Tuesday, March 16, 2010

On To Dianjiang

We were met at Chongqing airport by the lady I have always known as the assistant director, Director Dai. Xia told me she is actually the party represenatative (no , not that kind of party) at the social welfare institute.(Li Jiang Hong is now assistant director.) She welcomed us and we set out with the driver to Dianjiang. Also joining us was our translator, Wang. He is a student of our former translator, Oriole, who among other things now teaches at the university. He is studying English and was glad to have the opportunity to travel with us. Xia had been our unofficial translator up until that time. It is absolutely exhasting for her to do her work and alsotranslate back and forth ...English to Chinese and Chinese to English. Especially when that is not her job.

We set out for Dianjiang, an approximately 2 hour drive, going between 130 and 140 km per hour the whole way. Not only that, but our luggage was crammed in the trunk and in the backseat was Director Dai, Xia, Krista and Wang while I was scrunched up in the front ( my legs are on the long side!). We were greeted at our hotel by Li Jiang Hong, the business manager also named Li and the woman in charge of foster care at Dianjiang.

After depositing our bags in our rooms, we joined the SWI personnel at a local hot pot restaurant. We were met there by the new SWI director. He used to be at the local Civil Affairs office and oddly enough has the same family name as the previous director. He is Director Gao. He is a friendly and outgoing person and we could see how comfortable his relationship was with the women he worked with. In fact we both also made note of how the women had all been at Dianjiang as long as we could remember and how they seemed to work so well together.

This was a different hot pot than I had ever had as each person had their own individual hot pot on an element in front of them. The food was, as always , delightful and some of the presentation was gorgeous too. This was a time to renew acquaintances and build relationships. Business would not be discussed until the next day.

The next morning we awoke and had breakfast at the hotel. We then met the driver downstairs and drove to our first meeting of the day. We had requested to meet with 5 specific foster children and the first was a little boy whose family is waiting for news that they can come an bring hi home. We were met on the street by him in his foster mom’s arms along with the foster dad. We were also met but another DJ baby who was with her foster mom. I was able to whisper a special message into her ear from her waiting mama in the USA. We followed the couple up to their apartment on the third floor of a building not too far from the orphanage. We were welcomed in and encouraged to remove our shoes and put on slippers. The place was spotless and surprisingly large. There was a sunken living room with nice furniture and a gleaming floor. There were three bedrooms. We played with the kids, took pictures and asked questions for the parents who were waiting to adopt them.

We then left and walked a few blocks down the street to meet with another foster child and her foster mom. The baby was a sweet thing who was obviously shy and looked away. That meeting lasted only about 5 minutes as some locals who of course would have no idea of what we were doing, objected to us taking pictures and were getting quite vocal about it. A group of men were starting to congregate and we were rushed off onto the car so as not to create a big fuss. So we saw this little one and talked a bit bit did not have as long a time as with the others.

We went back to the orphanage and there were met by another beautiful Dianjiang child and her foster mother. Because that child is going to a family in Canada, Krista put a Canada sticker on her and took pictures. the child waved and blew kisses and most precious of all, when her foster mom would tell her to, she would join her little hands together and bow.

Soon another family joined us. They have two foster children and also with them was their young son and the grandmother who lived with them. You could see their love and affection for the children. The girls were both wearing ballon animal backpack. You will have to look at the pictures because I don’t think I can adequately explain them. Too cute tho. The older girl who has delayed development was just delighted beyond belief to see pictures of herself in my digital camera, and the younger one, who reminds me of my Dianjiang girl, was very happy to let me practice my sad little bit of Mandarin and imitate my English.

All the kiddos were happy to receive the yogurt drinks we bought for them, although a few made the expected mess!! But that makes it all the more fun, right?

The children were all obviously well loved and cared for. They were happy and you could see the attachment to the foster mom/parents. they sought out the foster parents for comfort...just like they should. The staff told us they have over time weeded out any foster families they have not felt provided good care and kept those who have. For these children, being in a foster home is the next best thing to having a permanent family. It is tons better than being in the orphanage. We are so glad to be able to help provide this kind of care.

