Photo by Tony Cece

Friday, July 23, 2010

Day 15: Final Day in Romania

Today we awaken once again to the gracious hospitality to the Smiles Foundation staff and the smell of fresh coffee, bacon and eggs. The staff translators and social workers lead us into the community immediately after breakfast to further share with the hurting community of people the hope that we each believe is still alive. Dr. Merrill Reese led a team to downtown Oradea to visit the homeless. He reported finding there a family of five children, the youngest of which were 2 and 3 year olds and two young adult parents. Expecting to hear from this family that their most grave issue was not having anywhere to call home, he said he was surprised to hear from the young girl that her most pressing issue was anger under which Dr. Reese shared with her is hurt. The team counseled with many homeless persons and families in the area before returning to the complex in Cihei. Dr. Harris-Keyes presented to teachers of the Smiles Foundation Tilead Primary School and Nursery and assisted them with professional consultation surrounding the issues connected to children’s response to trauma and how to overcome barriers to learning related to traumatic experiences.

Meanwhile, remaining team members visited the home of a Romanian woman, who along with her husband and 7 children was just homeless a few months ago until assisted by Smiles foundation staff in finding somewhere to call home. Since then the husband has found 2 days of work per week and she and the children have planted a garden to help her husband feed the family. After lunch the team visited the gypsy community at Tilead with many of the teachers to visit the children who are on summer vacation from school. Counseling and psychotherapy was available to a mother of 10 children whose husband struggles with substance abuse issues and who is the victim of domestic abuse, while the children of the gypsy village were delighted with interactive song in the community square. Dr. Ben Keyes and his team visited the Bratca Hospital which houses along term psychiatric patients and also has a short term geriatric unit. There the team provided counseling services to include play therapy, and individual counseling for mentally challenged patients and Dr. Keyes provided consultation for hospital staff. The team exchanged remarks today with each other and the founder and staff of Smiles as each person conveyed the transforming power of the ministry we have met here and the opportunity to have collaborated with such a dedicated team of Romanians. We came to serve this community and the staff here while sharing and utilizing our skills and training but will leave feeling that we have been the greater benefactors.

-R. LaVerne Washington

Day 14: Meeting Emotional Needs

It is hard to believe how quickly our time in Romania is coming to a close! Today the Regent team went out into different areas of the community to minister to families, provide counseling, and in many cases simply sit and listen to whomever is in front of us. Dr. Reese’s team spent time meeting with families and the homeless population in Oradea. While Smiles Foundation staff provided them with supplies to meet the family’s basic physical needs, Trauma Team members took opportunity to learn more about their situation and provide therapy for their emotional needs. Dr. Keyes’ team provided services at the Cihei Family Center, where they conducted play therapy with the children and offered basic parenting skills to the single mothers receiving services through the foundation. These children and single mothers are those whose histories include domestic violence, which is a major problem in this area and a major focus for the foundation.

Dr. Harris-Keyes’ team also conducted home visits through the foundation’s Family Care Project, a program in which families are sponsored by donations to receive food and hygiene products each month. The families receiving services often face the challenges of extreme poverty, unemployment, alcoholic parents, and other such related issues, therefore the team was able to assist these families with related psychological issues. Finally, R. LaVerne Washington’s group returned to the family center in Gepiu to join the village’s senior citizens for a monthly luncheon. The team conducted reminiscence group therapy to connect with the elderly before participating in a traditional Romanian meal. While many elderly people readily identify with the problems associated with aging particularly as it is compounded by poverty, this therapeutic technique is designed to balance negative bias and assist them with the resurfacing of more positive emotions. The team members were blessed by the delicious food (especially the sarmales), and enjoyed hearing the senior citizens sing hymns.

The Regent team, as a whole, accomplished many positive things in the community today and was touched by the lives they encountered. We have one day left in Romania before beginning the long journey home…but not before a short stay in Paris to cap off the last two weeks.

-Jason Boling

Day 13: An Impacting Presence

The teams returned today after visiting several different surrounding areas to include a gypsy community where the team led by Dr. Keyes spent their day counseling with families. The team members returned after hours of counseling to report one incident wherein they were touched by a gypsy father’s love story for his daughter that caused him to plead with her not to marry before time. Dr. Reese and team spent their day visiting families as well and counseled one family where they found issues surrounding a parentified child who is now 19, but since age 14 was left to care for her 5 brothers and sisters now ages 3-14 years old. Trauma team members addressed issues of depression and worked with the smaller children with a therapy consisting of the use of different size and color stones to draw from the children their stories from which valuable emotional assessments can be made.

Dr. Harris-Keyes lead a team of counselors and clinicians to the Gepiu Community Center where they met with young men and women about to graduate school soon to discuss academic career goals. During this time, the team was able to assist with personality type indication using various activities designed to help with planning their futures. The team led by R. LaVerne Washington spent the day involved in the Family Care project where they encountered countless numbers of situations to include those that required counseling and psychotherapy. One such situation involved 4 beautiful Romanian girls ages 3-14 whose father struggled with alcohol abuse issues and whose mother was likely a victim of domestic violence. Trauma team members worked with each child and the father individually to assist the family in addressing these issues and preparing a premise upon which the social workers could continue to best serve this family. As time draws near to depart Romania, the team is stricken by a sense of inadequacy as we look upon so great a need but are encouraged by Smiles Foundation staff that our presence has had greater impact that we may ever know and every seed sown will bear fruit. Though we may not be here to witness the fruit, we will leave content that He will bring forth an increase.

