In the afternoon we gave out presents at Dolna Banya orphanage (video here
) then we visited an old friend from years ago. Mariana is now 24 but we have known her since she attended school at Lipnitsa. She was abused by her family and beaten by her mother and aunt whenever she went home and Mr Petkov, the schools' director kept her an extra year at the school because of this
. She finally had to return home but, sure enough the abuse resumed. The Trussell trust and Mr Petkov organised and paid for a small flat foe Mariana to live in and also helped her with further studies. After a while there she met a young man and eventually, after an operation to fix a badly twisted leg (due to beatings she suffered as a toddler) they married. Now she has a 4 month old son and is living happily with her husband Dikhomir in a village where he works as a sports activities organiser. Even Mariana now helps out with the children in the village and only gave up her work one week before Ilian was born. It was a real joy to see Mariana and her family and we now know that all the effort, support, worry and prayers have been worth it for this young woman who has been through so much but now has a wonderful future ahead of her.
We made ourway to Bobov Dol this morning where we attended a children's party for familes of prisoners at the jail there. Most have the team have been to a party like this before but for laura and vera this was a new experience and both were moved by the site of hardened prisoners crying as they were reunited with their families for a short time. A local lady played accordian and led the children in some traditional folk songs then Santa arrived and the shoeboxes we had brought for the children were given out. For next year we have been asked if we can put on some entertainment at the same party so we had better get our ideas together! Pics to follow...