Gina again, signing off…
We're famous! Megan, Sharon, Mirna, and a mom at the press conference
So today we got our 15 minutes of fame in Mostar. A national press conference was held at noon at the school. I had a hard time keeping track but I think there were 2 tv stations and 2 radio stations. Mirna and Sharon shared what we did this week, and two parents spoke about how hard it is to find services for children with autism in Bosnia. A dad said that parents usually keep their children at home because others don’t understand their behaviors. We sat on the side, our loyal speech students translating quietly in our ears. At this point the tears came. I looked across the table at Kelly and and she started to well up as well. Pretty soon we were all trying our best to keep it together. Senka gave me a hug from behind and I felt an immense gratefulness for what I experienced this week.
Amazing speech pathology students from Tuzla
I want to thank Bosnia for this amazing experience. During our short time here we worked with amazing young college students who are dedicated to helping children with disabilities. We worked these people to the bone and they were professional, gracious, and connected to the needs of the families they served. Bosnia is very lucky to have such wonderful young people entering the professional world.
Our team: Mirna, Gina, Senka, and Brooke
I’m also grateful for the families who invited us into their home, fed us, and told us their stories. I never feel the openness and generosity during home visits in the US that I did this week. And thank you to the amazing teachers who teamed with us and helped us to understand cultural beliefs and backgrounds of our families.
And for the children that we served… We can leave knowing that we gave them our very best clinical advice, and parts of our hearts as well.
Do videnja Bosnia. Hvala.
Old Town, Mostar
(Gina here, signing in…)
Silence is not something that you experience when you’re living with 9 other speech-language pathologists, but right now the house is quiet so I think I can write another post.
Today was Brooke’s and my last day with kids – we went to “D”s house. This was our fourth visit with this family, and our lovely occupational therapist Debbie joined us this morning. Debbie explained that D feels touch and smells odors differently than we do, and that she probably needs more sensory input. She gave mom a deep pressure massage on her arms and jaw to show how this can be calming for her daughter. Mom has been through a lot – the Bosnian war with four children, a recent divorce, and endless caregiving for her daughter with special needs. I think Debbie’s massage was probably her favorite part of the week, and very much deserved!
Debbie and D's mom
When we left mom gave me a hug from the side and didn’t let go – we all stood there chatting for awhile. I think it was hard for her to accept that our time with her was ending. Luckily, our Bosnian counterpart, Mirna, is a consultant at D’s school so she can help continue the programs that we introduced. And hopefully mom has come away with some good ideas on how to help D become more independent.
I know that I have learned more in this week than I do in an entire year working in the schools – it was intense, and Brooke and I had a few moments where we looked at each other and said “Now what?!” But hopefully these families have come away from the experience feeling that they have learned something as well, and that we’ve made a positive impact in their lives. It certainly has been worth every minute.
Well, I think I’m ready! Somehow I was able to pack 10 pounds of therapy materials and outlet converters into my small carry-on, as well as my running shoes and 2 weeks worth of clothes. I just hope they don’t open my suitcase at security, because I’m not so sure it will close again.
This week I skyped with three of our parents in Bosnia to introduce myself and do parent interviews. I used an interpreter who is based out of Chicago, and then we did a conference call to Bosnia. The parents were very gracious, and answered my questions honestly. One boy is only 4 days younger than my own son, who will turn 5 in August. Two of the children don’t attend school because there are no services for them.
All 3 parents wished us well on our travels to Bosnia and thanked us for our help. One father told me that he is taking the week off from work so that he can meet with us.
We certainly won’t change the world, but I’m hoping that we can make a difference in these families’ lives. – Gina
Ok, we are really going to Bosnia, so I need to get on the ball.
First, I promised to learn Bosnian for this trip (and, according to my acceptance letter, that’s the main reason I was chosen to go as a participant). The problem is that I’m addicted to a Spanish telenovela and don’t really have time to focus on two foreign languages. Soy Tu Duena’s season finale is next week, so I promise I will start my Bosnian lessons then! Goal #1.
Also, we need to purchase our plane tickets. Prices are a little higher than we anticipated, an estimated tax payment is due Jan 15th, and I just bought a bunch of xmas presents. Budgeting – goal #2.
Goal # 3: Call companies that provide speech/language materials and equipment for donations, and possible literature about speech/language development in Bosnian. No problem.
Think of some new year’s resolutions? DONE! Get to cross that one off my list