Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lily Orphan Care Center LuoHe

Today we visited the Lily Orphan Care Center at LuoHe. This project is how we hope to see Gracie's Room being run. It is a 24 hour program with well trained caregivers and children divided in rooms by age. It was amazing to hold the babies ( especially a teeny tiny one who was obviously born prematurely). We played with the one year olds and the spent time with the toddlers who obediently lined up against the wall on their stools to listen to music. Too cute.
We also got a chance to tour the rest of the orphanage to see how the rest of the kids live. It is very difficult to see some of it. The disabled older children live very sad lives. Certainly gives one a sense of great powerlessness to witness this without the ability to change it.
We had a delicious lunch in the orphanage cafeteria and the headed out on another two hour drive; this time back to Zhengzhou. We visited the Zhengzhou orphanage and another Lily Orphan Care Room where we saw more happy babies. A little one with albinism was sweet and we got to see Xia delivers package and picture to a little boy who will meet his family soon. So cute to see him kiss the picture while his caregiver pointed out his mama, baba and brothers and sisters.
We then visited another floor at Zhengzhou orphanage to see the Show Hope project.  Again, this is a project wherein babies get special care from their caregivers. It is obviously a well funded project and the babies seem very loved. Each baby has a lovely crib with netting at the top and what looks to be homemade quilts.
Back to our hotel in Zhengzhou for a rest before an important lunch tomorrow.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Hello from China

Wednesday was our last day at XinXiang,After breakfast we headed to the orphanage but it took us a while to get there because there was an annual temple festival in the street. Once we got to the orphanage, we heard fireworks and even a marching band. Moya ran out to the street to get pictures and Ian got video. It was a really neat neighborhood experience. We spent time with the children and Krista gave the nannies a lesson in how to use the cloth diapers we brought and how to be sure each child had access to his/ her fingers. The kids are so bundled up, many of the little ones cannot get to their fingers. It was amazing to see the difference in the little blind girl with the ability to reach her fingers...she just blossomed. Sometimes, it is the simple things.
Before we left we caught sight of older kids in another part of the orphanage who were spending too much time on potty chairs. Some day maybe we can effect even more change. It is hard to see children not cherished or even treated humanely. We had a farewell lunch and meeting with the orphanage director. Our goal as the orphanage moves to the new building next month, is to hire more staff and turn Gracie 's Room into a 24 hour a day program. We went to the new building and picked out rooms with lots of light to be our new space. We are so excited to see the decorations and toys we brought brighten up a clean, spacious room. The expanded staff of nannies will be trained by staff from CCAI's Lily Orphan Care room at LuoHe Orphanage.
We drove two hours after lunch to get to LuoHe. We had dinner with officials from the local government and orphanage and a deputy director from the provincial Civil Affairs office. This is important as connections and relationships in China are so important to our ability to help the children. We are so grateful to CCAI and Xia Zhong for their support and leadership in our projects.
Tomorrow : to visit projects and LuoHe and Zhengzhou orphanages.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Xinxiang Visit Update

HI everyone!

We just finished spending the afternoon loving on lots of babies. We kissed, hugged, fed, played and even got peed on!  I am going to make a file called Gracie's Room March 2012 for our pictures.

It was an amazing experience today. The room which was void of interactive toys and color, quickly turned into a rainbow as I took toys and playmats out of my bag and handed them around. I truly felt like Santa Claus, I got choked up as each child's face lite up as I passed out toys.

Cathy was a pro at assembling the activity gyms, and play mats and feeding the cleft affected babies with the new bottles, Angela was the baby whisperer, and quickly had them asleep in her arms singing softly to them. Ian (when his camera wasn't in his hands) was the human ferris wheel, lifting them into the air with squeals of delight. Moya the eagle eye, was the voice and eyes of Gracie's Room, looking to see where we can place toys and bottles, talking with director all the while with a baby in her arms, Andi (her 8yr old daughter) was a great Jie Jie (big sister) to all the babies, tossing balls and teaching them how to play with the toys, and I tried to be the babies advocate, making sure files and babies matched with diagnosis, and birth dates, if we felt a baby was sick, I made notes to have the baby receive medical care, I explained to the nannies why the toys were important for the development of muscles, brain and motor skills.

We were quite the crew, and all worked well together. The nannies were at first reluctant and shy at all the toys and mats coming out, but once Cathy placed a child on the mat and within seconds she started to bat at the toys and shake her legs and laugh, the nannies were accepting and started to place babies onto the play mats, and place toys into the hands of the little ones. For some of the older (2 to 3 yrs) kids, the interactive toys were a big hit, like the shape sorter, xylophone and the ball drop.

