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The power of touch

Massage therapist Sharon Walker will travel to Uzbekistan in May to massage and help orphaned children. Massage Network Solutions is raising money to help pay for Walker’s trip this spring. - Photo by Rachel Brant
Massage therapist Sharon Walker will travel to Uzbekistan in May to massage and help orphaned children. Massage Network Solutions is raising money to help pay for Walker’s trip this spring.
— image credit: Photo by Rachel Brant

By RACHEL BRANT

Staff writer

Sharon Walker and her colleagues could not believe their eyes.

An 8-year-old girl with a heart problem laid in a crib in the infant room at a Romanian orphanage. She could barely move or speak.

“They were afraid she would die if she was overly excited,” Walker said. “She probably won’t live to be an adult.”

This was just one child Walker met on a previous trip to Romania. The Bremerton licensed massage practitioner will next visit Uzbekistan to lend a helping hand at a government-run orphanage in the country’s capital city, Tashkent.

Walker, a member of Medical Teams International, will travel to the Central Asian country in May with both an occupational and physical therapist. The trio will work with about 320 children at the orphanage teaching and showing them as well as the caregivers the power of touch.

“From what I’ve seen they are behind us in the knowledge of the need of touch and if we can go over and teach them the importance of touch in the development of children it will give those children a better chance at life,” Walker said.

Walker traveled to Romania three times in the past and worked with babies. During this trip, she will work with 5- to 18-year-olds.

“About 50 percent of them are in wheelchairs,” Walker said. “Most of them have a mental handicap.”

Medical Teams International, based in Portland. Ore., sends medical teams all over the world to help in disasters or orphanages to help improve the conditions for the children living there.

Walker’s last trip to Romania was in 2003. She remained on Medical Teams International’s e-mail list and received an e-mail describing the upcoming trip to Uzbekistan. After much thought, Walker decided she wanted to go on the three-week trip to help the orphans of Uzbekistan.

“After I thought about it a while and prayed about it I decided I could do this again,” Walker said.

Walker said she will primarily be working on stretching the children’s muscles. Many of them cannot walk and the seasoned massage therapist said seeing the children in poor health can be difficult, but she knows she’s making a difference just by spending time with them.

“I shed a few tears and still do,” Walker said. “It was hard to leave them but I can only hope my short time there (Romania) did some good.”

Walker said previous groups have gone to orphanages in Uzbekistan and experienced the poor conditions. In the past, there were 60 children for every one child, but through the efforts of different Christian groups, that ratio has been cut in half.

“Caregivers are overworked and can’t do what is needed,” Walker said. “By taking a team over there they’ll have extra help.”

Walker’s previous trips to Romania cost her roughly $2,500 out of her own pocket. She had some help from friends and supporters, but primarily footed the airline ticket, hotel and food costs herself. This year, Massage Network Solutions, a Kitsap County group of massage therapists, hopes to raise the roughly $2,800 needed for Walker’s Uzbekistan trip.

“I am so appreciative of their interest in wanting to do this,” Walker said.

Walker will give a lecture about her upcoming trip at the next Massage Network Solutions meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12 at Bremerton First United Methodist Church. She will show slides from previous Romania trips as well as from other groups’ trips to Uzbekistan.

“I think it’s going to be a very progressive meeting,” said Connie Weisal, Massage Network Solutions vice president.

People can donate money to fund Walker’s trip to Uzbekistan at The Global Bean Coffee Traders in Silverdale from Feb. 11 to Feb. 25. Donations also can be submitted to Kitsap Credit Union made directly to the account set up for Sharon Walker’s Uzbekistan trip. Donations may be submitted to Kitsap Credit Union until the cost of the trip is met or Walker leaves for Uzbekistan in May.

“Over the years Romania has so improved their orphanages and we helped with that,” Walker said. “I hope to do the same with Uzbekistan.”

Massage Network Solutions meeting

Tuesday, Feb. 12, 1 p.m.

Bremerton First United Methodist Church

1150 Marine Drive, Bremerton

Donations for Sharon Walker’s Uzbekistan trip may be made at The Global Bean Coffee Traders in Silverdale from Feb. 11-Feb. 25 or to Kitsap Credit Union in Walker’s name.

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