Monday, October 29, 2012

Pleven Update!!

Shelley, adoptive mom and our social worker, posted on her blog an update about the changes in the Pleven orphanage. Good things are happening!

from Shelley, October 29, 2012

Last week, Toni, who is the director of the Bulgarian NGO responsible for overseeing the Pleven Medical Fund (PMF), went to Pleven to visit with the new director and to see, first hand, the changes that have taken place at the Pleven orphanage. I am very pleased to report that there have been MANY WONDERFUL CHANGES since Dr. Georgieva took over as the director of the orphanage. She is truly working for the good of the children and making a lot of very positive changes at the orphanage. She has a HUGE job ahead of her and she continues to need a lot of help to fund all the necessary projects that need to be completed to ensure that ALL of the children living at the orphanage in Pleven have all of their needs met. There are so many older children who suffered YEARS of neglect and the condition that they are in as a result of that won’t be fixed quickly.
Below is a report of some of the positive changes that have already happened, some of the changes that are in the process of happening and future projects that we will be seeking donations for:
Changes that have already been made:
1.) One of the first changes Dr. Georgieva made was to the kitchen staff. The entire staff was fired and replaced by a staff that would make feeding the children good quality food a priority. The glass beer bottles used to feed the children are GONE. The liquid mixtures of flour and low calorie liquids are GONE. The children are being fed high quality solid foods. All the children that are capable are being taught to eat from a spoon and they are fed foods with as thick of a texture as they can tolerate. The children who still require bottle feeding are fed while sitting upright and given time to digest their food. Their caloric intake has been increased to an acceptable amount needed so that they can grow and gain weight. GONE are the days of the children having a bottle shoved in their mouth while they were lying flat on their back. GONE are the days of the quick 2-3 minute feedings. The staff is required to take time feeding each child individually and this is monitored. How is it monitored? Well, that is the next positive change!
2.) Dr. Georgieva installed CAMERAS throughout the orphanage to monitor the staff’s interactions with the children. This allows her to watch the children being fed, how the staff is holding the children, how often diapers are being changed….and when staff members are sitting around chatting and not working with kids. All of this is being strictly monitored. As you can imagine, not everyone is happy about this change. There has been some staff turn over as Dr. Georgieva works to ensure that only people who truly want to be there caring for the children are on staff.
3.) All the children are having their diapers changed 5-6 times a day at a minimum. Again, this is monitored using the cameras and the director is holding the staff accountable for this as well. For those interested in donating money designated specifically for diapers, this can now be done through the PMF. The diapers will be purchased and given to the orphanage and an official donation receipt will be issued by the orphanage, translated and provided to the donor. If you are interested in doing this, after you make the donation tothe PMF, please send me a copy of the Paypal invoice via email ( so that I can ensure that the correct amount is designated specifically for diapers and that you receive a donation certificate after the diapers are purchased. All donations to the PMF are tax deductible through Eli Project.
4.) If you’ve seen any photos of children that were recently adopted from Pleven (particularly, the older children), one thing that is pretty noticeable is the horrible condition their teeth are in. This was a result of the lack of nutrition and the lack of dental care. EVERY SINGLE CHILD in the orphanage has now seen a dentist (this is paid for by their National Health Insurance) and the children who need it will receive appropriate dental care.
5.) Many of the older children have osteoporosis as a result of years of malnutrition. Dr. Georgieva is in the process of beginning treatment for this. The PMF is covering the cost to have all the children tested for osteoporosis. These tests are being conducted this month. One the results are back, all the children that have a confirmed diagnosis of osteoporosis will begin treatment for it. The estimated cost for this is $1,000, though an exact amount won’t be known until all the testing is complete. The medication required to treat the children diagnosed with osteoporosis will be covered by the Bulgarian national health insurance and treatment will continue for as long as it is needed.

