION

OSTRICH

OSTRICH

I JUMPED OUT FOR A QUICK PIT STOP, MAYA CAUGHT ME... ZEBRA AND WILDEBEEST IN THE BACKGROUND... AMAZING!

I JUMPED OUT FOR A QUICK PIT STOP, MAYA CAUGHT ME… ZEBRA AND WILDEBEEST IN THE BACKGROUND… AMAZING!

I TOOK THIS WITH MY iPHONE... SUNSET

I TOOK THIS WITH MY iPHONE… SUNSET

PUMBA AKA WART HOG

PUMBA AKA WART HOG

THE WILDEBEEST WERE FUNNY. WE WOULD DRIVE UP ON THEM, THEY WOULD RUN A FEW YARDS AND THEN TURN AROUND AND LOOK AT US AS IF SAYING, "YOU WANNA PIECE OF ME??" ... TOO FUNNY

THE WILDEBEEST WERE FUNNY. WE WOULD DRIVE UP ON THEM, THEY WOULD RUN A FEW YARDS AND THEN TURN AROUND AND LOOK AT US AS IF SAYING, “YOU WANNA PIECE OF ME??” … TOO FUNNY

ZEBRA... ONE OF THE NEATEST THINGS WAS EARLIER IN THE TRIP, WE SAW ZEBRA HANGING OUT ON THE SIDE OF THE HIGHWAY GRAZING WITH THE COWS.

ZEBRA… ONE OF THE NEATEST THINGS WAS EARLIER IN THE TRIP, WE SAW ZEBRA HANGING OUT ON THE SIDE OF THE HIGHWAY GRAZING WITH THE COWS.

A mission to Kenya

I had the opportunity this month to travel to Nairobi and Sakwa, Kenya on a mission trip with Mission:Hope, an organization headed by my friend from all the way back in middle school, Natalie West Evans. Natalie is also the wife of the pastor at my church.

I invited Maya Bond-Duarte, a graduating midwife student from the school I was teaching at, to come as well. WHAT.A.TRIP!

We arrived in Nairobi very late in the evening, and were greeted at the airport by Roberta Peterson, our host for this trip. She is an incredible woman from NC that has a heart for Kenya and lives in Sakwa doing amazing work! We showered and hit the sack after 19+ hours of flying. Up early and a hearty breakfast and off on a 6 hour, bumpy ride to Sakwa. On the way we stopped at the Great Rift Valley viewpoint. What views we had!

Natalie, Roberta, Me, Maya and Petranila

Natalie, Roberta, Me, Maya and Petranila

We had two main objectives on this trip. To provide educational seminars and a clinic to the women of the community and to spend time with the children at the Hope Educational Center, where Roberta is the Matron.

Roberta

Roberta

We held our seminar at the church. Words cannot even begin to express the joy at seeing 170+ women sitting in that church listening to health education seminars. We spoke on the importance of care during pregnancy, breastfeeding, family planning and HIV.

Women's Health Seminar

Women’s Health Seminar

Maya, Evelyne and I saw about 50 women for various and assorted ailments in the church, while Michelle (part of the NC team) saw women in an outer building for HIV testing and family planning.

Maya, Evelyne and I saw about 50 women for various and assorted ailments in the church, while Michelle (part of the NC team) saw women in an outer building for HIV testing and family planning.

Evelyne Osano is an amazing woman. She lives and works in Kisii, Kenya. She is a registered nurse and her husband is a pastor. They have a beautiful little girl named Blessing. Evelyne works full time at a local hospital and then comes home and runs a clinic, financed with her own money. She loves her community THAT much! It was an honor to meet such an amazing woman. She inspires me to do more!

Evelyne and Me... Love this amazing woman!

Evelyne and Me… Love this amazing woman!

Me, Evelyne and Maya

Me, Evelyne and Maya

Showing Evelyne the medical supplies that I collected and brought with me. Donations provided by many of my midwife friends and the birth centers they work at.

Showing Evelyne the medical supplies that I collected and brought with me. Donations provided by many of my midwife friends and the birth centers they work at.

The next day we got to spend time with the kids!!! Oh my, what wonderful kids! We read to them, sang with them, were welcomed by them, made rainbow faith bead bracelets with them and danced with them!

This is Natalie with the kids :)

This is Natalie with the kids 🙂

Me teaching the kids the Hokey Pokey!

Me teaching the kids the Hokey Pokey!

I love this photo of Maya!

I love this photo of Maya!

Me reading Bugs, Bugs, Bugs to the kids.

Me reading Bugs, Bugs, Bugs to the kids.

Reading to the kids.

Reading to the kids.

Natalie and I on Field Day with the kids.

Natalie and I on Field Day with the kids.

Maya tying the bracelets on the kids. Natalie read the story of how Jesus is our friend.

Maya tying the bracelets on the kids. Natalie read the story of how Jesus is our friend.

I even kicked a GOAL in a soccer game!!!

Goal!

Goal!

We had AMAZING food at our host home in Sakwa!!

This lunch was provided by the local ladies on our Women's Health Seminar day... YUM!!! Goat, greens and ugali... Mmmm, Mmmmm!

This lunch was provided by the local ladies on our Women’s Health Seminar day… YUM!!! Goat, greens and ugali… Mmmm, Mmmmm!

This little man stole my heart. On the day we were doing the Women’s Health Seminar he approached shyly and asked if I had a pen he could use for school. In 4th grade they stop using pencils and use pens instead. I gave him the pen I had brought from the States. He goes to the public school in town. As the days went by, he showed me each day that he still had my pen and let me know he was using it in his studies. On the last day we were there, he and other public school children were standing outside the Hope Educational Center watching the children put on a presentation just for us. As I left, he gave me a hug and said, “Thank you my friend, for the pen”. My heart melted! On our journey back to Nairobi I asked Roberta what it takes to sponsor a child to go to school at the Hope Educational Center. $60 pays for a years tuition, uniform, satchel bag and some supplies. YES, THAT IS SIXTY U.S. DOLLARS, A YEAR! A hundred dollars will help sponsor a kid and supply the school. I will sponsor this young man for many years. He will forever hold a place in my heart ❤ If you are interested in more information, you can contact me privately at sandiblankenshiprm@gmail.com.

I left part of my heart in Sakwa, with this little guy!

Here are more pics of the kids… lots more.

Maya reading with one of the wonderful teachers watching.

Maya reading with one of the wonderful teachers watching.

My naughty boy

Saying goodbye

The walk home

Walking home

Tomorrow… the Safari. 😀

Ciao!

Mission: HOPE Caring for others with the gift God has given me

I have an amazing opportunity to share my knowledge with others in Kenya. The trip is scheduled for July 2014 and I am going with a group from my church and bringing along one of my senior midwife students, Maya, with me. Maya will have just graduated from her 3-year midwifery program when we go. We are super excited.

I truly believe that I am suppose to share the gift of midwifery knowledge that I have been blessed with. Traveling to Kenya and other countries enables me to do that. If you can help, that would be awesome! I’ve created a page where you can help us if you’d like to: Sandi & Maya Mission: HOPE. Prayers are welcome, too 🙂

I’m still waiting on a baby down here in St. John. I am with a lovely family and really enjoying my time down here.

I hope everyone is having an amazing week!

Ciao!