From London to Bucharest!

Sorry for the delay in my posting! I am sick, sooooo sick. Until now, the past 48 hours have been spent in my bed watching Christmas movies and overdosing on tea. (Besides one big meeting with a foundation I am helping with at their Christmas party, more details on that later!)  So, I would have liked to have had the energy to post, but I didn’t.  Seems like I am starting to feel a tinyyyyy bit better and I have learned that I NEED to prioritize sleep in this busy month. With that being said, I should be thankful I have a warm home, comfy bed, hot running water, and anything else I need to recover, because as you’ll see in this post, not everyone has these luxuries.

I went to England a couple of weeks ago to visit some of my family.  I wont be going home, or anywhere for Christmas this year so I thought I would go over while flights were cheap (round trip for 33 dollars, my biggest deal to date!) to see everyone, see Chelsea with my friends, see the tennis finals with my aunt and spend a night with my cousins and godson. When I was at my cousins we were catching up about the new things I am doing here in Bucharest.  I was explaining how poor the families were, like less than poor, nothing we could ever imagine, and how little they had.  My cousin’s husband immediately offered to fly me back with a checked suitcase full of their old ski clothes! Like, really nice, comfy, warm adorable clothes that their two daughters had outgrown. So the next morning we did this:

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We packed every single item they had to give away and packed it into a suitcase with a limit of 32 kilos. At the airport it weighed 31.8 kilos. We are professionals. I am so thankful for their big donation, but the people who received them are even more thankful! Also, big thanks to my lifelong family friend, Roger, who drove me to the airport with this bag even though I refused to admit it was the heaviest thing I had ever traveled with!

Got back to Bucharest a couple weeks ago but finally found the time to meet up with Mike and Dana and head over to the neighborhood to donate these clothes last Friday.  We knew the people would surround our cars, and grab anything they could, but also know they won’t sell these clothes because they need them, and they will share with the families in their “neighborhood.”

Here is where we took them. Yes, people live in these makeshift barracks.

 

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And here is the quick process of giving them warm clothes that they so desperately need this time of year.

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Gabi loved his new ski gloves and immediately wore them and ran away to continue playing football with his friends! He was so sweet and nice to me the second I got there. Then he opened up two minutes later about his rough family life that had my heart break so so quickly.

This short visit to Ferentari made me realize how much I have missed it! It is the first place I fell in love with when I visited Bucharest 4.5 years ago and it is still where my heart is, and always has been.  I love everything about it, and not many people do, so its an honor for me to work with the people there. The families welcomed us, especially me (as the only non Romanian), with open arms, thanking us and were just so appreciative that we had thought of them. I can’t wait to go back with the gifts we are getting the kids! I got home last Friday after this with my heart so full, it is still unreal to me that this is my “job”, that I get to wake up and do this, that having relationships with these people is my “work”. Not a single day goes by that I do not appreciate my life. Its not always easy, but its always so rewarding. I love it, I seriously LOVE it. So as always, a big thank you to my family, my church in LA and my supporters all over the world who continue to support me in what I do. There is no other place I would rather be.

Thanks again to Viv, James and their two daughters for donating so many clothes that will change the way these people survive winter this year!

 

Check back later this week for a blog post on our big foundation launch party happening this Saturday, and the arrival of our team from the UK. I hope I have a voice by Saturday because I may or may not be speaking!

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How YOU Can Be Involved….Riiiiiight NOW!

Being so far away from my church, lifelong friends and family I try and make it as easy and effective as possible for you to donate and be involved. I know it’s more fun to send actual gifts to the children, but prices for shipping are so expensive, and even on our side to receive that it is just more cost effective if we buy the gifts.  Here in Bucharest we can make a gift for a child that includes markers, paints, drawing paper, a football (soccer ball!), a scarf and gloves, a teddy bear, toiletries, chocolate and a few other things for around 10-15 dollars/8-10 pounds.

Please consider sponsoring a child this Christmas for 20 dollars or 15 pounds, and receive a picture of the exact child you are sponsoring.  Here are some examples of children that will not receive anything this Christmas without help from sponsors like you.