Currently there are 28 children from Dianjiang in foster care. Dianjiang Kids sponsors 25 of those. Sponsorships are available if you are interested in helping out with this program and making a difference in the life of a child. ( can sponsor a child for $480 annually or donate what you can and your donation will be joined with others to sponsor a child. As a sponsor you will receive quarterly reports and pictures of your sponsored child. And you will know you have helped a child get a good start.

Kelly coordinates foster are for Dianjiang Kids International and would be happy to talk to anyone who is interested in the program.

That afternoon, we were thrilled to be able to go to the country side to enjoy the annual rapeseed blossom festival. We ate lunch outside a rural home which during this festival, becomes a restaurant. Over 20,000 people were estimated to be attending the festival that day. Pictures really do not do the scenery justice.

We were able to share the pictures, letters and books DJ parents had sent us to give to the orphanage. It was fun to watch the staff ooh and ahh and call out to each other to point to a child they recognized. They were particularly thrilled with the calendar. Thanks Lionel for all your hard work!

The director of the Social welfare institute. Director Gao told me that they really appreciate all that Dianjiang Kids International does for the children at the orphanage. He says there are currently between 10 to 20 children abandoned at Dianjiang annually. A far cry from just a few years ago. Most of those children have special needs.

Director Gao and the other staff made sure to say they hope to continue our relationship and that they are aware that they have a huge responsibility to us to run the program well and be sure the children are well cared for.

Overall Krista and I were very impressed with the foster care program. We hope it can continue to run in the future. For us, its all about the kids.

Moya Smith
Sponsor a child in foster care or in our Gracie's Room program
YOU can make a difference in the life of a child!!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Photos from Luo He

Lily’s Orphan Care Centre - LOCC Henan

After the morning at Xu Cheng, we went for lunch accompanied by Director Cheng and Vice Director Li of Xin Xiang orphanage, the Director and 2 Vice Directors for Xu Cheng SWI, the Director and Vice Director of Luo He orphanage. It was a charming place where food was ordered by looking at prepared plates that was actually cooked outside. There were jars of liquor (rice wine) lined up inside the door each filled with fasinating things, such as seahorses and snakes and chili peppers!

After lunch we headed out for a 90 min drive to Lou He. There we would visit CCAI’s Lily’s Orphan Care Centre (LOCC). It’s concept is like that of Gracie’s Room except the kids in that program have care for 24 hours a day. They get special care from specially trained nannies (by the way, CCAI offers this training free of charge for the other care takers in this orphanage, but no one has taken up this offer).

There are currently 25 children in LOCC with 17 care givers working 5 days weekly in 12 hour shifts covering 24 hours a day 7 days a week. There is 1 large room with cribs lining the room, there are 2 small rooms off this main room. 1 is a sick room with an incubator (the only incubator we ever saw in all of the orphanages by the way) with a crib and oxygen, it also had medicine lined up neatly and in vials on the counter. The LOCC pays a local doctor to come to see the children.

The next room is an office with a desk and computer where Cenxi, the LOCC supervisor does her paper work. Cenxi travelled with us and Xia to see the other orphanages. She helps Xia take pictures and information on babies whose paperwork should be prepared for adoption. She is a college graduate who speaks some english and obviously has a passion for what she does. She works only day shifts but often travels with children to appointments and surgeries. When she is at the appointments, another LOCC employee acts as supervisor. We saw her interact with the babies and she knows each one very well.

In that room, there was a LOCC worker folding diapers. There are folded in a very special way to insure that the cloth diaper does not impede the children’s movements. At XinXiang the kid’s diapers were very thick between their legs making mobility difficult. We were thrilled to learn that Vice Director Li asked to be taught how to fold them, so this could be implemented at XinXiang. They are so eager to make the lives of the children better. Sometimes its the simple stuff.

