Tuesday, April 28, 2015

It's Your Turn, Andy!

When we were in China we got to tell Andy the fabulous news that he has a family! (If you are not familiar with his story you can read about it here, here, and here.) It has been a story with a lot of twists and turns, and even though Andy did not know about any of the things leading up to this moment, we did, so it made it even more special to be able to tell him that he will have a family.

Giving him the gift sent by his family. Gongzhan  is explaining everything to him.

And his reaction was the best! He just couldn't quit smiling! Even after we were not talking with him anymore and he was just by himself in the room he had this huge smile on his face. It wasn't there when he came into the room, but it sure was by the time he left!

Here is what he thought about it!

Posing with his family's photo

A gift from Chelsea. She remembered that he loves Ultraman.

This boy has captured so many hearts! He is so deserving of a loving family! It's your turn now, Andy! We wish you every happiness!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Wrapping It Up

I'm sitting in my hotel room in Beijing (yes, the same hotel most Gladney families stay in here). I just went down and enjoyed my last wonderful breakfast for this trip. I ate slowly and enjoyed it to the fullest. I'm ready to go home, but I'm not ready to leave. Every time I return to this beautiful, amazing country it feels more familiar and welcoming.




I reflect back over the places we have been, the children we have met, and the sights we have seen. I cannot wait to tell you more in the coming weeks and months. I can't wait to introduce these new little people to you who have taken up residence in my heart. I can't wait for you to fall in love with them, as I already have. And I can't wait to see them joining their families, one by one.





There have been high moments and low moments in the past two weeks. Our hearts have been lifted and our hearts have been crushed by the things we have seen. There is a great need for families to adopt all of these many, many children. We saw close to 200 children on this trip. I know many of them will still be here the next time I return. If ever you have thought about adoption or know of anyone who has, now is a great time to sign up and get your paperwork turned in so that you are in a good place to be matched as these children's files are completed. Please contact April Uduhiri at april.uduhiri@gladney.org for information about adopting our precious kids!

I cannot leave China without thanking some of the fabulous people who make our travels easy and enjoyable. They are so dedicated and caring, they take all of the stress out of the travel so that we can focus on the children. Oh, and they are also great with the children.

Rocky


Ashley

Wendy

Ms. Zhou


I need to get everything packed for my trip home. I came with two bulging suitcases and I'm returning with everything (including the second suitcase) easily fitting into one. Most of the things left here were donations and gifts from many of you. Again, thank you for joining and supporting us in this effort.




See you on the other side!

-Erin

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Fuzhou {And the Superkids Team Drops Like Flies}

Wow! What a day yesterday was!

We went to the Fuzhou orphanage in the morning. We were met by very sweet staff and directors who had prepared carefully for our arrival. It was our first time there. They had prepared signs welcoming us and served us tea and snacks.



As they started to bring the babies in we looked at each other, impressed. These babies looked so well cared for! And there were lots of cute babies and kids, forty-one, to be exact. Which was all wonderful.







BUT...

It started with Tanna and Keely in the morning before we left the hotel (Keith had his turn a couple of day ago), they were not feeling too well and knew it was going to be a hard day. A couple of hours later it hit Nancy and Darla. I'll let your imaginations fill in the rest. Just think of squattie potties and extreme stomach issues. I shouldn't need to say more. as the day wore on Erin and Gongzhan felt less and less well. By the time we finished the long day and mandatory dinner with orphanage officials April was the only one left standing.

Gongzhan toasting April.

Taken out of the window at the orphanage. It was so pretty!

Thankfully we are now finished with what we need to do. I've got to say. I'm proud of everyone. It was hard, but everyone dug deep and did what needed to be done.






We are all still weak and washed out today, but better. We separate to begin wending our separate ways home this afternoon. What a wonderful two weeks it has been!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Wheelchair for Taylor- An Epic Journey

Keely’s famous last words “It is surprisingly easy to travel with a wheelchair internationally.”

It started with a frantic search a few weeks before we left, to find a wheelchair for Taylor. The Superkids team met her a few years ago and as she has grown, it is increasingly difficult for her to get from one location to another.  We needed to find something.  And we got one just in time, thanks to the donation from the Children’s Institute in Pittsburgh.  We thought that was the hard part… it wasn’t.

Keely brought the chair on the airline and straight through customs. We thought that was the hard part… it wasn’t.  This chair traveled with us in the back seat of a taxi in Shanghai and an open trunk as we raced through Ping Xiang. Each time we finagled it into these tiny cars, we thought that was the hard part… it wasn’t.

It came out of the international flight and a domestic flight a few days later slightly wounded. One of the bolts that connect the frame to the seat back had come loose.   The team was unfazed—this would not be a problem.  Man, were we wrong.

