Dear Friends and Family,
As I write this letter (on August 15) we are just over two weeks away from the beginning of the school year. The summer has passed by incredibly quickly, but we look ahead to the school year with hope.
What We’ve Been Up To This Month
Over the past few weeks we have enjoyed visiting the children at the camp where they spend the summer and have found ourselves in the midst of soccer and volleyball matches, friendship bracelet making and fierce Uno playing, but we have also just taken time for chatting with the kids in the grass under the trees. I continue to think about how we want our work with the kids and their families to flow out of relationship with them, and I think our visits to the summer camp have been vital in building and maintaining those relationships.
Newly Defined Roles
One of the things Adriana, our Executive Director, and I have been working on this summer is finalizing job descriptions for each staff member in our community. My new title is External Relations Coordinator, which means I oversee La VIA’s relationship with organizations and people outside of Moldova. Some of the responsibilities that fall under this area are overseeing interns who come here from other countries, coordinating short-term teams that come to Moldova, coordinating guest visits, fundraising from non-Moldovan sources and maintaining a relationship with the US-based Word Made Flesh office. In addition to my role as External Relations Coordinator, I am also part of the Advocacy team, which means I help with our magazine Childhood’s Echo, and the Administration team, which means I have been helping write job descriptions and policies and do the accounting for US-based funding.
This summer Rachel was hired as a full-time Word Made Flesh employee, which means that she now has her very own @wordmadeflesh.org email address (send her a note at firstname.lastname@example.org). As she mentioned in last month’s letter, she is now our local Advocacy Coordinator. Her overall vision for advocacy is to make the voices of the children heard, and she does this through our facebook page and blogs, Childhood’s Echo magazine, relationships with churches, schools and different organizations as well as through the sewing and greeting card programs we’ve launched with our kids. This year, they will be able to sell their own hand-made items during major holiday seasons at several local high schools, thereby affirming their own identity and also helping to sensitize the buyer to the needs and lives of these children and their families. Additionally, Rachel is on the Community Care team, which means she helps in supporting our staff in aspects of physical, spiritual and emotional health.
What Does a Typical Day Look Like for Us?
Because we are not able to have internet in the building where we have our after-school program, we have decided to spend our mornings working from home this school year. So for Rachel and I, that time is spent working on our external relations, administration, advocacy and community care responsibilities as well as preparing lessons for the after-school program. This year we will also be doing some individual tutoring some mornings during the week, which means we will need to be at the school at 10:00. On other days, however, we go to the school at 12:00 and meet for a 45-minute staff chapel time. Afterwards, the children come at 1:00 for play time. At 2:00 they eat lunch in the school cafeteria while we scramble to our classrooms hoping that we have more than 10 minutes to get set up before they return. Our kids like to eat really, really fast! Then from 2:15 to 4:00 the children are divided into classrooms based on their age. Each group has their own schedule for moral-spiritual education, nature discovery, social skills and art. The adolescents are also involved in the sewing room with Rachel and in making the greeting cards that we will be selling this year. At 4:00 the children leave and go to a supervised homework time in the school, but a handful of kids remain with us for individual tutoring. At 5:00 our work day is over.
In last month’s letter Rachel mentioned that there will be some changes in the group of adolescent boys I’ll be working with this year. Up until now, Adriana and I worked with a group of kids known as the “Pinocchio group.” For various reasons, these kids were not able to successfully integrate into their own grade’s group, so we formed this special group with the goal of providing an environment that would best facilitate their needs. This year, however, I will have my own room and group of guys (who were all in Pinocchio last year). The girls from Pinocchio will be integrated into Rachel’s group, and the boys will be split between me and Adriana. When Adriana goes on maternity leave, Vitalie, our intern from Ukraine, will take over her group. As I spent time this summer cleaning out the room I’ll be using and arranging tables, chairs and a cupboard, I felt joyful knowing that this will be a safe place for these adolescents to come to each day. As we spend time this year learning about social skills and nature, practicing reading and math facts, talking about God and creating artwork, my hope and prayer is that we will all take a step towards healing and wholeness this year.
During the last two weeks of August we will be in all-day planning meetings as we prepare for this year’s after-school program. In addition to each of us presenting our individual job descriptions and reading through our procedures manual together, we will be reviewing our vision and goals for our activities with the children. Pray with us that we are inspired to begin this year with hope, joy and love.
John & Rachel