Friday, May 28, 2010

New fundraisers


While we were in Kazakhstan, the children of the Zhanyua Children's Home (formerly CH #3) in Almaty painted shirts for us. These shirts were designed by Kaz parents Matt and Suzanne Ruley and have our logo on the front with a picture of the playground on the back. The playground has been colored and signed by a child. Each shirt will come with an info sheet on the child artist.

The sizes available are as follows:
Youth small - 12
Youth medium - 1
Youth large - 1
Adult small - 4
Adult medium - 45
Adult large - 35
Adult XL - 19
Adult XXL - 9

Shirts are $20 for adult sizes and $15 for youth sizes. The proceeds from these shirts will go towards our continued efforts to help the orphans of Kazakhstan.

A huge thank you to Matt and Suzanne for their idea with these t-shirts!

You can purchase the shirts on our website,

1st Annual Walk for Kaz:

Please join us for our 1st Annual family friendly 5K Run/Walk to be held September 25, 2010 at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis, Indiana. All proceeds will go directly to Two Hearts For Hope, a 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization.

Walk for Kaz is the vision of four moms to children born in Kazakhstan. Alaina, Ann, Gretchen and Kim have dedicated their lives to helping give back to the children still waiting for their forever families. Each woman left a piece of their heart in Kazakhstan and could never forget the children left behind. These women serve with Two Hearts for Hope, a 501 3C nonprofit that has reached a countless number of children in Kazakhstan through the generosity of many people.

Our goal is to raise awareness for the plight of the orphan in Kazakhstan. There are 143 million orphans in the world and of that an estimated 100,000 live in the country of Kazakhstan. All proceeds collected from this walk will go directly to supporting Two Hearts for Hope on their mission to make sure the orphans have the basic necessities every child deserves.

Please come join us as we bring HOPE to Kazakhstan's orphans, one step at a time

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Change and be changed

If we were to sum up our week in a few short words, I think "change and be changed" would be perfect. We left here with the goal of building a playground, never truly understanding that we would be changing lives with small, simple acts of kindness. We were told that our actions were transforming the views of adoption in Kazakhstan. We were told over and over again that people could not understand why we would COME BACK after adopting a child. The idea that we would care so much about orphans in a country so far away was inconceivable to most of the people we came in contact with. For us this is simple, we dedicate our lives to giving back to the country that has blessed us with so much. When we gave the beggar a wheel chair a crowd gathered in the street. They kept looking at us and asking "Why do Americans care about one lonely beggar in Kazakhstan?" This is our goal, to plant seeds of hope where we go. Hope transcends borders and can change lives.

For most of us, this was the first non-adoption related trip we took to Kazakhstan. Traveling to adopt and traveling on a mission trip are two completely different experiences. We were not concentrating on just one baby, but many. It was so hard to walk around the two orphanages we visited and know that most of these kids would not find homes because of paperwork issues. It was hard to watch the older kids and the "Lord of The Flies" mentality take place. When kids are in a large group there is going to be a natural leader and there is going to be a weaker child. We just wanted to swoop in and start explaining right from wrong but that is not our place.

At one of the orphanages it was very difficult to watch the caregivers sitting in the "break room" having chai while 10 little babies screamed and were in desperate need of a clean diaper. It went against everything we feel as parents not to intervene on their behalf but could not. These experiences really make you stop and think about how much needs to be changed. While we wish we could do it all, our goal remains to provide small acts to better the lives of those orphans still waiting for their forever families. This trip truly made us realize that a hug, a smile, and a 5 minute conversation means the world to a child who has to fight for attention every day of their life.

Each time we looked at a child and knew that they most likely have spent the majority of their life in an institution our hearts broke. In reality adoption can't be the answer for all the children, not even half but by giving back and simply being there for a few days, seeds begin to grow. For a child to know that someone cares can be the difference between a life of crime or better choices. We were lucky to be able to meet lots of people working alongside orphans to ensure their lives turn out better than a life of crime or prostitution.

