The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of Elon University, the U.S. government, or the Peace Corps.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

For my Christmas present (a mere two days before my accident), my parents sent me a "gift certificate" for a week in Crete, Greece, followed by a few days as tour guide around my town in Samokov.

When everything changed after a few hours of skiing, it became apparent that I would no longer be in Bulgaria when this spring vacation arrived. Instead of canceling the trip altogether, we decided to hold out and see if I would be feeling well enough to still travel.

After a few months of frustration and waiting with bated breath, we leave for two weeks TODAY!

I never even got to go back to my apartment after the accident, so I sure didn't get to say goodbye to anyone. If I manage to heal 100% and return to my post within the next 9 months or so to finish my service with the Peace Corps, then my parents will have gotten to meet some of my friends, coworkers and children over there, and if God has other plans and ushers me in another direction, then at least they will have gotten to see a little bit of what I was blessed with for 5 and a half months.

No matter what, this is going to be a relaxing vacation complete with some more healing and family time, and a great chance to play tour guide with my parents in a country I miss desperately.

Hopefully, though, I will be able to remember enough Bulgarian to help my non-Bulgarian speaking parents and non-English speaking friends communicate on some level!

Довиждане за сега!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Camp Project for NGO Svetlina (Samokov, Bulgaria)

Dear friends and family,

    First of all, I want to thank you for your fervent prayer and support as I continue to heal after my skiing accident in late December. It breaks my heart that my work in Bulgaria with the United States Peace Corps was brought to such an abrupt end, and my hope is that even if my path does not lead back to Association Svetlina in Samokov, Bulgaria within the next year, I can still find a way to be a source of encouragement for the children and my Bulgarian and Peace Corps friends there.

    During my short time in the small Eastern European country of Bulgaria, I served as a youth development volunteer and focused on efforts of integration and empowerment among underrepresented youth from high-risk environments. More specifically, I was hosted by a progressive non-governmental organization run by two Bulgarian women with a heart for Roma/Gypsy youth. Each day after school, we lead English, art, and Bulgarian lessons, environmental appreciation activities, game days, and sporting endeavors. Many of the Roma youth drop out of school by the time they reach high school, and marry and start a family soon thereafter, and Association Svetlina encourages academic and social achievement while still aiming to preserve Roma culture.

    My biggest concern after my accident was that the staff at my organization would be unable, due to language barriers, to write the grant to receive funding for our yearly summer camp. "Camp Together We Can Do More," is run entirely by Association Svetlina, and breaches cultural road blocks by inviting equal numbers of Bulgarian and Roma youth to work, learn, and play together for ten days on the Black Sea. Summer camp is a relatively new idea in Bulgaria, not to mention the concept of integrating youths from both ethnic backgrounds is essentially unheard of, and I was greatly anticipating the opportunity to watch the walls of ethnic tension continue to crumble. Another volunteer from a neighboring village in Bulgaria had helped with Association Svetlina's summer camp last year, and she volunteered to assist with the grant writing process when I became unable.

    Even though I will not be able to assist directly with "Camp Together We Can Do More," I would like to do whatever I can to assist the children of Samokov in whatever capacity I am able. For now, this means extending to you the opportunity to become financially and prayerfully invested in this summer program by visiting the following website:

Donating through the Peace Corps website allows your contribution to go straight to supporting "Camp Together We Can Do More," and is tax-deductible. Thank you so much for supporting me so faithfully through your thoughts and prayers, but on behalf of the children and staff of Association Svetlina, thank you for your support of social development in Samokov and Bulgaria at large.


Katie Filkins
(On Behalf of NGO Svetlina)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Oh… and I'm driving. J

"Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn."
- CS Lewis -


A couple Sundays ago, I was able to steal a few moments of quality catch-up time with one of my favorite college students. I've known her for years, and have valued her friendship since we met towards the end of her freshman year of high school and my last, but over the last few years the physical distance between us has granted very few solid heart to heart conversations.

After walking into the fellowship service a few moments late, I found myself immensely distracted by the preceding chat.

It wasn't that we had discussed an earth shattering or especially thought provoking topic, yet her sheer honesty as she examined herself and commented on her own reactions and views on her world right now was absolutely incredible. We've always traded the "spot light" in our time together, but this time I just listened. And grew a bit jealous at her ability to be so genuine.

This is something I have struggled with for many, many years, especially when I work with youth. I fool myself into thinking that that my extra years (….) of experience and retrospect give me some leg up on life. Ha.

My heart has always gravitated towards arenas of service and ministry, and the recurring lesson I have always struggled to learn is not just to give, but to be ready and open to receive (and most often the intangible). Whether you are handing out sandwiches, scrubbing a floor with Brillo pads, or building intentional relationships, it's not always what you have to offer, but what you will take away from any particular exchange or experience.

As I listened to this beautiful girl talk, I envied her ability to just be HONEST.

Something I haven't done since my accident more than three months ago.

Every time I get approached at church by a loved one or curious individual, I put on the "happy face." The one that says I have everything under control and I'm doing ok. The one that since I laughed my way across the ocean with a broken leg won me the title of "trooper." The one that falsely reflects the courage, strength, and faith that people admire.

So maybe for the first time since I got home from my dream job, I'm going to be honest.

I'm terrified. I'm angry. I'm lonely. I'm restless. I'm frustrated. I'm hurting. I'm confused.

But you all knew this long before I did.


And I'm going to be ok.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Yesterday I snuck outside in between spontaneous rain showers and installed brand new, Hawaiin print seat covers into Pleakley in hopes that at my doctor's appointment today I will get the go ahead to get behind the wheel again!

Here's to hoping!

The good news is that my appointment a month ago went extremely well, and it was the first time I could abandon my every other week visit to my doctor's office to get xrays and a new "apparatus." A whole month has gone by since we began to see some improvement in my bone healing process(ok, WE didn't see anything… the trained expert did!), so the idea is that with the bone stimulator having a month to do its thing, and I'm most of the way weight baring, today should help us start (key word…) to pin down a timeline to when I can start seriously considering all of the ideas and decisions incessantly rolling around in this "big head" of mine!

Again, here's to hoping. J