Hi Friends, life-long and new! I am just an ordinary person who values love, purpose, and freedom and wants those things for everybody. All people have a right to feel safe, be treated with dignity, experience warmth & love, and feel alive, freely expressing themselves as God's loved and created beings. We should want what we want for ourselves for ALL beings on this planet. I am so excited to be officially invited by Wide Awake International http://wideawakeinternational.org/vision/ to work with special needs orphans in Western Ukraine.
For those who are new, my name is Sara, and I have a deep-rooted, unshakable love for people. For the past 7 years I have been working/living at Rainbow Acres http://www.rainbowacres.com/, a ranch style community in Arizona designed to provide loving homes and life enriching programs for special needs adults. Our community here includes individuals with Down Syndrome, Fragile X, Cerebral Palsy, Tuberous Sclerosis, Prader-Willi Syndrome, Autism, and milder forms of traumatic brain injury. I have worked as a caregiver in the group homes, and most currently use my skills as a massage therapist/body worker for therapeutic massage healing which is so powerful and important to our "ranchers". ( We call our residents ranchers). My husband Andy, the Vocational Director, and I co-lead the hiking club for special needs adults here as well.
Rainbow Acres is AMAZING, and people who live here are treated not only with dignity and respect, but with LOVE, and encouraged and supported to live to their fullest potential. (pictures including ranchers have been blurred , or show them from behind to protect their privacy)
Imagine the horror and grief-stricken shock I experienced when I first read about the deplorable conditions and archaic, barbaric mentality surrounding special needs people in Ukraine, moreover the ORPHANS. HEARTBREAKING! Gut wrenching, heart breaking horror. It is very rare for a mother to keep her special needs child in Ukraine. There are some very old beliefs still entrenched in the collective psyche there, and mothers believe that their special needs children can be better cared for by the state insitutions, because they have been told this. As of an article written in 2012, the number of Ukranian orphans abandoned by their parents and filling said institutions numbered 88,000. 88,000!!! In Ukraine in general there are no special considerations for peoples with disabilities like ramps, parking spaces, restrooms, etc, so it's even challenging for special needs individuals who aren't institutionalized to experience life fully; just getting from point A to point B is a huge challenge. In the orphanages though, it is another story entirely. Most never leave the facility, many never their rooms, and yes many are strapped to their beds all day, every day, and no hope in sight.
The good news is, there ARE many people in Ukraine, including Ukranian Nationals working to better these conditions and raise consciousness for special needs children and special needs people in general. I read a blog by Wide Awake International and was instantly inspired. Here is their vision for therapeutic care: "Therapeutic Care. We will develop partnerships with institutions that house orphans with special needs. Within these institutions, we will provide therapeutic care for children. Activities will help support improved physical and social- emotional health, as well as improve cognitive development." They have a long term goal of creating a loving community of group homes ( similar to Rainbow Acres) so that they can pull these precious children out of the institutions and place them in loving home environments. They are brave, amazing, and inspiring.
As a massage therapist, I feel a calling to go to Ukraine, and I will help in whatever way is needed, but my specific skill set is massage therapy and healing touch. I feel called the strongest to work with the bed bound, and to offer massage therapy to the children who have been restrained. The Johnsons are currently living in Ukraine along with their 4 children, and they are the creators of Wide Awake International. I have been officially invited to join them, which is such an honor and a blessing. Thank you so much for your love and support. It's a year away, but time flies! This is the maiden voyage. First trip is 3 weeks long, and I am encouraged within that it is the beginning of a beautiful alliance, in Jesus' name! God Bless You! ( If there is any money leftover from this volunteer trip it will be donated to Wide Awake International )
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