Here are a few thoughts from some on our trip:

From Sean, 12 years old: It made me realize that there are so many real kids out there and kids are kids no matter the language they speak or where they live.

From Susan, adoptive mom: It definitely "opened the eyes of my heart" and made me want to continue to do whatever we can to help make any kind of a difference. Looking at the pictures of all those sweet faces and remembering their personalities, from the older kids in Almaty to the under stimulated babies in Karakastek, brings me to tears when I realize that their reality doesn't include parents who love them and tuck them in at night, or even to discipline them and yell at them to "take a shower." As I felt on our first trip to Kazakhstan, the love I have for the country and it's people only intensified. I am so amazed at how they live with so much less than we have, yet are so resourceful and gracious. I love their commitment to relationships. I just wish the that the economics of it all weren't so brutal so that many children have to grow up in an orphanage instead of with their family. I feel blessed 10 fold that we were able to adopt Leeza and because of her we've come to the country she was born in. I know that this is not the last the country of Kazakhstan will see from the Serra Family.

From Ann, adoptive mom: My heart was opened to the older kids and a huge part of my heart remains in Kaz because of the sweet teens I spent time with. I love that smiles, hugs and love are the same in every language. Spending time in the Children's Home has made me want to do much more for them and help their dreams come true. They deserve to have a family just as much as a baby does and if nothing else we can do something to help them achieve their dreams so they do not become a statistic. Words cannot describe how this trip has changed my life. Tears are always there when I think of the kids, which has been all day everyday since leaving. My love for Kaz has grown and intensified as well and I hope to be able to do much much more for the orphans of Kaz and make a difference in their livers so they know they are loved.

From Alaina, adoptive mom: This trip was fantastically life changing. My passion and commitment to adoption and raising awareness only strengthened. My heart broke hundreds of times as I met and interacted with all of these children. So many beautiful children needing homes and families - the older kids questioning why they haven't been chosen, the babies needing stimulating and love, and all of the children vying for attention. It challenged me to never forget, to advocate, and to keep going back. My love for the country and people of Kazakhstan was deepened. What an amazing team and amazing trip.

It's hard to be back here going about our day to day life after spending a week in Kaz. While we were there it felt like the center of the earth. Most people have no idea where Kazakhstan is but to us it is where a piece of our heart shall remain always.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Ribbon Ceremony

What a day!

We started at the special needs baby home to deliver donations and wheel chairs. We met a man named Peyton who has been in Kaz 14 years working with disadvantaged people. 2 years ago he began his work with the special needs home. This man is seriously Jesus in the flesh. His heart is incredible and he touches everyone he meets, especially the children.

The doctor wanted to give us a proper "reception" for the wheel chairs so during the Victory Day celebration the kids were having they introduced Stacy and I. We then moved the children from their old chair to their new one. It was a perfect start to the day. While we were there we learned that it is the goal of the workers to teach people to be more understanding and open to children with special needs. These kids live at this orphanage until they are 14 and then move to a mental institution. It truly was a wonderful baby home and we could certainly tell they do care.

Next we to a foster home and met with Andre. Andre is a man that works with orphans who are about to age out of the system. The house they were living in burned down about a month ago and now the kids are constructing a new one. It is Andre's goal to teach them life skills before they are on their own.

The ribbon cutting for the ceremony was at 2 pm. Otto from R.E.A.C.H made a speech, the orphanage assistant director spoke, and I spoke. We then cut a red ribbon and took pictures. Two Hearts was presented with a certificate that says:

"Public Fund REACH would like to express our sincere appreciation to "Two Hearts for Hope" for their dedication to the orphans of Kazakhstan. They have given their time and energy and have shared their love and resources with many children. As a result of their commitment, 350 orphans at the Zhanuya Orphanage in Almaty have received a long-awaited playground; many other children were clothed; and literally thousands have received gifts. Their dedication is to be commended. We would like to wish them and their families' good health, prosperity, and success in all of their endeavors."

