The Bed’s Done!

Steady progress for the week. The bed is now completed. Joey & I designed it so that the entire middle can be taken out. You can move the mattress, lift the plywood base and then remove the three middle rectangles. This will allow us to bring in larger pieces of furniture or appliances like the fridge.

We also almost have the flooring completed I’m short one box. Oh! And the electrical is done. My bonus child Ashley’s husband Evan came and did all the electrical wiring in about four hours yesterday! And my BIL, Rick, stopped in to give us a hand today. Tiffany and I finished the painting on the lower 2/3 of the bus, too. 

Here are some pictures of the progress…


Productive weekend!

Ciao 😊

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Josef from Iraq

Down on the beach, assisting the refugees on the 8th boat in less than 12 hours, I notice a man sitting, facing the ocean, and weeping. I go and sit next to him. The rest of the refugees from this boat are loading into the UNHCR bus and he isn’t moving.

I put my hand on his shoulder and ask him what is wrong. He tells me that he moved his family to a “safer” town in northern Iraq and headed to the coast of Turkey and then across the Aegean Sea to hopefully find a safe place to bring his wife and children.

He tells me that crossing that sea brought many emotions; fear, hope and joy when the boat made it safely to shore in Greece. That he misses his wife and children and he fears now that they will have to make the same crossing.

He asks me if he has to go to the refugee camp. I let him know that he needs to register, but then is free to leave the camp. I ask him why. And he says he wants to come back to the beach and patrol with all of us, receiving the refugees that come after him. He says he can help by being able to speak the language of the northern Iraqis. He is weeping openly at this point and I am crying, as well. His compassion for helping others and wanting to be there fills my heart with joy.

We stand up, so that he can join the others on the bus, and embrace. I feel some of his stress melt away. Hugging heals. It heals all the way to the heart.

Ciao!

My project this week is to purchase sweat pants and leggings for the refugees. It is still winter here, and although we’ve had a few days of temps in the 60s, many of the refugees are going to northern European countries. I found them today across the sea in Turkey for 3.50 turkish lira, that’s about $1.18 USD. If you’d like to help me get these, you can send donation via PayPal: flamidwyfe1@aol.com or via https://www.youcaring.com/sandra-blankenship-480179 THANK YOU xoxoxo

UP ON THE BEACH

Thursday, February 11, 2016… the sun has set, our daily meeting with Toula’s volunteer group (or the group I affectionately refer to as Toula’s Merry Band of Volunteers) is over and Jaymarie and I decide to go to dinner.

Driving down the beach road we come across people coming up from the sea. Refugees. I ask Jaymarie to stop and I get out while she turns around to go back to the village for help. With the exception of one woman who is acting “shocky”, everyone of the men, women and children seem to be OK, except they are wet and cold.

A young man, maybe around 25, comes up to me and hugs me and says while crying, “I drove the boat and I got everyone here safely… we are safe, we are safe!!!” The whole crowd starts to chant the same words in their language. My heart explodes with joy that I simply can’t explain.

A bit of an explanation. Sometimes the people on the boat are in a state of shock when they get on the ground. I think it’s a combination of many things including, absolute fear of the crossing (it is dark, their boats are grossly overloaded, many have never been on the sea), they are cold and wet, they are overwhelmed that the hardest part of their journey (fleeing their country, crossing multiple countries and a big, black, turbulent sea) is over and they are in Europe. All you can do is get them out of the wet clothes, put dry clothes on them and give them lots of hugs and love. This seems to work 🙂

The other thing I want to explain is the boats. I’ve touched on this before. They are rubber inflatables. They are kitted out with 30 hp engines, yes 30… that is NOT a typo! The 6 km journey takes an HOUR because there are 50-60 people on a rubber boat with a 30 horse power engine! Thus this young man’s immense joy that he brought this boatload of fellow refugees in safely. I asked him if he had ever driven a boat before and he told me, “no”. In fact, he has never been on the water before. I hugged him extra tight! He told me, “you are like my mother”. I struggle to keep my emotions in check because there is work to be done.

Help arrives! And we decide that it is best to walk them 1/2 a mile down to the clothing warehouse that is donated by a generous local man and maintained by Toula (the amazing local woman who will get her own post!) and her Merry Band of Volunteers. We get them in out of the wind and assist with getting them into dry tops, pants, shoes, socks and coats. Jaymarie helps a family with a special needs child who appears to have CP. (darn it!!! now I’m crying. In a cafe… why? Because I think of my Celeste and how scary it must have been for that mommy to travel with this special angel over that water and the whole voyage, gosh I hope they find a good place to live!). Jaymarie held the child while his mom and dad helped his siblings get into dry clothes and then clothed themselves.

Lots of love, lots of hugs, so much gratitude and JOY. What a great reason to be late to dinner!

Ciao!

 

The boat


     
    

Silver Linings

Although there is much sadness to write about, I want to share a happy story. A happy story that had me shedding tears of love, gratitude & happiness. 

Jean-Sébastien wrote the post below on Facebook yesterday morning. Kelly, Scott, Jaymarie and I had been in chatting with him and Jan and the rest of the gang from Clowns Without Borders before our ferry trip to Chios. 

This restaurant has been my favorite on Lesvos this past week. My first night I didn’t have enough cash to cover my bill and they don’t take cards. The owner told me to pay it when I had it. I did, of course, the next night when I went for dinner 😊

Here is Jean-Sébastien’s post:

Last night, here in lesbos, in the restaurant or we have our habits with the team of “clowns without borders” – a traditional restaurant Greek held by two twin brothers who cooks so well and for nothing (fresh tuna steak 300 G + accompaniment for 6,50 €!?) -‘s arrival a first family of Syrian refugees, then a 2th, then a 3th, 4th, 5th…

One of the bosses asked my friend Sabine Choucair, Lebanese Clown, come and translate the map in Arabic. She’s so grown from family to family for their describe the menu, and little by little, the tables were covered with large plates full of food warm and abundant.

The faces tired and anxious are relaxed, the mouths are untied.

The restaurant to finished by bleed out, and we found “between us”, The team of the restaurant, the team of clowns and a Syrian family.

We communicated as we could in Greek, English, Arabic. Little by little we bonded, and I could even play with one of their son, Omar, who barely a few hours earlier, soaked in the arms of his mother, trying not to die drowned in a rubber boat overcrowded.

Omar was very serene, very inquisitive, full of energy, to move the legs in its combination too big for him, but dry at least.

He has even offered a few big smiles, these smiles that are so beautiful that your heart opens all alone, whether you like it or not.

Omar has 3 months, and Omar’s fine.

Omar is the European tomorrow, with all due respect to all those who close their arms.

Welcome my grand, ahla w ‘ Sahla, welcome!

PS: when parents have wanted to pay the bill, the boss has refused. All is not lost in this complicated world…

All is not lost.

 

Jean-Sébastien and Omar, Lesvos, Greece


My dear readers, all is not lost ❤️

Ciao! 

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!