We finished our work in Zenica, and a few of us want to share some of the highlights.
Elaine: I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to be on this trip and gain more experience! I worked with twins, an 11 year old boy, and spent one day with a 4 year old girl. I love them all! My favorite moment with the twins was just sitting on the couch tickling, laughing and hugging them! They by far exceeded our expectations in only the three days we saw them. My favorite moment with my 11 year old boy was when his mom wanted to help in our therapy sessions, and the father came home early from work to videotape our therapy session. It was amazing to see the parents involved in their child’s treatment! I only got to see the little girl for one session due to neighbor disputes, but the time I spent with her was a joy! She immediately attached to me, so I lead most of the therapy session. She was so sweet and loved all of the attention. Good job to Bojan and his team, and I will miss them and my kids!!
Larisa: I am so impressed with how beautiful Zenica was and am so grateful to be part of this adventure. I was absolutely in love with my team members and was so excited to get up early every morning to work with the kids- even with little sleep. My team members demonstrated so much enthusiasm and excitement to work with us- I was truly inspired by their motivation. We worked with a child with Microcephaly, a child with Down Syndrome, and a child with Autism. My favorite moment was when one of the kids started using English to communicate with me. I had been so worried that the language barrier would be an issue during therapy- but it was amazing how well Bosnian, English and even some non verbal communicators worked together. I had a hard time saying goodbye to my team members but am excited to meet my kid in Sarajevo.
Kristin: There have been so many great moments on this trip – both directly related to the children and families, along with things I am learning both about myself and about therapies and treatment. Of course, there have been some down moments, but as usual, these just lend themselves to such amazing moments later. My best moment so far was in direct relation to a rough start with a family. This family initially had their doubts about a variety of things related to our presence, especially after a rough first day with the child – lots of crying and screaming, but of course lots of persistence from us. However, the following day could not have been better. By the end of our session our child used two words to request bubbles – independently to two different people. It was just such an amazing success that showed both us and the family that the hard work from the first day was really worth it.
Raquel: I am so grateful to be a part of such a wonderful project! Working with our colleagues in Bosnia, the children and the families has been such an amazing experience. However there is one child in particular that has changed me forever. We worked with an adorable 4 1/2 year old boy who had left his house only twice in his life! The smile on his face as he left his apartment building and ran through the grass, chased birds, and watched other children play was absolutely contagious! He continued to run around for a few more minutes before he suddenly stopped, closed his eyes and looked up towards the sky. It took our team a few seconds to realize that there was a gentle breeze and that our child had stopped to feel the wind and to listen to the leaves. A few seconds later he looked at all of us with a big smile and said “more.” I’m now more appreciative of the simple things in life like a cool breeze, walking on grass, and the other freedoms I have.
Cierra: This trip has already been so amazing and Zenica is beautiful. The people there have impressed me with their positive attitudes,enthusiasm, energy and incredible work ethic. The children have been adorable, bright and sweet as well as receptive to our therapy techniques. It has been truly amazing to see how quickly the kids were able to understand and make progress towards functional communication. We gave them the tools and guidance and they ran with it. One of my most memorable moments was when working on PECS with our first child with Autism. His current system consisted of four pictures and was solely used in the classroom. Mom seemed really uncomfortable and hesitant to participate. However, by the end of day three she was really excited and engaged with her son and his communication. Our third student was nonverbal and a particularly challenging student for the professionals working with her. Again, a communication system has not yet been established and creating a system for her became our goal. We were able to get her started working on the early phases of PECS as well as train her mother how to work with her using the communication system. I feel hopeful for these students and their families and happy to know that we left them with a communication system they could now utilize in the home and at school.