Saturday, December 24, 2011

2011 Fall Trip - part four

After accompanying us into the valley of despair, the Lord graciously guided Project TLC to a mountaintop that afternoon. A place where we could see great things that are happening and wonderful things that are possible. Hope Haven.

We learned about this place in October, seemingly by accident - a single little Facebook post that could easily have been missed. Since I, Stephanie, don't believe in accidents, I give credit to God for pointing this place out to us.

Hope Haven, is a school for children with special needs. I hope that you will take the time to read through their website and see all the ambitious plans they have. I also hope that you will consider sponsoring a child at Hope Haven.

They have lots of great equipment for the children, all donated and shipped from the U.S.A. 

Look! An indoor play area! The children can get some sunshine and play, even when the weather is too cold or wet to go outside.

The facility has heated floors, which we greatly appreciated! We all took our shoes off at the door and walked around with toasty toes. I'm sure the children enjoy this as well. What a bright and pretty music room!

AFO's for all!

Therapy room that actually gets used!

Walkers anyone?

Here you are privileged to witness the absolute cleanest and most accessible restroom in the entire nation of Ukraine. If you have ever been to Eastern Europe, you will understand what a monument this is! And there are a couple of other restrooms in this school that are just as beautiful.

Look! An American school bus! This bus is equipped with a lift that makes it possible for the children in wheelchairs to attend.

Visiting this rare and wonderful school was an uplifting experience for us. We will share more about the school and their needs in the future.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011 Fall Trip - part three

After the fabulously successful visit to the invalid home, the Project TLC ladies regrouped for the next leg of the trip: the baby house. This is what the Ukrainians call the baby orphanage. According to one adoption facilitator, "it sounds nicer that way."

From Stephanie, "It is difficult to express my feelings about going back to this place. On one hand, this is the place where Theo suffered neglect and starvation. On the other, I fell in love with the children there and promised them that I would not forget them. How could I not go back?"

First stop, the director's office. We brought many updated photos of children adopted from this place over the past few years and hoped to be well received. We asked for permission to visit with the caregivers in our children's old grouppas and show them our photos.

Unfortunately, some of the workers that we had hoped to see were not around. However, we were able to visit and snuggle with some familiar children. This was a sweet opportunity for us and a big eye opener for our interpreter. We make a quick decision to ignore the leaky, wet diapers and the smell of spit-up and make the most of this opportunity to show love and care. We were disappointed, but not surprised, to find untreated medical conditions such as hydrocephalus and very little interaction between caregivers and children.

On a brighter note, we were happy to do some shopping for this facility. Thanks to a designated contribution by another adoptive family, we were able to purchase some medicine and supplies for the neediest of the grouppas and a basic digital camera for the music director.

Project TLC is hopeful that we can do more for these children in the future and is exploring various ways to make that happen. Of course, we will keep you informed of our progress. Will you pray for God to open heavy doors for the sake of His precious children?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Quick Update

Thanks to the amazing support that Project TLC has received over the past six months, the process of replacing 10-15 antiquated, drafty windows in the mental internat at Belogorsk has begun. We cannot wait to have some photos to share with you!

Project TLC has also been given the go-ahead to provide a Christmas gift to each child residing in the Belogorsk internat. This last minute project came together quite unexpectedly and we presently have all the items we need to send. All that is left is to find the funding for the required shipping. In addition, a sweet group of youngsters has made 35 tied fleece blankets to send!

As an ongoing project, we are looking for individuals who are willing to sew bibs and sheets and/or bedspreads for the internat. We are requesting matching sets of four bedspreads. If you have sewing skills or fabric to donate, please contact Shelly at She has the exact dimensions and required specs.

We are so humbled to have the opportunity to serve these children in this way. Thank you for the ways that you encourage us.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

2011 Fall Trip - part two

Project TLC must thank a wonderful group called The Least of These for accompanying us to visit the invalid home in Crimea and assisting us with logistics for our November trip to Ukraine. They sat in on our discussions with the director and their Ukrainian National Director even served as our primary interpreter that first morning.

