Collaboration between reformatory for women in Ohio, USA and children’s hospice in Bloemfontein, South Africa

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22nd August  2014, was a memorable day for 100 women from the Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW) in Marysville, Ohio and a group of children at Sunflower Children’s Hospice in Bloemfontein, South Africa. At 10h00 Ohio time and 16h00 South African time, the ORW choir serenaded the children at Sunflower Children’s Hospice via Skype.

David Brown, who leads the women’s choir, explains in a Facebook post that although the Skype signal in South Africa was not strong which meant the women could not see the children, they could hear them. Fortunately the children could both see and hear the women. 

“The women held sunflowers made of paper plates and popsicle sticks and waved them to the children. They sang and danced for them and sent joy itself across the sky and into the hearts of the children living with terminal illnesses.”

He goes on to say, “This story has power in it. Wonder-working power. These photos are of the children who earlier today had a few more reasons to smile and laugh and forget about the many challenges of every day and sometimes every breath. They are watching the beautiful women at ORW who have walked through every valley you can imagine.” 

Brown ends his popular post with these words: “Nope. It is not as catchy and social-media friendly as an ice bucket challenge. However, it too is about healing: the healing of hearts and minds. It was a memorable morning.”

This is the second time that the children and the women have been given the privilege to connect across the miles and is an initiative that was begun through a friendship between Joan Marston, founder of Sunflower Children’s Hospice and Cathe Kobacker who works with the Harmony Project team on Thursday mornings at Ohio Reformatory for Women.

Joan Marston explains that the women from OWR do community outreach work and many of them get very emotional as they have not seen their own children for some time. “They so enjoy preparing for this,” she says.

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