Dace is my friend Daina's mother. She's a force. You can feel the energy pulsing from her when she is in the room. She was born in Latvia just in time to have her family shattered by war. They fled through Germany with her baby sister smuggled in a suitcase. I don't know what atrocities she experienced but her passion for the orphan children in her home country is endless.
It was Dace who told us about Project 143 and their need for emergency families. She volunteers with them, helping the children while they are here, hosting chaperones and even keeping in touch with Latvian organizations who assist children when they return home. When the children were with us, she provided translation, bought them clothes and babysat one afternoon so we could celebrate a family birthday at a nice restaurant without Tomass tearing around. She had them call her vecmāmiņa, grandmother.
A few weeks ago, Dace called to say that she was visiting Latvia and hoped to visit Mairita, Toms and Tomass while there. You can't imagine the relief we felt knowing that Dace would see them, meet their foster parents and write to us with news.
Almost every day last week, Dace has been sending us little emails with updates. She and her sister were able to call the foster parents and arrange a visit. They stopped by with armloads of gifts from her family and from ours and Dace wrote right away to say that the family was wonderful. Though they live in very small quarters, the family has fostered many children over the years. Dace said that their refrigerator is covered with photos of the orphans they've housed. She said that Tomass hung close to the foster father during the whole two hour visit and that Toms also seemed quite attached to him.
Unfortunately, Mairita, while thrilled to see Dace, wasn't feeling well during the visit. By the time Dace and her sister left, the parents were preparing to take Mairita to a local hospital where she stayed for four days.
Dace visited Mairita at the hospital the next day where she was still in pain and complaining of boredom. Latvian hospitals don't have the funds to put TV's in every room so Mairita had little to do. Mairita was released from the hospital with a vague diagnosis of gastritus, or possibly an ulcer.
An ulcer. She's fifteen-years-old and has born the brunt of worry, the care of her brothers and shunting from home to home after her mother died, then her grandmother. It's no wonder her tummy hurts.
From here, there is so little we can do for her, for them.