We were impressed by the open and cooperative attitude of the director. Many of our ideas were met with a "Yes, please!" We learned that there are 20 children "laying" in this facility. We expressed concern for their possible feeding and comfort issues. We hope to assess these children and their needs on a future trip. We have no experience with any sort of medical mission trip, but are trusting God to provide what we need to reach out to these bedridden children and the people who care for them.

The director of an orphanage really sets the tone for the whole facility. Though the hallways and rooms were quite dark (saving $$ on electricity?) the tone of this place was one of respect and care for the children. The atmosphere was warm and inviting enough that we didn't realize until later that many of us never removed our coats.

Inside view - 60 years old and many layers of paint.
That's right. The whole time we were inside the building, playing with children, doing crafts, blowing bubbles, many of us didn't remove our coats. It was that chilly inside the building. We arranged to meet with the director again a few days later. She gave us a better look around the building, focusing on the drafty windows which are about 60 years old. 

She claimed to be able to heat the building but that the windows let too much air move. I could feel the cold air pouring into the building with my hand. I looked around and took lots of photos of the windows. The older children didn't seem to mind the cold, but I could only wonder about the bedridden children. If we could help to keep their facility warm, we could improve their comfort and quality of life.

Transom possibly stuck open?

In the next few weeks, Project TLC will replace as many windows as possible. We have funds to replace 10-12 of the large windows with priority being given to the bedridden children and other sleeping areas. However, I counted 25 older windows needing to be updated on the front side of the building alone. 

Two newer windows pictured here. Six more need replacement.
Incidentally, there are a few newer windows in the building, you can tell by the white frame. To her credit, the director does not yet have new windows in her office.  

Next time...Christmas gifts for the children and other practical ways you can touch their lives.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

2011 Fall Trip - part one

Project TLC completed its first trip to Ukraine earlier in November. Each of us has traveled there before, but this was our inaugural trip as Project TLC.

First up was our highly anticipated visit to the invalid home. Some say "mental institution" or "mental internot", but it doesn't really matter. This is the place where the most severely delayed children are hidden away.

Emotions and nerves were on edge as we made our way into the countryside on that cold, gray morning. Would we be well received? Would we accomplish anything?

Enormous bags stuffed full of donations lay in the back of the bakery delivery van that transported us, three Project TLC team members, two missionaries and our lovely interpreter. The bags were crammed to the point of bursting with diapers, pull-ups, school and art supplies, hand made hats, gloves, shoes, and hygiene items...mostly donated or made by our supporters. You know who you are!

When we arrived, Project TLC member Shelly enjoyed a sweet moment of reunion with the director of this facility, where she adopted one of her daughters earlier in the year. Next we unloaded the donations and headed upstairs to meet some of the children.

As we walked into the auditorium, we were greeted with applause (!) by an excited group of youngsters. They were all clean, neatly dressed, happy and very polite. The simple craft project was a huge hit with all the children, though it was difficult for some of them to sit and wait for their turn. Some children got to blow bubbles after completing their project. Some of us were covered in bubble solution! A few children came back to sneak another craft project! Or two!  

A movie had been planned for the children after that, so we left them...all riled up! We made our way to the director's office for a chat. I cannot tell you all that was discussed, but I can tell you that I considered the whole visit to be miraculous.

Next time: more about our work with this facility and ways that you can partner with Project TLC!

~ Stephanie

Monday, November 7, 2011

Meet the team: Shelly

My name is Shelly Burman and I am the proud mommy to eight beautiful children. Two came to me through birth, five through international adoption and one special little man through domestic adoption and is now dancing with Jesus in Heaven. I am married to the most amazing husband who goes to work each day not only to protect the citizens of our city but also to provide for his family. I am a former special education teacher who now stays home to manage our home, take care of our children, and home school them as well. We are  now preparing for our 3rd adoption journey to another Eastern European country for our two boys.

