It’s not for me to understand the diagnosis of each child that we visit with, or even to know their real names. In the greater picture, this journey to four provinces and seven Child Institutions requires each of us to see and understand the children in whatever way they choose to reveal their hearts and minds.
I joined this team of miracle-makers at the generous invitation of Gladney, with the purpose to observe new ways of child advocacy being accomplished for China’s most vulnerable children. A combination of medical professionals who interact with the children and offer training to the caretakers, volunteers who photograph and video tape the children in a respectful manner, agency personnel who plan, organize, and execute every step of the program and work tirelessly during the trip, all come together under the child-centered program called Superkids.
Add to that an incredibly valuable new element that joined the team for the first week: Advocacy Camp Volunteers who brought laughter, hugs, fun, and joy to children, while truly getting to know each child’s personality.
Today, as we near the end of our journey together, we were privileged to witness the determined spirit of one child, who easily represents the heart of so many others who wait for a family. We learned once again how strongly some children can push back against the challenges, both emotional and physical, of living within an institution. Children were meant to grown in families, surrounded by loving, invested adults who cherish them deeply.
Little Cody has spent the first 6 years of his life in his current institution, Yichun SWI.
When Cody first entered the room, he appeared uninterested in interacting with the adults who had come to visit with him and know him better. Ignoring the questions asked of him, he went off on his own to explore the room. Patiently, the team moved away from questions and instead engaged in play. Caretakers shared that Cody did not go to school, and unfortunately little more could be determined about this young boy.
Until he spotted the Lego boxes. Little sets of Legos had been donated by generous individuals before this trip, mostly for ages 6-12. Some we distributed directly to SWI’s, but most were given out individually to children of the appropriate ages.
Cody, having just turned 6 years old recently, was young to receive one, but his interested was intense and instant. Opening the box, he took just moments to glance through several pages before he began to methodically assemble the airplane pictured on the front of the box. Soon several of us gathered around to watch. A curious, intelligent and engaging boy unfolded before our eyes. He was radiant!
Cody walked away with TWO lego sets today. But he left behind a greater gift than that which he received: a view into his indomitable spirit. And the hope that we will all one day see this smart young man find his way home to a loving family.