Jun 16, 2021

1st Contact with the Licensing Commission!!!

Wow! There is something quite special about typing up a full page report and then losing the entire thing!  It really blessed my heart to no end.  So, here's the second attempt! :)


Happy June from beautiful Macedonia! The flowers are in full bloom, rain falls almost every afternoon, and the weather is amazing!  I sometimes imagine that I can hear the land, trees, and blossoms breathing a collective sigh of relief, as life begins to return to normal.  Covid restrictions are easing, people are out and about, and life feels hopeful again. 


As we have been waiting for a response to our license application for the Day Center, work continues at The JOY Home.  We recently purchased a second push mower - this one has a self-propel feature that has made it so that Malachi can help cut the grass. We now have 2 lawnmowers and 2 weed eaters, so it only takes us one day a week to cut and trim the 1+ acre property, because we can all work together.


We also had a bulldozer come to remove all of the chokeberry bushes in the second property (1/3 of an acre), so that we could level it and plant grass seed.  We are having so much fun watching the little shoots of grass spring up from the ground. 


Last week, we received an email from the Licensing Commission, asking us to attend their Zoom meeting to answer questions about our application. On Wednesday, we met with them for approximately 30 minutes.  All of the questions were very straightforward. At the end of the meeting, we were told that they will email us with any additonal questions and next steps.  So, now we wait again!  But, it was so exciting to finally see some forward progress after months and months of waiting. 


We are so thankful for you continuting to partner with us as we get closer and closer to opening the home as a Day Center for special needs orphans!  We can't wait!


I have attached several pictures of the ongoing work at The JOY Home, as well as Chicken and Tater relaxing in the "dog days of summer."  Hope you enjoy! 

Mar 22, 2021


Our first snow of the season at The JOY Home
Our first snow of the season at The JOY Home

Spring is officially here!  And the ground is covered in snow! :)

This was a difficult project plan to write. I really felt like I didn't have anything to say. We're just waiting.

Hmmmm.... but then I was reminded of this quote from Dr. Seuss, and I realized we're all just waiting for something, aren't we?

Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite. Or waiting around for Friday night or waiting perhaps for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil or a better break or a string of pearls or a pair of pants or a wig with curls or another chance. Everyone is just waiting.”

Here are some examples of how our family is waiting....

  • My boys are waiting for school to be over for this year (not gonna lie, so am I!)
  • Aleks is waiting to graduate from high school.
  • Zo is waiting for the beginning of his next work project.
  • Nattie is waiting to start dog grooming school.
  • The world is waiting, collectively, for life to return back to normal - whatever that is.

We're all waiting. We might as well talk about the other things that are happening while we wait, right?

Waiting... Last month we welcomed Angela and Ana to the team. They both jumped in with both feet and have been working non-stop on all of the documentation needed for our Day Center licensing application. And when I say "all of the documentation," I mean ALL of it! There was so much paperwork! Just to give you an idea, here is what we had to include:

  1. Annual Plan for 2021
  2. Financial Documentation
  3. Working Program for the Day Center
  4. Evaluation Form for the Day Center
  5. Monthly Report Template
  6. Property Records
  7. Survey, floor plan, and list with all items in each room included

All that to say, we have been busy! Plus, everything that I write up has to be translated into Macedonian, which takes added time. So, the application packet is now finished. And we wait (cue the Jeopardy music).

While we wait. We decided, as a family, to take advantage of this waiting period. So, a couple of weeks ago, we took a road trip to Sofia, Bulgaria for a long weekend. It was amazing. Our first family vacation in 4 years. The boys had never been to Sofia, so it was an exciting trip for them. We spent most of our time walking through the many, many malls and getting all kinds of take-out (restaurants are closed due to Covid). We ate McDonald's more than once, Starbucks daily, rode gokarts, visited a kids' science museum, and hung out at the airbnb. It was much-needed and so wonderful.

Also while we wait. The Covid-positive numbers and hospitalizations are rising again in Macedonia, so we are back to curfews and discussions of more restrictions. So, we are taking this time to buy some items for The JOY Home that are required for licensing: fire extinguishers and first aid kits, as well as doing some organization of the attic storage area.

Part of the licensing requirements are to hire professionals: a Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Social Worker, and a Therapist to consult with us on the work that we will do with the children. So, we are putting together job descriptions, a budget, and a plan for interviewing and hiring for each of those positions as soon as we get the green light from the Ministry of Social Policy.

We will also need a cleaning person and a groundskeeper, to help with the upkeep of the property.

While you wait with us. The closer we get to opening The JOY Home as a Day Center for special needs orphans, the more help we will need! We are so grateful to those of you who have partnered with us by sending ongoing, monthly donations! Thank you!!! Please spread the word about The JOY Home Day Center and our work with orphans in Macedonia.

Until next time!!! :)  - Jen

Feb 8, 2021

It's a New Year with New Updates!!!

First Snow of 2021!
First Snow of 2021!

News! News! News!

YAY!!!! The JOY Home is completely done! Now the real fun begins!

We contacted the orphanage director to tell her we are ready to open as a Day Center for special needs orphans.  She was super excited and encouraging and immediately had a meeting with the Ministry of Social Policy in Skopje to tell them of our plans. 

Last week, Zo spoke to the head of de-institutionalization (you should have seen how many times I had to retype that word to spell it correctly), and he emailed us the list of requirements to become a licensed day center for orphans.

The timing has been amazing! These regulations and licensing procedures were just created last year - meaning we couldn't have started any sooner than we are, even if we had finished The JOY Home faster.  Pretty cool!

A few days ago, we received 32 pages of regulations and requirements for licensing and forwarded them to our attorney to find out what steps need to be taken. Today we met with the LOH team and have made a plan.

We are super excited to be at this stage of the work in Macedonia.  We were told that, realistically, it will take 2-3 months for the licensing commission to meet and grant us the license.  We're ok with that, as long as we are moving forward!! :)  I'll be sure to keep you updated as we work toward licensing.

As a very exciting side note - the orphange director mentioned seven children, in particular, that she wants us to start working with and I already knew four of them (they were children that I worked with when we volunteered at the orphanage from 2017-2019). How awesome!  I can't wait!


Welcome Angela and Ana!

We're excited to have two new team members, working with us!  Ana is helping organize all necessary paperwork, grant proposals, financial reports etc. and Angela is helping with administrative work and translation.  I am also training Angela in the TBRI (Trust-Based Relational Interventions) model, so that she can assist me with the children when we open the day center.  I am so happy to have both of these amazing ladies on the team!


2020 Annual Report

I was somewhat wary about working on the 2020 Annual Report this year, as I thought it would be empty and discouraging due to the Covid pandemic.  However, I was so surprised when I sat down and looked back at all the things we accomplished together, even in the midst of the mess!  I've attached the 2020 Annual Report, if you would like to take a look.


I hope you have an awesome February, and we look forward to updating you as we get closer and closer to opening the doors of The JOY Home!  We are so thankful for you!!!Check Out the LOH 2020 Annual Report

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