BELGRADE, SERBIA - Today, the mission travelers from Lifeline began their guided journey to targeted facilities in Serbia. We asked a few of the travelers for their thoughts and reflections upon seeing and meeting the people whom Lifeline supports through our mission.
Indie Rupp (St Petersburg, FL), speaking about JJ Zmaj Home for Children without Parental Care, Belgrade
We were greeted by joyous, happy kids and immediately went into a large music where we were surrounded by more happy children. A teenaged boy played the piano - a baby grand donated by Lifeline Chicago - and I had tears of joy hearing this young man play. He was self taught and his playing brought joy to the children surrounding him, as well as to us.
We were also given the opportunity to hand out individual gift bags to the 45 children at JJ Zmaj. As we left, several of the younger boys walked up to us and gave hugs and kisses. They thanked us for not forgetting about them and hoped that we would return.
We saw firsthand the repairs that were made to the building on behalf of the donors and the churches. Having clean, safe facilities helped these underprivileged children lead more "normal" lives. I will never forget today's experience.
Judy Vezmar (Florida), speaking about the Elderly Care Shelter in Belgrade
I was shocked to learn that this was the only elder care facilitiy of its type in all of Belgrade, as incredible as it sounds.
Witnessing how the staff cared for the residents tugged at your heart. I saw the new mattresses that Lifeline donated - still wrapped in plastic and covered with old tattered sheets - and it was difficult to accept the reality of the situation. Lifeline made sure that there were enought adult diapers for the facility for a month, but so much more is needed.
I am thankful that our families take care of all generations in the United States. We are so blessed as Americans.
Katarina Frank, age 8 (Chicago, IL) speaking about Plavi Cuperak Kindergarten School, Belgrade
It was fun to see the kids dance and perform for us. The school is very small and very simple inside. They received new toys from Lifeline so we took pictures with those toys given by Lifeline.
They did not have a playground. I wish they had a playground with a slide, swings and monkey bars for these kids.
Cathy and Milorad Jegdic (Schererville, IN) speaking about Zvecanska 19 Orphanage, Belgrade
The staff at this orphanage were the complete support system for the children. We were so happy to see how well the children were treated and how gentle the staff was with them.
There are new sofas, redone floors, new mattresses - all donated through contributions of Lifeline supporters. The visit was overwhelming for us because so much more help is needed. A good carpenter, building supplies and more workers are needed at this facility. The work is continuing and we have more ideas in our heads as to how we can help in the future.
Tea Dimitrijevic, age 11 (Indiana), speaking about Gavrilo Princip Elementary School in Zemun (Belgrade)
It is an eye opening journey for me. What a great organization Lifeline is and I'm so happy to be a part of it.
We entered the school and it looked very clean and new. There were art projects on the walls. And then we went into the gym and it was nothing like we have back home in Indiana. The gym was small for 800 kids and there were no lights in it. The walls were damaged and the window sills were broken. At home we would never want to use the bathrooms. They were old and moldy. Then we went to see the repairs that Lifeline did last year.
Lifeline raised money for two large beautiful bathrooms and I was so happy to see that the kids had a new bathroom with new doors, sinks, walls and toilets. And then we saw how the walls were freshly painted with bright colors. It was very touching to see how even a few people can make a colossal difference.
Read the journal entries of Natasha Vaillant (age 14) as she reflects on her visit to the Gavrilo Princip School
At the Belgrade Soup Kitchen, Lifeline donated 15 boxes of soap, clothing, toys and food for a month, including spices and supplies.
Thanks to all in Belgrade who sent photos and stories to share with our supporters. Check back tomorrow for more updates!