Obviously these children are living in extremely poor conditions, and while we work year round to improve them, we love to be able to let them have one day of joy when they receive a gift and a very rare (for them) hot meal.

These children’s pictures (the ones posted above!) are currently in Los Angeles at my church’s high school services and at my old hair salon waiting to be sponsored but we have HUNDREDS of other children that need people like YOU to make their Christmas more cheerful. ((Thank you Nikki and Susan for fundraising on that side of the pond!)

Please consider giving the gift of sponsorship this Christmas season.

Donations from the US and UK can be directly transferred to us here in Romania through TransferWise. (Just ask for details in a message) OR cash or checks can be sent through personal accounts in both countries.

Please contact me for more details on donating to our great cause. Once you send your donation, we will send a picture of the child that is getting a gift and meal because of you.  Be a part of giving this Christmas season, it feels really good!

 

Check back here tomorrow for details on how LONDON (Well, Croydon and Watford) have ALREADY been huge donors this Christmas season.

 

 

Christmas Donations from Los Angeles!

Well, more specifically, the South Bay, but a lot of Europeans read this and have no idea what/where the South Bay is!

For FOUR years now my family has done a huge garage sale in November with all of the proceeds going towards the children I work with in Bucharest to make their Christmas season more cheerful. Garage sales in America aren’t as common as they used to be because A. Craigslist is way easier and B. they are HARD WORK. A lot of effort goes into these garage sales for weeks before to make sure that there are enough donations, and enough help on the day of the actual sale.  My family starts about 4-6 weeks before gathering everyones “stuff” that they no longer want.  My parent’s house turns into a Salvation Army for that entire month.  Here are some pictures to prove it:

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Their kitchen turns into a clothing store.

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Their living room turns into a furniture store.

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And the family room turns into a hoarders paradise.

Like I said, garage sales are no joke! It is so great to have a fundraiser that so many people feel a part of. Whether someone donates one bag of clothes, or an entire bedroom set of furniture, your donation has helped children this year get a gift and a warm meal.

Day of the Actual Garage Sale:

So much preparation goes into a garage sale but even more help is needed the day of to make sure all of the stuff gets brought out onto the lawn, organized, and priced before people start to come shop. Start time is always 6am but people are always waiting outside my parent’s house at 5am to get first dibs on things. Kind of creepy, but whatever, thanks for the donation!

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Let the shoppers shop!

This years garage sale was a huge success. The amount of people who donated was higher than ever. And the amount of volunteers who came, even for an hour or two, doubled from volunteers in the past. It made things, apparently, run a lot smoother, and bring in over $1400. That is such an incredible amount of money and goes SO far here in Romania.  SO thank you for all the shoppers, all the donors, and of course, this all star team of volunteers who continues to help year after year. IMG_0849

From left to right:

Mum (coordinator),  Dad (financial coordinator), sister Katie (social media and advertising coordinator), friends Alicea and Nikki (ALL morning/day hands on help/plus a much needed Starbucks run for all the volunteers!), family friend, Louise (Sales coordinator) longtime friend Janell + little baby in her tummy YAY ( Does everything, and I mean everything to do with linking the garage sale and my work here. Photos of children, Romanian signs, information cards, prayer cards etc) brother, Nicholas (lead negotiator/heavy lifter of things)

And to all the other volunteers, THANK YOU. TO Maribel, an life long family friend, THANK YOU for all your hard work and help! And the people who came from my church to serve here this summer and CLEARLY, still have a heart to serve and help the kids of Romania. Grant, Kelly, Megan, and anyone else who I have forgotten, YOU’RE THE BEST!

I will remind people via Facebook, blog and newsletter about donating items for November 2016’s garage sale starting next October! Don’t throw anything away! Any donation, big or small, is what makes these such a huge success!

Part 2 of Los Angeles Donations will be posted *TOMORROW*, on ways YOU can still be a part of giving a gift and hot meal to a child in Bucharest this Christmas season!

Speaking of Christmas, here is my tree/decor and my cat tearing it all down. It was nice while it lasted. (3 days)

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