The third room was actually 2 rooms with an open doorway between them. Each room had a play area and cribs. The first room has kids about 12 months of age, several repaired cl/cp and one beautiful little boy with albinism. The kids were being held and fed by the nannies along with an American volunteer, Glenn. Glenn, along with his wife,Pam and 2 daughters (4 and 6) adopted from China, were spending 3 months volunteering at the orphanage. We met the whole family and what a great adventure they are on.

The smaller room had a few smaller kids (approx 3 months old) and some about 6 to 9 months. One child just had surgery on his cleft lip just 2 days before and he was looking great. He wasn’t yet back on solid food but was standing at the bar in the play area. He and Moya played the world famous baby game “You give me the ball, and I’ll throw it for you to go get and give to me again..and again...”

At the back of that room were 2 smaller rooms similar to the ones in the front room. One was used as a bathing / changing area and the other held a small fridge and sink and stove as well as some shelves. Fresh food, including eggs and vegetables are brouggt in daily and the children’s food is prepared here. (the children in LOCC only)

They have a system with specially coded tags for each child’s bottle so they can keep track of how many they have had. After the kids are there lunch they were given a bottle of water. It is very important for hydration, but this is time comnuming and very few orphanages do this.

Krista and I stayed in these 2 rooms and played with the kids. Krista was holding a baby with cl/cp, when they came around with water bottles, the ayis offered Krista the bottle (a special one for cleft affected babies) This bottle works differently because the baby cannot suck so there is a rhythmic squeezing of the bottle to let the baby swallow, breathe, swallow etc.. The ayis knelt down beside Krista and very patiently showed her how to do this. This was the Krista first time ever feed a baby with cl/cp and although the ayis was patient. Krista was frightened that the baby would get upset at not being fed properly by her, so the ayis took the baby and gently fed her the bottle!

One thing that we both noticed, was that when a baby would get upset, the ayis would immediately rush over to them and pick them up and rock them. We would see 1 ayis, with a baby in her arms sleeping as she was gently rocking another beside her. The whole time she was smiling and cooing. (this was not the case in the other SWI)

We left at nap time and toured the baby rooms in the regular part of the orphanage. We went to a room where maybe 6 or 7 children about 9 to 12 months of age, were in walkers. There were no toys visable in the room, the room was cold and breezy and the ayis just stood around. One little one with Down’s Syndrome was rocking back and forth in her walker in an attempt to self soothe. Cenxi is going to try to get her moved into LOCC. It is so sad that all of the children cannot get the superior care offered by LOCC (which is literally around the corner on the same floor) and bloom like the kids in LOCC!

“All they need is to be fed, held and played with,” Xia said memorably “it’s so simple”

Another room had older children, with very severe special needs, prehaps 8 of them all lined up against the wall in potty chairs. There was a TV at the end of the room. Three children lay in beds and 1 child was in a chair in front of the TV. All ranged in age from 6 to 10. It’s too hard for us to write more, we only saw them for a minute.. but this is their lives!

The final room we visited at Luo He had 6 babies in it. There were 2 ayis who were trying on jeans when we walked in (obviously surprising them). 4 babies in bouncy chairs, perhaps 5 months old. They were 2 x 2 facing each other, covered with a large blanket. Xia and Cenxi looked at each child’s special need, and took notes to encourage the orphanage to get their paper work sent to Beijing for adoption. One child had a limb difference with her arm ending with a small deformed hand at her elbow, one child had microtia and another had club feet and hands.

1 crib held a sleeping 2 month old who had been jaundiced and the other held a child with cl/cp. We stayed there a bit interacting with the babies. Those babies could all find adoptive families, and they all should have the level of care that LOCC offers.

We left that day emotionally exhausted. We had been to 2 orphanages in 1 day and seen many many kids. We were impressed by the LOCC and feel with the right support - including nannies paid well enough to stay in their jobs and be consistant care givers, and including 24 hour Gracie’s Room care, of our XinXiang kids - our Gracie’s room could be that good. We think XinXiang orphanage is trying their best to work with us to help the children but some changes need to be made with the program. We were emotionally exhausted by what we saw, by inspired by what could be.....