You see, the challenge was, the bolts in the wheelchair are SAE (or as we learned they say here in China, “inch”). Not metric.  Our search for a fitting bolt strangely started as we dropped our laundry off around the corner of the hotel.  As we each placed our items on the counter—a stately woman entered and immediately began passionately talking to Gongzhan.  We got a little nervous—had we done something wrong?  No, in fact, we hadn’t.  Ms. Jane as we came to know her was the proud owner of the laundry facility, and she couldn’t be more thrilled that we were there.  She not only did our laundry, but immediately took the bolt and insisted we go shopping—she would find a replacement bolt and bring it back to us at the hotel.



After the first failure, the hotel maintenance crew, she insisted on calling a driver to take us to the hardware district.  Gongzhan stood with Keely and Keith as the van pulled up.  As we started to get in, Gongzhan suddenly said “I cannot go along, I have a meeting” and closed the door.  He smiled and waved goodbye.  There we were, complete strangers. Keely and Keith—not a lick of Chinese—and Ms. Jane and the driver—not a lick on English.  Keely turned to Keith and said “I don’t even know the name of our hotel!?”  Keith didn’t either.  What an adventure this would be!  

Arriving at the hardware district (after a 30 minutes drive) 4-5 blocks of small shops with every array—from tools to wood to plumbing to drywall.  It was like an open-air Home Depot in 100 different garage doors.  We stopped at our first bolt shop.  Loud slow talking in each language, exaggerated gestures, lots of head nods— all the workers and Ms. Jane frowned and shook their head no. We would not find our bolt here.

Next store. No. One last chance with a bolt manufacturing shop.  After measuring and thread comparisons - still no.  We returned home, bolt less – or as some might say – with a screw loose.  Ms. Jane got us home.

A few days later,  with some brainstorming, Keith, Nancy and Keely started taking things apart—fiddling, changing orientation, and solving some problems—we could make this work.  We just needed a wrench and 4 bolts/washers and they could be metric. They just needed to be long.  Keith downloaded a picture of a wrench and made friends with the maintenance man at the hotel and came back from the hotel kitchen with tool in hand.   Then these three, and Wendy (Gladney in-country staff from Changsha) set out on foot in Ping Xiang to find the four bolts.  They could be metric…this would not be a problem, right? Wrong again.



After thirty minutes of walking, stopping in multiple shops, digging through mechanics spare parts piles and being told to walk a little further, we finally decided to hail a cab.  No cabs. So Wendy, with her quick thinking, hailed a motorcycle— and announced that she and Keith would go together.  On the motorcycle.  Now, for those of you who don’t know Keith, he is 6’8” and 260 lbs…and wearing shorts with legs white from a long Wisconsin winter.  Wendy on the other hand, is a cute, tiny Chinese woman whose picture appears in the dictionary under “sprite”.  Keith is more like Shrek.  He has been a tourist attraction for the people of China—everyone stopping him to take selfies with him.  When he climbed on that motorcycle with Wendy sandwiched between him and the driver it was a neighborhood spectacle.  Everyone around us, all the people on the street had never seen such a sight and the guys in the hardware shops giggled like little girls as they zoomed away.  Also as theyzoomed off into the mĂȘlĂ©e of Chinese traffic amongst buses, taxis and pedestrians, Keith thought “I wonder if an ER visit in Ping Xiang would be out of network on my insurance?”  Thirty minutes later they returned.  Bolts in hand…after stops at 3 shops.



We worked to adapt the chair for Taylor based on measurements that were one year old.  So we made it a little bigger—we worked all afternoon very creatively to grow the chair a few inches in width.





We finally met Taylor yesterday.  She was not much bigger, she was actually a little smaller.  So…. We undid all our hard work.  We didn’t end up even needing the 4 extra bolts.  But, we did it!!!  We made it work.  It wasn’t perfect but Taylor was thrilled and now she has a place she can sit at a table, be at eye level and participate with the other kids her age.  Man was it worth it. 



And, the chair just kept on giving.  The chest harness that Taylor didn’t need becauseshe can sit up very well on her own, was attached to a broken stroller chair today at Yichun for a little boy that needs support to sit up.  It was again a team effort of creativity, and we made it work and he looked great sitting up tall.  



So, the moral of the story—it is easy to bring a wheelchair internationally.  What is not easy—finding a missing bolt…or any bolt for that matter.  But what makes it work is the creativity of the team.  And how much little things, like a wheelchair, can really improve the quality of life for kids like Taylor.  And that is what Superkids is all about.  

And you know what?  We still have some parts in our bags…maybe there is a child in Fuzhou we can help…

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

April's Thoughts on Week Two

I can’t believe we’re already in the home stretch!  Though some days have felt long, overall our time in China is flying by!  Already well into week 2 and we’re finishing up our time in Jiangxi Province. We’ve already seen over 130 kids (a Superkids record!) and have yet to see a whole new bunch of kiddos in Fuzhou.

