“It was such a joy to hear the children laugh, sing, dance, and enjoy the playground and nature,” remarked OCMC Missionary Anastasia Pamela Barksdale while reflecting on the new playground at the Orthodox Children’s Home of Hope in Albania. The new equipment was made possible by generous donors in the United States who responded to the call to help refurbish the playground. And it was put to good use during the recent “Caring for Creation” virtual camp for the children that was conducted by OCMC volunteers. The team included over 15 participants from around the US, as well as OCMC Board Member Fr. Luke Mihaly from Danbury, CT.
The Orthodox Children’s Home of Hope in Albania is a special place. It provides a safe Christian environment for children from broken and troubled families to find loving, caring people to nurture them and their families. Ms. Barksdale has been the missionary liaison for the Home of Hope for about 10 years and serves as the Executive Director for the Spirit of Love Foundation. In her dual role she hosts OCMC mission teams and develops a long-term network of friends who care about and pray for this difficult and incredibly valuable ministry.
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the children at the Home, who had barely recovered from the November 2019 earthquake when the whole country suddenly went into a 4-month full lockdown quarantine. The campus of the Home is on the grounds of the Shen Vlash Monastery and Theological Academy. While the children could go outside, they were also extremely isolated. Lacking the necessary equipment for online learning, they struggled to keep up and stay interested in their lessons. And their playground provided little relief with old, broken, and rusty equipment.
With help from OCMC donors, special efforts by OCMC missionary candidate and previous Home of Hope team member Elaine Piniat, and support of OCMC staff, a Christmas appeal was able to raise the needed funds.
Ms. Barkdale notes, “God so blessed our efforts that by the beginning of March we had installed the new playground. We also decided, since travel to and from Albania was not possible, to hold a digital camp for the kids. With additional funds raised, we were able to install needed equipment, including a Smart TV, upgraded internet, laptop, camera, and microphone for the digital camp, [which will] also assist with online learning.”
OCMC volunteers and donors make possible our mission teams and projects that our OCMC Missionaries, like Pamela, facilitate. Please visit our Mission Teams and Missionaries pages to learn how to support these vital ministries.