What Dianjiang kids could do....

Please keep all the children in your prayers.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Photos from Xu Chang SWI in Henan

Lou He, Henan

Let the good times toll..... (as seen on a sign in Luo He)

We left XinXiang after breakfast, the director for XinXiang was coming with us to visit these other Henan orphanages. We were headed for Xu Cheng, it was about an hour north of XinXiang. This was a new facility and apparently a huge improvement over the former space - including a huge improvement in care provided.

We took an elevator to the top floor and visited an infant room. We were allowed to take lots of pictures. There were several newly arrived babies, including one who had been left just the day before, she still had the remnants of after birth in her hair and ears. She had a large tumor on the base of her skull that was almost as large as her head. She will not live long.

We other babies with cleft lips and palate, spina bifida, and limb differences, each one a precious jewel.

We went to room after room, Xia was doing a magnificent job seeking out those babies who could be adopted and advocating for their papers to be prepared for adoption. Beautiful children, a boy with albinism, a sweet girl with down syndrome children with limb differences. Oh my heart!! We were able to hold and briefly love on these kids. How lucky any family would be to have them.

and there was heart break.... we were separated from a room with older toddlers and children by large glass windows. One child was sitting up in his bed. So Beautiful. He waved and Krista waved back. She blew a kiss and he blew one back. Over and over again! You could see so much from his eyes!!

We noticed here and also in XinXiang way more boys than girls in the orphanage. Xia explained that this is unique to Henan. More boys than girls are abandoned. There are also a high number of special needs children here.

We went on to a room with school aged children probably ranging from 7 to 12 years of age. there were sitting at desks when we went in. One little girl there is special to Xia and we could see why. She held her hand out and greeting us in english, “hello” she said, so softly. She is 9 years old and so tiny. She has trouble walking. Krista squatted down and held out her hands to this beautiful little girl, and she walk to her, hands out stretched. “goodbye” she said clearly as we left, it was hard to walk away. If anyone is interested in more information about this little girls, please ask...

Our last stop at Xu Cheng was a dorm within the orphanage, for the older kids. There was a local film crew that interviewed us. They were doing a story about foreigners that come so far away and case so much and that locals should do the same.

The rooms were bright and clean and the kids seemed happy. One little boy we talked to was orphaned when his parents died. When asked if he liked it there, he replied

“yes, it is my home”. There was another boy who was about 8 years old and had the most mischievous all boy grin and a sweet 11 year old girl with cerebral Palsy who wrote her name for us, and showed us a pictured that she had colored.

We left Xu Cheng and headed out for yet another multi dish meal which again included hosts toasting with shots of local rice wine and the culturally necessary drinking if the shots. Luckily it appeared to be .53% so it didn’t seem to have much effect.

Photos from Gracies Room Xinxiang & New SWI

More from Xinxiang

After we left the children in Gracie’s room we drove with the director and vice director and Xia to the construction site of the new SWI. That site will have an administrative building, building for the elderly and disabled adults as well as the orphanage.

We toured the orphanage and it is well laid out. Instead of single rooms there are pairs of rooms that the children will play in one area and sleep in the other room next door. This would work well for the concept of Gracie’s Room as currently are with their Ayis in Gracie’s room 6 days a week from 7:30am to 11:30am and again from 2:30 to 6pm. During the Ayis lunch break and from 6pm to 7:30am they go to their cribs in an area away from the room.

The director told us that she would like to have a Gracie's room at this new facility. We of course agree but will have to look at costs. We will have some capital start-up new construction costs in this new facility. Plus we are seeing that the Ayis being hired for Gracie’s Room are not staying in the job longer than a few months. We have raised their salaries once but they are still not competitive. It looks like we need to bring the salaries to about 1000$ per month which include insurance. That is a whopping 142$. That will attract quality workers who will appreciate their jobs and be committed to them. CCCI provides training for the Ayis but with such frequent staff turn over we no longer have well trained staff. Also with high staff turn over there are 2 important outcomes.

