As I walked into work on Monday morning, I could not help but to stop and look around. I stood in the atrium taking in the details of our facility, watching people headed to their destinations and absorbing the feeling of unity. Oh, how much we have to be thankful for! Our trip to Romania was a humbling experience with a huge dose of perspective; I am honored to be a part of its purpose. I have permanent visions imprinted in my mind; both sad and inspiring that will change my heart forever.
I feel we were successful in our mission. I am encouraged by the determination of the people to further the visions of Child Life, as they work to bring change to their country. I cannot wait to see what the future will bring to the children of Oradea.
This was an amazing experience! I was lucky enough to work each day with the social work students at Emanuel University. I was able to see them blossom as the new ideas sunk in and they began to see greater possibilities for their world. I was amazed by the fact that several of them came up to me and said “I will make a difference in Romania.” They were so passionate and hopeful. I also felt the hope at the Sunshine School as the staff talked about loving the children there like they loved their own and their desire to help the children reach their full potential. I realized that we were speaking the same heart language, even if they were speaking Romanian. Though it was sad to see the poverty and the fear of change that existed, I left with a feeling of hopefulness for this area of the world. I saw as many similarities as differences and a sense of passion that will have an impact in ways we can’t even imagine. I look forward to being a part of this as we (hopefully) work with students from the university and the hospice program.
I didn’t know what to expect when I left for Romania. I was so excited and yet a little nervous. I had never been on a trip like this. We had many meetings before leaving and the closer it got, the excitement and anticipation grew. I was so excited to talk about our volunteer program and be able to help them set up a volunteer database along with providing resources to help them recruit volunteers in a country that saw volunteering has a “job” and not something to do because you want to.
I also got to see the Child Life Staff in action! I don’t get to see that very often so it was a joy and a blessing to me to see them provide the families/children with their knowledge and seeing the difference they can make in a child’s life.
I have to admit that it was very overwhelming to me to see everything we did. The country, the hospital and the children. I’ve never experienced anything like I did while there. I am grateful that I got the opportunity to be a part of this special group. I do look at things with a different perspective since I’ve gotten home. I came back with a bigger heart, more love for what I have in my life and where I work, new friendships and realizing that God will have a bigger impact in my life.
Before I left for Romania, a friend wrote to me and said, "although you are planning on bringing so much to Oradea, I feel that you will come away with so much more." She was so right!!! As our team began a legacy in the city of Oradea, every moment and encounter I experienced, left a lasting impression on my heart.
From the education we provided to the hospital and hospice staff to the collaboration with the President of Emanuel University, it was exhilarating to see the foundation of Child Life and its concept being accepted and the process beginning to form. The therapeutic activities and psychosocial support we provided for the patients in hospice care and for the patients at the local children's hospital was life changing. I will forever be changed by their smiles, their perseverance, and their incredible wisdom.
As I reflect upon my time in Oradea, Romania, I have truly been impacted by the impeccable hospitality and generosity of everyone, and more importantly, by their desire for hope. As I begin to ponder what my future role in Oradea will be, I am left feeling completely humbled, yet energized by this city's future. My prayer is that God will continue to utilize me to help Him intervene within this amazing city called Oradea.
This trip was an experience of contrasts for me in only one week. My visit to the Emanuel Kindergarten for their Mother’s Day celebration was a delight. The children participated in a program for their mothers and presented them with flowers at the end, a celebration that would be very typical in America also. The visit to the children’s hospital was very different however. As our Child Life Specialists shared in activities on 2 wings of the hospital, I worked as a runner and photographer between the 2 groups. During this process, I was able to observe parents and nurses as they observed the delight of the children as they worked and played together. I caught a glance of parents as they walked past the room on the boy’s wing, hesitated, and looked amazed by what was going on with the children. A vigilant nurse stood at a safe distance and watched from afar. She preferred not to interact with any of us, but appeared very interested in what was going on with our staff and the children. Supplies and interaction amongst patients is very limited in their hospital setting, but we are optimistic that they were able to see possibilities. Our translator, a college student from the university that was coordinating our trip, was extremely moved by this experience at the hospital. She has a very big heart and plans to dedicate her future to Romanian children. We all have no doubt that she will have an impact in her country.
Through the commitment and perseverance of Raelene Soritau there is a new day coming in the pediatric medical community of Oradea. While it will not happen overnight, she has the grace and tenacity to overshadow the skepticism of some of the medical staff. We all share in her optimism and were blessed in this experience.
I could never put into words, at least words that flow and make sense, what this past week was like in Oradea, Romania. I’ll try… It was beautiful and hard, hopeful and difficult, precious and deeply impactful. For me, this was more of a part of my spiritual journey than I even knew it was going to be. Jesus is the same in Oradea, Romania, and the students of Emanuel University and the workers of Emanuel Hospice believe that with Jesus and love of the Lord, they can change Romania for the Lord’s glory. And if I didn’t walk away with anything else, that was the most beautiful thing to walk away with. We left our ideas, perspective, applications, and expertise of Child Life and the psychosocial needs of children in the hands of some very passionate, determined women and men. It was by far one of the most humbling experiences that I have had…I’m humbled as an American, a Christian, a woman, and a Child Life Specialist. With help from the Lord, their new knowledge of Child Life, and the dedication of many of the students and leaders we met over the week, I look forward to seeing Oradea, Romania be changed for the glory of the Lord and things made more right there sooner than later! J
~ Ashley Pagenkopf