6.) The PMF is currently working to fund a vehicle for the orphanage. This vehicle is used specifically for transporting children to medical appointments, to the hospital if they are sick, etc.  The vehicle that was previously owned and used by the orphanage to transport children broke down about a month ago. The vehicle was assessed by a mechanic and it would cost more to repair the vehicle than to replace it with a different (used) vehicle. Since this vehicle is used to meet medical needs, the director asked if the PMF could help with this expense. Estimates have been received and the total amount needed to fully pay for a vehicle to be used by the orphanage for medical appointments is $2,848, which includes having the new vehicle assessed by a mechanic, purchasing the vehicle, paying the notary that does all the legal paper work and paying for the title. $1715 of that has already been raised through a fundraiser conducted by Susan in which she was raising money for her own adoption from Pleven and pledged to give any money donated above the amount she needed to the PMF specifically to help pay for the vehicle. So, the remaining amount needed to cover the vehicle is $1133. Since over $1700 has already been raised for this purchase, the vehicle has been secured and is already at the orphanage for use to transport the children to medical appointments. Donations can be made through the PMF to help cover the cost of the vehicle. Here are some photos of what it looks like:

7.) Dr. Georgieva has installed a GPS in the vehicle. This is so that she can strictly monitor where the vehicle goes to ensure that it is only used to transport the children to medical appointments and not being abused by the staff for personal use.
8.) Nurses have been interviewed and approved by the director to work on the 6th floor. The money to pay the salaries of these 2 nurses was raised through another NGO (not the PMF) and these nurses will start work as soon as the contracts are signed with the NGO. Both ladies are well qualified and eager to work with the children. One of them is even an foster parent! They are both Christians and are ready to be the hands and feet of Christ while working with the children on the 6th floor. The money was raised to cover the salary of both nurses for an entire year. 
9.) Dr. Georgieva is working to establish a standard of care and expected schedule for the Babas and therapists that work at the orphanage under contract with other NGOs. She is working to ensure that these people are actually doing the job that they are being paid for and the children are receiving the maximum benefit of having these people in the orphanage each day. In the future, there will be an opportunity to fund Babas and other staff members through the PMF. However, at this time, Dr. Georgieva has asked for time to get the currently employees all working efficiently before adding any additional personnel. 
10.) Dr. Georgieva has brought in a Physical Therapist from the University Hospital in Pleven to evaluate all the children. This PT has volunteered her time and evaluation services. The doctor has made the recommendation that each child with special needs such as CP (and any other child with a physical disability or physical delays) receives one hour of physical therapy every single day. This includes massages, positioning and the use of therapy equipment. She is helping to set up a PT schedule for the children to ensure that every child that needs therapy is receiving it. 
Current projects that need funding:Dr. Georgieva has set a goal to bring EVERY CHILD in the orphanage out of their crib and down to the dining room for meal time. She wants to set it up so that at meal-times. the caretakers and the Babas will take all the healthy kids and all the kids with SN who physically could be brought down to the dining room to eat. That would mean getting out of the cribs, diversifying the environment of the children and teach them that the place where you sleep is not a place where you also eat. That will also provide some walking to the kids and some change in their routine. Most importantly, that will teach them the right way of eating, being independent with spoons and get rid as much as possible of the bottles. The director is not aiming at anything luxurious or huge, she just wants to make it a cozy, bright place, as it should be for children. Several things need to be done in order for this to happen:
1.) The dining room must be completely renovated. This is what the dining room looks like now:

  For THREE DECADES, it has been used as a storage room. It is in desperate need of repairs. A quote has been given for the cost to make the repairs to the dining room. This includes: removing all the old sinks and buying new ones and installing them/getting them operational; removing the old paint from the walls; ground coat of all walls; painting of all walls; removing the old windows which leak and are broken, buying new ones and installing them, replacing the doors and the lights and any other repairs that are needed to make the dining room functional. The total cost for this, which includes supplies and labor is $1,800

We have stepped out in faith and said, “People will step up and fund this” and the work to clear out the dining room has already started this week. 

2.) Adaptive high chairs are needed for the children with physical disabilities to sit in while in the dining room
. These can be purchased for $60-100 each. Due to the fact that there are many children with CP and other disabilities that physically limit the children’s movement, several adaptive high chairs are going to be needed in order to accommodate all the children.
$3,000 could renovate the dining room AND provide 12 adaptive high chairs so that EVERY CHILD at Pleven could be brought out of their crib and down to the dining room for meals.