Our first week in Shanghai and Changsha have felt very different from this week – there we went to large orphanages and saw tons of kids in a day!  This week we have been spending more time travelling around Jiangxi province visiting smaller orphanages and seeing fewer children at each place.

My role on the team has been to do a sort of “intake” interview.  This gives me a chance to learn more about the kids from their caregivers and if they are old enough,the kids can answer some questions on their own.  I always like to note who is there with the child providing information about them – is it foster mom (or dad!), caregiver, therapist, teacher… etc.  At the end, I ask if there is anything that they want to tell me about the child to give an opportunity for them to share unique details that might have been missed during the general interview.  I love it when there is a spirited reply about something special about the child (they are vegetarian, or very smart, or love to watch cartoons and imitate the characters on TV).  I don’t get an answer to this question every time, but I always want to give the opportunity for them to share.


Since my part happens early in the process, I usually finish first and am able to watch the rest of the team finish the developmental assessments or play with the kids that are also waiting.   I love to watch the team work, but also like to get my hugs and kisses in when possible!    Yesterday I made friends with an older deaf girl who needed some hugs just as much as a little toddler!



In between visiting kids, we have been eating… and eating!  The food has been SO good and we’ve hardly eaten the same dish twice (well, except rice!).  Most meals are with provincial or local officials who are responsible for allowing us to come into the orphanages to see the kids.  They are so appreciative of the work we do and we are equally thankful that they trust us enough to let us meet their precious children.  To show appreciation, a lot of toasts are made – to individuals, to the group, to anyone!  We are learning to toast “Gan Bei!” (bottoms up!) and have had many laughs together as well as sincere moments of thanks.






Being in China really highlights the importance of the Superkids mission to improve the quality of life for orphans.  I’m so proud to be a part of this team and this work!

-April

Monday, April 20, 2015

One of Those Days!

Anyone who has ever been on a Superkids trip knows the type of day I'm talking about. We met in the hotel lobby at 7. We saw children at one orphanage, traveled for 3 hours, had lunch, then saw more children in the afternoon. We then had a large dinner before arriving at our hotel around 8. By the time we had our little team meeting it was 10 PM, and we meet again at 7:30 tomorrow morning.

I want to show you why we do it. Here are a few of the reasons.


 


I always love seeing positive changes in some of our kids and  we were able to see that today. We were able to spend time playing with children who are less likely to be adopted. We gave help and advice to caregivers on how to care for children with various needs. We even gave a child who desperately needed some oral sensory input a vibrating toothbrush! :) 




And tomorrow we get to do it all over again! 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Keith's Observations

As we work through each day, there are little moments that catch your eye and capture your thoughts. Tanna wrote about her interactions with Anthony…I was working and like a slapstick comedy…saw the two of them flash past the windows playing tag balcony.  His giggle and just pure enjoyment of that time was wonderful.

In Shanghai, there was a little boy with cleft lip/palate.  Early in the assessment process I snap a quick photo of the child with a whiteboard that contains their information – a basic “ID” photo.  These are not wonderfully thought out portraits!  One little boy approached with the usual apprehension.  As I raised my camera, he instantly opened his mouth and tipped his head back.  I would drop the camera…he would close his mouth and tip his head forward.  We did this little dance about 6 times…like we were absolutely connected.  I was able to snap a quick shot without raising the camera up fully (I’m sneaky that way!) and he moved on.  A bit later, I noticed Erin interacting with him…and the same connected dance of camera and mouth ensuing.  She would try to lift his chin to indicate to close his mouth - we love seeing those beautiful smiles – and I think she was finally able to grab the shots she needed.







It struck me:  this little boy seemed to be defined by his medical need.  I am guessing that when he is visited by outsiders or medical staff – everyone focuses on the inside of his mouth.  As a result, he has learned the drill and instinctively opens his mouth and tips his head back – almost with the feeling of ‘OK, I know what you are here for…let’s make this easy and get it over with’.  How sad that the individual focus he receives is seemingly related only to a medical issue.  How would it feel if every time you met someone, instantly the conversation focused on something like that?  These children need the presence and acceptance of the unconditional love of a family – someone to help them see themselves for the wonderfully perfect beings that they are and ensure they understand that they are NOT DEFINED by medical needs.

This is the same little boy, he just took his jacket off and warmed up after a little playing with balls!

The SuperKids team certainly addresses and evaluates a child’s medical needs.  BUT…they go so much further – they capture the child’s personality and the stories of interactions that provide glimpses of the child beyond the situation they find themselves in.  I believe it is our hope that the children leave their brief time with us knowing that they are special and feeling that they are valued as people – with as much focus on their giggles and playfulness as their medical issues.  I know that Anthony was blessed in that way by his time playing with Tanna.

-Keith