1. The babies are not gaining secure attachment with the care givers, learning trust and love and

2. the care givers do not really know each baby in their care.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Computer problems...

Krista and Moya are having computer problems in China. They can only get internet for a few secs at a time. They wanted me to let everyone know that they should have better internet tonight and will be posting lots of information and pictures then.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Xinxiang Photos

Our Visit to Xinxiang

We, Krista from New Brunswick and Moya from Denver met in Beijing after close to 20 hours of plane travel, we've arrived in Zhengzhou Henan. We took a pass on taking the bus into town from the airport and took a cab to the Holiday Inn Express. (It was 10pm) There we found a note waiting for us, from the wonderful Xia, from CCAI, along with 2 much appreciated apples for a snack!
We were to meet Xia at 9am the following day to go to XinXiang. Up showered and down for breakfast!! We were starving after not eating well for the past 2 days. Xia arrived and we discovered that we would be staying at XX that night, and had to run to our room and quickly check out. We loaded up the car (and gave our driver a hernia trying to lift the heavy suitcase full of vitamins and toys..) and drove the longest way possible to XX. With a population of 6 hundred million, most of them must of been on the road this morning, as the traffic was bumper to bumper! and sometimes pedestrian to bumper..
After lots of new construction and wheat fields we arrived in XX, a town of approximately 600 thousand. We were met by the orphanage's assistant director, who brought us into the board room and served us tea, apples and lots and lots of candies!! The orphanage director was in a meeting and would be joining us after lunch.
The Gracie's Room nannies were on their lunch break so it was decided that we would eat first then visit. We had a great meal, in a private room in a small restaurant which included fish, mushroom soup, and eggplant in fresh tomato juice and deep-fried dumplings stuffed with the local vegetable.
After lunch we check into our hotel, and got to use a western toilet!! whew!! We quickly headed back to the orphanage to meet the director and FINALLY meet the babies!
We were greeted by the director and she gave a speech about how much she appreciates DJ Kids International and how our work with them has made the kids healthy and happier and many more kids are being adopted and also so many more kids are getting paper ready to be placed for adoption.
The Henan government is strongly encouraging orphanage directors to send more babies file to Beijing for adoption. Henan has gone from 8 international adoptions in 2006 to close to 300 in 2009 and re hoping for 400 this year. XX orphanage building is over 50 years old, they are currently building a new orphanage on the side of town. They will consolidate several local orphanages to this new building. They will also be able to take in more children. There hope is for more children to be internationally adopted.
We were invited to visit the new building later in the day and the director expressed hope to have a Gracie's Room there.We went up to the 3rd floor and through a doorway covered by a curtain, to see all the beautiful Gracie's Room kids!!

They were sitting on a padded floor, crawling around. As we arrived, they gave them little crackers. We figured it was to get them to sit quietly for our visit. The room was bright, and cold!! Their little faces and hands were red from the breeze coming in the open window! The room had 2 small bins of toys, we noticed that many more interactive toys are needed. We took time to visit with each child and talk about their special need and whether they were available for adoption. We were delighted to know that many of them already have their papers sent to Beijing. We were THRILLED to learn that one child already has a family waiting for her!! She was a sweetheart.
We were both impressed and how easy the kids were to smile and although they were timid at first, they were quick to warm up. They all loved having their little red faces touched and stroked. When we reached into their sleeves to touch their cold hands they would grab onto our fingers tight!!
The nannies were so proud to show a little boy that has cerebral palsy could walk. Another little one made us both laugh when she would imitate Moya shaking her head saying NO!! It was so cute. There was a little girl with Down's that would giggle every time Moya would pretend to let her fall then quickly catch her again. One little girl, who is blind, sat on my lap and when the nanny called me mama, she laid her head down into my neck and cooed. She sounded like a little dove.
A toddler who was developmentally delayed was curious and loved to look at pictures of himself on the camera and he kept trying to eat Moya's watch! Each one of the children in Gracie’s room is beautiful, pictures can't capture their spirits. The nannies care and love each and everyone of them. It was obvious. They knew everything about every child there and even some that were no longer in Gracie's room. There were 2 babies in particular that made us sad. One little fellow has been in and out of the hospital fighting an infection and the other has a very severe special need that will limit her development. She is getting the love and care that she deserves in Gracie's room. We distributed the toys, every child received a new toy! Much to their delight, but we noticed things are the same here in China as in the USA and in Canada. The babies ended up playing with the boxes!!
We also distributed vitamins (and careful instructions) and toothbrushes that were donated.