If you'd like to make a donation toward the dining room renovation project, tax deductible donations can be made through Eli Project for the PMF. 
Additional needs:
The orphanage needs several gait trainer walkers for use with the children. These walkers support the children’s chest while working with them on building strength and mobility. These are especially important for the older children. Dr. Georgieva is currently pricing gait trainer walkers and donations will be accepted to cover the purchase of these as well. 
The final recommendation from the University doctor who has done the PT evaluations is the purchase of four specific therapy devices to be used on the children with CP, paralysis and those with disabilities that cause respiratory or lung issues. The total cost for these 4 devices, including a 2 year warranty on each device, transportation/shipping cost to get them from Sofia (where they have to be purchased from) and training on how to use the devices for the staff is $5, 200. If you'd like to make a donation toward the purchase of these devices, you can do so through the PMF.
Just as a general update on how the money from the PMF has been spent to date: Children from the orphanage are continuing to go to Tokuda for evaluations and treatment. Surgeries are being performed, children are being fitted for orthopedic shoes and splints (and these are being purchased through the PMF), blood tests, genetics test, metabolic tests, CT scans, lenses for cataract surgeries and any other medically necessary procedures are being done. Dr. Georgieva has also found doctors at the University Hospital in Pleven that are willing to provide some treatments and testing for the children at a reduced price. This option is being explored as a possibility to meet some more of the immediate needs and the medical expenses for some of the younger children that are not suffering from malnutrition and only need immediate medical care/testing, so that travel to Sofia is not required.  There is $20,600 remaining in the PMF as of the end of last week. 
Now that the medical needs of the children are being met and the nutritional needs are being addressed, Dr. Georgieva has begun looking forward to what her DREAM is for the orphanage. We asked her for her “wish list” and this is what she said:
1.) Renovating the day center, which is where the Babas and caregivers take the children to play by adding new educational toys and learning items that have a specific purpose in improving the development of the children.
2.) A sensory room
3.) A physical therapy ROOM (renovating the current space): to be equipped with a ball pit, floor to ceiling mirrors and other items used specifically for motor development.
4.) Oxygen treatment equipment for the children with severe medical needs that require oxygen in order to live. 

 Just as a side note to these "dream" items and how many children would benefit from them, since we are often asked how many children currently live in this particular orphanage:
The orphanage has 3 different "sections" that fall under Dr. Georgieva's care. One section is what most people typically think of as a "baby orphanage"...the place where orphans from birth to age 3-4 live until they are old enough to be transferred on to the "older child orphanage" in Pleven. The second section is the older children with special needs. This is why there are older children at this orphanage. These children all have some type of medical issue or more serious special need and they stay in this section at Pleven instead of being transferred to an institution. The third section is a mother and child section. Here, mothers come with their newborns and live there. They learn how to care for their child and have the child's physical and medical needs met. The goal of this section of the orphanage is to teach these mothers how to meet the needs of their new baby. Sadly, Dr. Georgieva reports that many of these mothers still end up leaving their babies at the orphanage. Thankfully, Bulgaria has a very active domestic adoption program, so the newborns who are healthy are adopted very quickly. The babies with special needs stay at the orphanage longer. Those with more significant special needs that are rejected by Bulgarian families for adoption are eventually registered for international adoption. Since there are 3 different sections to this orphanage, MANY children would benefit from all the proposed changes to the orphanage. 
We are THRILLED to see so many positive changes happening at Pleven. The need is still great and there is still much work to be done. There are several projects that will need funding over the next year and we are praying that people will step out and offer the financial support needed to see this complete overhaul of the conditions at this orphanage come to fruition. It is a BIG job, but it can be done with the prayer and support of many. 
I have debated sharing this part of the update that I received, but I believe that it is just as important as all of the rest: We are asking for those who believe accordingly to PRAY for Dr. Georgieva and the work that she is doing. MANY changes have been made and much work has been done. Not everyone is happy with what she is doing. There are people who thought that nothing was wrong with the previous conditions at Pleven. There are many who still think that the children are not worth it. There are those standing in the background watching...and hoping that Dr. Georgieva fails at what she is doing. She still faces opposition to the changes. SHE IS IN THE TRENCHES fighting for the children of Pleven and she needs the prayers of Christians to lift her up as she continues the fight.  Even if you can not provide a monetary donation toward all the projects happening at Pleven, you can pray for the director, for the children and for all the good things that are in the works to come to fruition so that the CHILDREN of Pleven reap the benefits of all that is being done. 
As a final recap, the current needs through the PMF are:
1.) The remainder of the funds for the vehicle- $1,133
2.) The dining room renovation: $1,800
3.) Adaptive high chairs for the dining room: $1,200
4.) Physical therapy equipment: $5,200
As quickly as these financial needs are met, we will begin working with Dr. Georgieva on her "dream" list!

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