The best part of the ceremony was when we were cutting the ribbon and the children were chanting "Spa-ci-ba" (thank you) over and over again. The tears were certainly flowing. When the ceremony was over we handed out ice cream to all the children.

To put into words what it felt like to stand back and watch the children playing is difficult. This year has been full of so many different emotions and trials to overcome. There were times when we thought this playground would not happen and to see this dream complete was overwhelming.

After the ceremony Stacy and I went to bring a beggar a wheel chair. We were asked to bring one for this man that Otto at Reach passes each day and has become friendly with. The man has leprosy and can't walk. His mother in law carries him to the street corner each morning and brings him back each night. He told Otto a few times that his dream was to have his own wheel chair. The look on his face when he pulled himself up and sat in the chair was amazing. He looked so proud and kept asking us to take his picture so he could see what he looked like. People on the street came up to us and wanted to know what we were doing. They could not understand why Americans would care about 1 Kazakh beggar and come all the way to Kaz to help him. One step at a time we hope to change the world.

The night ended when we had the Reach team and their families over for a backyard BBQ. We sat around and told stories of the week and just cried for about an hour. Lives were changed this week. Friendships that will last a lifetime were made.

I wish I could find the emotions right now to sit down and truly express all that we are feeling but we are so exhausted it is hard. When we get back home we will sit down and write more.

Tomorrow is our last day in Kazakhstan. Boy did this week fly by!

Thursday, May 6, 2010



Thursday May 6th -

Today we were out of the house by 7 am to get on the road to Karakastek. It was about an hour and a half ride through the country. The baby house is literally in the middle of nowhere and in pretty bad shape. We brought 12 bags of donations, in them were shoes, cloth diapers, clothes, medical supplies, mattress pads and crib sheets. The director and doctor were very excited and appreciative of the items.

We visited with the babies first and got to hold them for a long time. Then we played with the toddlers. Boy was that hard. We walked into the room and every one of them ran up to us screaming "mama, mama." It was the saddest thing. The little girls loved our necklaces and the little boys wanted to sit on our laps and snuggle. We did some crafts with them and handed out the bananas we purchased. We go back on Saturday and will have a small party and play outside.

In September there were about 85 orphans at this baby home, today there were probably 60. 3 years ago there were about 120-150. It was very encouraging to see the numbers dwindling but still so hard to be there among the poor conditions and lack of care these babies receive. The smell is overwhelming and a little hard to deal with at first. The caretakers don't really change the babies diapers all that often and keep them in cribs for a very long time each day. Both are frustrating to see and hard to ignore.

After the orphanage we went to lunch and sightseeing. Tomorrow we visit the special needs orphange to bring the wheel chairs and have the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Children's Complex. Our team in Kaz was able to get a food company to donate ice cream for all the children and there are rumors of media coverage.

Please pray for our team. There are a few members that have become sick over the last few days and run down. We are needing energy and sleep.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Day 4

Wednesday, May 5th 10:00 pm.

What an emotionally draining day. We spent all day inside with the children playing games. The team broke up into three smaller teams to visit different groups. The first group Stacy and I visited was a room with 7 kids, ages 8-11. We did crafts and then took them outside to play with chalk and bubbles. The other teams played Uno and Twister with the kids.

Today was the first full day we were able to be with the kids for a long period of time and could put all our energy into them. We were really hit with hard emotions. It is very hard to look at them and know they have no mother. They have no father. The last group we were in had a few 15-16 year olds. They told us about this little girl they were friends with and she was adopted by Americans in 2003. They said she "went to America and we never hear from her. How come no Americans come for us?" They brought out a photo album that had pictures of these girls from when they were very young, maybe 8. It was so incredibly sad on many levels.

It is amazing to us that all these children want is to be hugged. To be acknowledged by us with a smile, hand shake or a warm embrace. Even the smallest act of rubbing a back brings a smile to their faces.

