Today was another long day… but so far, my favorite.
It started out with us going to the Psychological Art Studio where BoL has created opportunities help heal emotional and psychological wounds through art therapy and creativity. Simply amazing. The “store” has more than doubled in size since the last time I was here. The store consists of handmade items by women (mostly single moms) for sale. All the proceeds go to the women who make them.
After that, we broke up into 3 groups and went to visit homes of at risk single mothers. Brian, Jerry and I were on a team with our team lead, Olga, and our interpreter, Mila.
We visited two homes, but I’m only going to highlight one in this blogpost (mostly because it’s almost midnight here and I’m exhausted).
The first home we visited was the smallest home I’ve seen yet. It was an apartment right in the heart of Chisinau. Well… “apartment” isn’t quite the right word. It used to be storage space.
The mother, Elena (29 years old), survived an orphanage and lives now in this 7′ x 18″ with her son (18 months), Maxim. But wait… she has other roommates. She lives with her friend (who was also in the orphanage) and HER son who’s 6 years old.
She tries to work as much as she can from home (she’s one of the single moms that sews crafts for the BoL store) but Maxim requires a lot of attention. And why wouldn’t he? He’s a baby.
They didn’t have their own bathroom or kitchen. They shared one in the common area down the hall. Neither have heating. Imagine going out to your garage in the dead of winter to do your laundry (no dryers) and cook your meals.
Every “bath” they have is a sponge bath. They draw water from the kitchen and heat it up. Then, they transfer it into a bucket of sorts and bring it back to their room where it’s warm. That’s when they can take a wash cloth and wipe themselves down. Maxim is more fortunate. He fits in a big pot so he can have a bath.
And Elena is such a good mother. She tries to involve Maxim while she works so he doesn’t get bored. She’s intentional with him. Makes me want to work harder at being a good mom.
After visiting the homes, we got to celebrate Valentina’s 18th birthday with her. The ladies that were with me last year will remember Valentina. She’s one of the only girls who are still at the House of Change (the Rehabilitation Home) from last year.
It was a wonderful party. Olga presented her with a bracelet… and each of our team members presented her with a charm. With each charm, we encouraged her and reminded her why she’s so special. I gave her a heart. I told her something along the lines of:
“I promised you last year that I would come back to see you. Here I am. I’m here because I love you. Here is a heart charm for you. You have been on my heart since I last visited… and you always will be. Remember you are worth every good thing, every kind word and every hug.”
I can’t really remember anyone else’s… but I remember Tacey gave Valentina a key charm. She said something along the lines of “You are in charge of unlocking your future… and you are also in charge of locking up your past.” I wanted to cry. I love that Tacey!
Spending Valentina’s birthday with her made my day. And she is SO different this year. Much less heavy than last year. I don’t mean physically. I mean her EYES. You can see it IN her eyes… because you can SEE her eyes. Last year, she barely looked any of us in the eye. This year, she sat in my arms or held my hand most of the night… but the best part was when she looked into my eyes and said, “Thank you for coming back. I love you.”
I love you too, Valentina.
More than you’ll ever know.