We also visited a classroom with around 7 kids and a teacher. One of the children, a little girl, is being adopted very soon and was actually taken out to have her pictures done for her passport. I managed to quickly measured her foot for her mom and it is tiny!!! ( only about 4 inches long) She is a cutie and was all smiles for me! Earlier in the day we spent an hour at a foster care home, meeting 3 children and all the foster parents, there were 2 boys and 1 girl. OH MY! So much fun! The kids were so cute, and obviously cherished by their foster parents. We could clearly see the benefits of foster care. They shared drinks and treats with us, and we shared chocolates with them!

We got great video and photos of the visit. I played with the little girl (who is being adopted very very soon) and although she was shy of me at first, she warmed up and by the end of the visit, would run into my runs laughing so hard, she was drooling!! It was a hoot!  The little 4 year boy recited a poem for us and we have it on video. He is delightful! Oh, by the way, if your child comes home with cavities, blame Cathy, as she was handing out bubblegum lollipops and chocolate to all the kids!

We had a great day and I'll upload photos very soon.

Krista Dolan
Director of Gracie's Room

Monday, March 5, 2012

Off to XinXiang

The van from the orphanage arrived to pick us up at the hotel and we were sure we would not all fit with our luggage. You see there was the driver and translator, plus Cathy, Angela, Ian, Krista, Moya and her daughter , Andie. Plus two duffel bags of donations, 4 large suitcases of donations, two carry ons, Ian's camera equipment, each of us had a backpack and four large boxes with baby gyms -made in China but brought from US ( can't buy them here). Whew and we got it all in. Not that it was safe or would have been okay at home. There was no seeing out the back and even the view from the middle seats to front was completely blocked. But we made it!

We were brought to the hotel and settled in and after an hour, our translator, Zhang, came to get us. We thought we were off to the orphanage but he brought us to a room in the hotel where the director and assistant director were. It was a gorgeous welcome lunch with much great food ; all beautifully presented. The most striking was the whipped yam with blueberry sauce which looked like the tops of three twirled ice cream cones with blueberry sauce, Delicious too! The clear square noodles which were almost gelatinous and served with a lot of garlic and peanuts was also a favorite.
After our meal, it was finally time for what we were waiting for: babies!!!!
We went to Gracie's room noticing there were new mats on the floor ( we had bought some in Zhengzhou, having noticed in pictures that they needed to be replaced). We were immediately fully immersed in beautiful kids. We were snuggling babies, playing with the toddlers and asking questions of the ayis. A reporter from the local paper came and interviewed Moya and there were some pictures taken of the whole group with nannies. We hope to get a copy of that issue!!

Krista , our Gracie's Room coordinator, went through each file we have for kids in the program according to our January reports. We asked for questions and clarifications and also asked about each child whose waiting parents had asked us to. And of course took plenty of photos.

Tomorrow we will visit a foster home ( of a child who has a family waiting in the US). We had thought since she was in foster care, we would not get to see her and check on her for her parents. Now we will meet foster parents and see her in their home. Hopefully we can find out some things that will aid this little one's transition to her forever family.
Dumpling dinner and then off to bed. More tomorrow from XinXiang!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

We are in China

Cathy, Moya and Andie met each other in Beijing on Friday evening after a very ( very) long day of travel and travelled on to Zhenzhou, Henan. Our travel mates did not show and we found out in Zhengzhou that their first flight had been cancelled and a storm made them miss their connection to Beijing. They joined us 24 hours later.That first day, we travelled up the road to Wal Mart. The desk clerk had directed us to Manhattan Street. Hmmm...really? Maybe we misheard?  But we walked up the block and sure enough, there was a large statue of a bull just like the one on Wall Street. So we found Manhattan street...and Wal-Mart. We bought some floor mats for Gracie's Room and headed back to the hotel. We will buy other orphanage supplies in XinXiang as we are weighed down by donations now.
That evening we headed back up that way for dinner and passes a square with many people dancing, Andie garnered quite a bit of attention perhaps because she was with two Caucasian women. She has had a few chances to practice her Chinese.
Sunday morning we headed out to Longman Grottoes to see the many Buddhas carved in stone centuries ( and centuries) ago. There was one particularly dramatic cave called the ten thousand Buddha cave where there was one enormous carving of Buddha and then thousands of Buddhas only 4 cm high carved in the rock.
Upon returning to the hotel, we were met by Rebekka from Swallow's Nest foster homes run by ex pats and English teachers Clay and Pam who have four foster home here in Zhengzhou currently caring for 33 children. We visited the home with eight two-year-olds. Now there was some energy,!! Every one of those children-all identified as special needs-is precious! At Swallow's Nest, they receive loving care and nurturing that shows in their playfulness and energy. Just before we left,  one enterprising boy was on his back on the floor, making his own music by banging his feet on the piano. Within minutes, three of his friends had joined him. Quite clever, these sweet things. Rebekka took time to answer our questions. We were thrilled to learn three of these children will join their forever families in the next few months.
After a perfect meal of dumplings and noodle soup in the hotel restaurant, we hit the sack. Tomorrow we head to XinXiang. I can't wait to see the kids!!