As we said goodbyes the nannies encourage the children to wave bye bye! It was very sweet. We pasted classrooms with several children in each class, each at their own desk, either learning math or music and we happened to see a Gracie's room graduate, signing and smiling and learning!!

We will post more tomorrow about the new building. It has been a long and exhausting day and it's almost 1am here.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Leaving for China tomorrow.....

Bags are packed, documents all together and, the hardest part, getting ready to say good bye to my sweet little and big kiddoes fro 10 days. Krista and I meet in Beijing airport and four after we arrive in Beijing we will head to Zhengzhou in Henan.

A friend of mine asked if DianjiangKids International is paying for this trip and I thought I should let you all know how this works in case you were wondering. Krista and I are paying our own expenses. Totally. 100%. With DianjiangKids, all the work is volunteer so whether it’s Ginnie doing our webpage, Emma helping out with the blog and doing the XinXiang Kids webpage, Lionel coordinating our big calendar project or Kelly doing foster care reports and Krista doing Gracie’s Room reports, all are volunteers. Great volunteers I might add, who make what we do for the kids, possible. With DKJ Kids 100% of donations go to the kids. The P.O. Box is paid for by a volunteer. Postage? Paid by a volunteer. All money donated goes to the kids.

I will be sure to post photos of the vitamins and thermometers we are bringing with us for the kids. And of the clothes we buy in country. What a blessing to be able to help these children. And how blessed we are by the support we get from family, friends and fellow adoptive parents.

Please offer comments once we start posting from China. We might need a few words of encouragement from home while on this adventure.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Donations for the Trip

Moya is collecting donations to buy supplies for the orphanages when she gets to China. She will buy vitamins, toys and equipment for Xinxiang. She will also be bringing toys to another Henan orphanage with no programs. She is also buying clothes for kiddo's in foster care at Dianjiang and kids at XinXiang. To donate click on the "Chip In" widget in the sidebar. Every little bit goes a long way, even you can only donate $5 or $10 dollars. Thanks for your help.

Monday, March 1, 2010

We leave for China one week from today...

Krista and I are very excited. We leave for China one week from today. We will land in Beijing and then get a flight to Zhengzhou. We will get the bus to the hotel in the city and meet Xia from Chinese Children’s International there. The next day we will go to XinXiang to see our Gracie’s Room for the first time. Gracie’s Room has been in operation for over 18 months now and I cannot wait to visit the children and the Ayis. We plan then to visit two more orphanages in the area before going to Dianjiang where my Andie and Krista’s Lily are from. We will meet the foster families there and are excited to visit a foster home or two. Plus we get to look for a few special children whose parents are already waiting for travel approval to come get them. So stay tuned, and look for our pictures. I will be bringing a suitcase of clothes to the kids at XinXiang and we will go shopping in Dianjiang for clothes for the foster children. Please follow along as we will send e-mails to the wonderful Emma ( mom to A Dianjiang kids and a XinXiang kid) who will post them on this blog. We will also send photos and maybe even video. Look forward to sharing. We ask for the blessing of your prayers and good wishes as we travel to China and visit these amazing children.