The hardest part are stories like Medina's-she was born in Uzbekistan and brought over the border. She can never be adopted because her paperwork isn't right. She is a beautiful, sweet little girl who will never know the love of a family because of paperwork. Sometimes the injustice in this world is too much for us.

Tomorrow we are headed to the Karakastek orphanage. Still no way to upload photos.
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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Playground complete

Today we finished the playground two days ahead of schedule! Our team is awesome! We had so much help from children too. Wow-we are just amazed.

This morning we had to finish hanging the monkey bars, bridge sides, store front, and other side parts. We also had three truck loads of gravel delivered that we had to spread under the playground.

Stacy and I went to baby house 3 to deliver donations. It was incredible to walk back into the directors office almost three years to the day when we were there to meet Josh. She was very thankful for all the donations and medical supplies we brought.

We also signed some paperwork to begin the process of being a registered organization in Kazakhstan. This should be completed in two-three months.

The team atmosphere here is great! We are enjoying our time together so much. We have laughed and cried together many times and know our friendships will be life long.

The internet here is still slow but I will try to upload photos tomorrow from the office.
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Monday, May 3, 2010

Playground at the start of day 1

Here we are on day 2 about to start.
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Playground assembly-Almaty City

Monday May 3rd

Today began construction on the playground. We split up our team into three groups. The first two groups were on the playground in the morning while group three went inside the orphanage to do crafts and play with the kids. After a fabulous lunch of chicken, potatoes, bread, and salad provided by the orphanage cafeteria, the groups switched. We also had 4 additional people from Kazakhstan helping us. Throughout the entire day the children were watching us and this afternoon some of the older kids came over and decided to help out. It was an awesome experience to be building alongside the children.

Today we dug holes, set poles, mixed and poured cement, assembled slide, bridge, tunnel, climbers, roofs, rock wall, and tic-tac-toe panel. We are very excited at the progress we made on day one and think that the playground will be completely assembled by tomorrow or Wednesday morning at the latest. We will still have to fill in the dirt and gravel around the playground.

The teams that went inside to play with the children brought stickers, Wikki Stix, bubbles, and t-shirts to paint. The children were so excited to see us and came running over asking to be picked up. It was heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same, especially seeing the older children. Knowing that some of those children have been there since 5 is so hard to imagine. This orphanage is very well taken care of. The children have great classrooms for school and it is very neat and orderly. The grounds are clean and the director seems to take a lot of pride in her orphanage and the children.

It was awesome to see the playground in person and know that we ALL did this together. It is just amazing to see the year of hardwork and dedication in person. Our team is just fantastic. Each person brings something different to this experience to make it one we will all never forget.

After our day at the orphanage we went back to our house and had dinner. We have a Kazakh woman that cooks for us and last night she made plov. Plov is a rice dish with veggies and meat, it was so yummy!

We are having some issues with blogger and can't upload pictures right now. We will try again tomorrow.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Almaty Day 1

Sunday, 4/1/10 - 10:05 pm
We landed this morning at 2:00 and were brought to our house. The house we are living in has three floors. The first floor has the kitchen, bedroom for the lady who lives here, and three bathrooms. The second floor has all the bedrooms and a living room. Susan and Sean have one room with a double bed, Jillian/Ann/Gretchen/Alaina have a room with two bunk beds, Christy/Christie have a room with two bunk beds, Chris is in the living room on a couch bed and Stacy/Kim have a bedroom with two bunk beds. It is very close living and we feel like we are at sleep away camp. Susan has even dazzled us with her wide array of camp tunes!
This afternoon we were picked up at 1:00 to go to our hosts house. We had a nice meeting to go over our schedule, got to meet more of the Almaty staff and had a fabulous dinner. It was so awesome to be able to sit and talk with the Kazkah's about their culture, history and talk about our children. It was a great way to start the week.
Tomorrow we are up and out by 7. Goodnight!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

We made it!

We are here! All 11 people, 33 bags, 7 wheel chairs and 1 box arrived safely. We are exhausted but very excited! More soon......
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