All of our adopted children have special needs and bless us in special ways.  Our first adoption from the country of Ukraine blessed us with the triplets (not biological just same age) Evelyn, Hudson, and Owen. They each have Down syndrome and came home in May of 2010. We thought our family was complete until God showed us He had other plans for us and soon we found ourselves traveling back to Ukraine for 2 little girls: Carrington and Reagan. Reagan was the first child adopted from the institution in her city so we feel that God has used us to create a path for other adopted parents to continue on.

Our sweet Carrington was in very grave condition when we took her out of the orphanage. Upon landing on U.S. soil Carrington was taken immediately to the hospital where she would spend the next 5 weeks just trying to live. She was a 3 1/2 year old weighing only 11 pounds. Watching our daughter triumph over all the wrong that was done to her was the inspiration our family needed to join with Boston and Stephanie to create Project T.L.C. so we can help the 99 Left Behind.

To watch, hear, and feel the cries of precious children only wanting comfort is beyond words. We will always keep our hearts and home open to orphans with special needs. What we are doing is not for the faint of heart but for those God has called upon and He will equip us with all we need to carry out His plan.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Meet the team: Boston

Hi, I'm Boston Laughrey.

We adopted Chloe from Crimea after we learned about the plight of children with disabilities in Eastern Europe. Once we realized they were there and they were suffering, they haunted us. Those faces never really leave you, and when Stephanie asked me to be involved, I was more than happy to do so.

I am grateful for everyone who has a part in helping these children in any way, and I hope that this blog will serve to enlighten and inform. I am excited to see what happens when that enlightenment and information gives way to action and transformation (as it tends to).

Chloe is the youngest of my daughters, we have 4, and the only one with special needs.
Thank you for reading!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Meet the team: Stephanie

Hi, I'm Stephanie! And Project TLC is my labor of love.

I would never have thought twice about orphans or Ukraine if not for my son, Ralph. You see, Ralph is four years old and has Down Syndrome. His health was extremely fragile for his first two years. I spent countless hours on the internet, searching for information about Down Syndrome, pulmonary hypertension, atrial-septal defects, open heart surgery vs. device repair, and on and on and on, trying to find ways to help him.

During one of those nerdy search sessions, I stumbled across a Down Syndrome adoption blog. I was shocked to the core that children with Down Syndrome were nearly always rejected at birth in many countries around the world.

Can you believe it? I slept with one eye on oxygen saturation monitor for two years, for a child who would have likely died alone, in a crib, in an orphanage laying room if he had been born in some other part of the world. How could this be? Why didn't I know about this sooner? How could I live out the rest of my life without doing something about it?

So, after Ralph's health stabilized, and after another baby graced our family, we did do something. In the summer of 2010, we adopted Zhen and Theo, two little boys from an orphanage in Ukraine. The experience changed me profoundly.

After forty days in Ukraine and even more orphanage visits, I grew to love the other little children there as well. They were all desperate for a scrap of human contact, a kind word, a little song. Many of them had twisted bodies, were frighteningly thin, but were strangely tough. Survivors already, at the tender ages of three and four.

The day I walked out of the orphanage with Zhen and Theo to start our new lives in the USA, my heart shattered. I cried myself to sleep on the train that night. What would become of those beautiful children? The next stop for them, at the age of four, would be the mental institution. Who would love them? Who would sing to them? Who would show them kindness?

Since that day, I have thought about and prayed for those children continually. The love of Christ is compelling me to be a voice for them, to do what I can to improve their lives on earth. Project TLC is the fruit of those prayers. Thank you.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Welcome to the Project TLC blog!

Project TLC was begun as the spirit led effort of three moms, Stephanie, Shelly and Boston. Each of our families has adopted children with Down Syndrome from one particular orphanage in Crimea, a region of Ukraine. Each of us were heartbroken by the children we had to leave behind. After witnessing the magnitude of neglect and abuse happening in the orphanages, we were compelled to provide aid to those children.

We invite you to join us as we pursue the heart of the Ukrainian orphan, in the name of Jesus.