-R. LaVerne Washington

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day 12: Training, Part IV

The team spent a fourth and final day of training today with the Smiles Foundation staff. This morning, Dr. Keyes presented on sexual trauma and offered ways to approach survivors of sexual trauma in treatment. This is a problem the foundation’s staff has encountered on many occasions in the Gypsy communities. Following the presentation, the Regent team met with the staff in groups to process the information and discuss how it can be applied to specific cases. The afternoon session included a second presentation by Dr. Keyes on dissociative disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder), commonly experienced by those who suffered sexual trauma as children. The presentation included treatment approaches and offered Biblically based theories of counseling. As the teams broke into smaller groups with the staff, it was amazing to see how quickly the foundation’s staff assimilated the information and examined ways of applying it to the people they serve.

The Regent team will be spending the next few days working with staff and students at the educational support program offering services to the Tilead community, visiting patients at a local psychiatric hospital and offering individual and family therapy to displaced families and the homeless in surrounding areas. Therefore, team leaders assembled respective teams for strategic planning for the day ahead. Team members will be partnered with the foundation social workers and translators before going on these various assignments, so it was necessary to discuss the most effective ways to facilitate services for the oncoming day’s work. It is our hope that the training provided to the staff as well as the therapy and psychological services offered to the members of the Romanian and Gypsy community will continue to impact this population long after we return to the States.

--Jason Boling

Day 11: Training Day, Part III

Today the staff members of the Smiles Foundation gathered together for additional workshops designed to enhance their work with meeting the urgent needs of the impoverished families of Cihei, Oradea and the neighboring gypsy communities. Staff members included operational staff administrators, social workers, residential counselors and educational support staff, all of whom were excited to have the opportunity to develop the skills they have used to support and stabilize the lives of the people they feel called to serve. R. LaVerne Washington conducted the first presentation of the day as she addressed the rising problem of alcoholism in Romania, including a look at the cultural implications of the use of alcohol, the bio-psychosocial factors that predispose individuals to alcoholism and the treatment implications for this culture and its unique challenges. The workshop presentation involved interactive learning as well as focused group discussions, where the staff addressed specific cases and discussed various treatment approaches that can be utilized to stabilize individuals and families struggling with substance abuse issues.

The latter part of the training day involved a workshop presentation by Dr. Merrill Reese on grief and loss. Time was delegated to allow the Romanian staff to share the many cultural differences surrounding the issues of grief and mourning. This laid a foundation for members of the Trauma Team to build upon, while attempting to assist them in their understanding of the various emotional states associated with grief and loss and in gaining the valuable insights surrounding the concept of mourning. The presentation included various treatment approaches intended to empower individuals struggling with complicated grief issues using different integrated therapeutic methods that could be implemented in assisting those who experience loss. Members of the Trauma Team exercise their leadership skills by facilitating these various focus groups and offering consultation on specific challenges surrounding specific cases. Our Romanian colleagues did not hesitate to share how different the concepts are in light of their cultural stance and tendency to see expressed emotions as a sign of weakness. However, the members of the foundation staff readily embrace the new concepts and continue to gain insight into how they can be more effective in their work of assisting persons who experience loss return to emotional health and wellness.

--R. LaVerne Washington

Day 10: Church and Rest

The Regent team was again blessed to attend church in the village of Tilead this morning. Unlike last week, however, the team members contributed to the service by reading scripture and leading the congregation in praise and worship. Dr. Reese preached an excellent sermon on reconciliation, based on the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well, found in John chapter four. Following the sermon, the team was treated to a performance of the Tilead children’s choir, who had just returned from a two-week tour of the UK.

As a part of counseling and clinical training, the trauma team has been constantly reminded of the dire need for self-care. This afternoon, the team enjoyed a leisurely afternoon of free time. Some elected to go into downtown Oradea, while others chose to lounge by the pool or catch up on sleep. It was a time of relaxation and rejuvenation, as the team prepares for another week of training, presentations, and time of sharing in the community.

--Jason Boling

Day 9: Day Off

It’s Saturday and the team is excited to get some well needed rest and relaxation to include a chance to explore the nearby tourist attractions. The staff of the Smiles Foundation has graciously offered to be available to guide members of the Trauma Team to visit the city of Oradea, for tasty treats of traditional foods, and where the market is filled with Romanian dishes, arts and crafts, or especially for the ladies of the team, to browse Romanian shops and boutiques for bargain shopping. Many team members opted to take the 2 hour drive to the Bear Caves discovered in 1990, which boasts of being one of the most interesting sites of rock formations unique to this area and a legendary story accompaniment of more than 185 bears trapped and fossilized here discovered by the archeological find and many other interesting aspects of archeology during the tour through the park located there.

Of all of the trainings received by this team, the one that is usually most difficult to convey to missionaries and other care providers involves the matter of self-care. Under the direction of Drs. Keyes and Reese, the team is often reminded of the need to care for one's self emotionally, physically and spiritually in order to be best fitted and prepared to offer help to others. The team enjoyed a wonderful day of self-care and returned to the foundation complex each excited to share the sights and sounds of Romania with the others. It has been a wonderful first week and it has been good to enjoy the day together.

--R. LaVerne Washington