She adds, "If you can reach the families while they are here, or the translator, and be able to spread the love of the gospel to them - and if they go home and carry that back to their family members and you start hearing from your transports that go in say they met a group that came last year, hearing the difference in their lives from what they were before they came here - it is really a testimony that you actually have accomplished what you set out to do."

 

In addition to transporting critically ill children to North America for care, Samaritan's Purse is also providing doctors and hospitals overseas with the equipment and training needed to diagnose heart defects and effectively treat sick children in their own countries.

 

The Children's Heart Project got its start when Samaritan's Purse, working in Bosnia in 1997, found many children suffering from congenital heart defects who could not be adequately treated because the country's ethnic war had damaged hospitals and equipment and forced many doctors to flee. Today the project has moved beyond Bosnia into Kosovo and Mongolia with future plans to expand into other areas of the world where treatment is unavailable.

 

As of January 2003, The Children's Heart Project has helped save the lives of more than 175 children including:

 

Anuujin Duulim, a 7-month-old girl from Mongolia, arrived in Rochester, Minn. in February 2001, critically ill, suffering from a heart condition that would end her young life if not treated quickly. Two other critically ill children, Erdembat Lkhagvasuren and Uranchimeg Ganbold, accompanied Annujin to Rochester for surgery. With aid from Samaritan's Purse and surgery provided by the Mayo Clinic, all three are now healthy children living in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

     

Blerta Morina lives with her extended family of more than 30 members in a two-room house. Her family home was burned during the war and they are working to rebuild, but without employment this is no easy task. Blerta was brought to Nashville, Tenn. for life saving heart surgery in June 2002. This was the first time Vanderbilt University Medical Center worked alongside Samaritan's Purse to help save children from war torn and under privileged countries. Blerta is now back in Kosovo leading a healthy, vibrant life since her surgery.

 

Rrahim Shalaj was born in the woods of Kosovo, where his mother had fled from the war that took her home and her husband. Doctors at their refugee camp could tell from Rrahim's blue-tinted skin that he had a serious heart defect, but they had neither the equipment nor the expertise for the surgery he desperately needed. Then in January 2000, Samaritan's Purse brought him to Minneapolis, where he was the first child from Kosovo to benefit from the Children's Heart Project. Within days after surgery, 16-month-old Rrahim was standing for the first time, and soon he was happily back home.