Thursday, April 28, 2016

Nathan {URGENT-AGING OUT}

Each time we go to China we come home with certain children heavy on our hearts. Today I'm going to introduce you to one of those children.

Nathan will turn 14 in September, so time is of the essence. He has osteogenisis imperfecta and is so gentle and sweet!



The first time we met Nathan he came wheeling into the room in his wheelchair and Keely immediately began a rousing game of catch with him. He laughed as he chased after the ball in his wheelchair. Our hearts dropped when we discovered his age and that his paperwork was not completed.

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But we just found out that his file is almost complete and we are so excited and hopeful that someone will see him and fall in love! He needs the opportunities that he will never have in China with his diagnosis!

Nathan is described as kind and steady. He does well in school and reads and writes. He is independant in his self care and can transition into and out of his wheelchair by himself.

Nathan needs a family to step forward as quickly as possible. He deserves to be seen and loved for the wonderful boy he is! Could he be your son? Please contact April Uduhiri at april.uduhiri@gladney.org for more information. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Superkids Trip to Taiwan!

Now that the Superkids team is back from China, we’re gearing up for our trip to Taiwan! The team leaves the US on Saturday, May 7th – only 10 days from now! We’ll be spending a full week in Taiwan and will get to visit both of our partner orphanages, Cathwel Service and Chung Yi Social Welfare Foundation. The team will consist of Gladney VP and Director of Asia Programs, Gongzhan Wu, Taiwan Program Caseworker, Mary Chapman, Superkids PT, Keely Farkas, an amazing professional photographer, Faith, and an awesome adoption advocate, Michelle.

We are hoping to meet many of the children we have been advocating for over the last several months, along with other children whose files are still being prepared. We can’t wait to see how the few children we were able to meet in September have grown and developed over the last few months!

In preparation for our trip we are collecting donations of fun items for the kids. These are toys and treats that we give the children to help them relax and open up around the us (the weird strangers who look different and speak a different language!). This in turn, helps us to see a child’s personality shine through! You can view our wish list of items here. Thank you to those that have already donated!

We will be posting blog updates during the trip so be sure to check in often!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Dashing Drake! {Taiwan}

Drake is an adorable 5 year old boy. Drake enjoys calm, quiet activities. He loves playing with cars and drawing. He attends a day care and enjoys group activities led by his teachers. 
Drake is shy with new people, but will become more open once he feels comfortable. He thrives when given help or encouragement when trying new activities. 


Drake has anemia and had Hepatitis C. Drake has been attending early intervention and has shown improvement in his daily functioning and relationships. He is able to take care of his self care needs, with a little help from his foster mother for things like bathing and brushing his teeth properly. 
For more information on Drake, including photos and videos, please contact Taiwan Program Caseworker Mary Chapman at mary.chapman@gladney.org

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Enmei in Ningbo

Our last day of seeing children was spent in the Enmei orphanage in Ningbo. It was a good day. We met 9 matched children and got updates for their families. This is such a fun part of what we do! It is also an important part of what we do since our goal is not only to find families for children, but also to prepare families to their parent children.



We met Andy who has been advocated for by many people. He is just as cute and charming as ever. We are exploring options to see if treatment is a possibility for his condition. His smile made everyone's day brighter.


And then there was little Nancy! Nancy loves to give hugs. All you had to do was open your arms wide and she would come running in for a big hug. Martha named her Nancy after the Nancy who is on our team. As you can see it was a huge compliment coming from Martha!



Last time we were here there was a lot of construction going on. This time this construction was completed and we were in a beautiful new room that was colorful and perfect for seeing children in.



It was a good way to end our time seeing children for this trip. But our work is not finished. Now we get to come home and share the stories of these wonderful children with you!




Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Lawrence

There is one little boy on my mind tonight, as sit in a hotel room in Ningbo, thinking back over our time here in China. He needs a family to step forward for him soon!

Little Lawrence is 6 years old, he is diagnosed with developmental delay. We had so much fun with him and we were so impressed with how much he seems to have grown up in the last 6 months!



He sat at a little table and played with trucks and blocks for a long time. He was so funny! He imitated everything we did. So we pushed a stack of blocks over with a block and he did the same. I drove a little truck over toward him and made truck noises. He also made truck noises.



When the advocacy camp volunteers spent time with him they noted that he followed directions really well. He had a blast playing with Legos (and was very protective of his box of Legos!) and with bubbles.



We lose Lawrence's file soon and it makes me sad that no one has seen how precious this little boy is and moved forward to make him their son. Could Lawrence be your son?

Please contact Mary Chapman at mary.chapman@gladney.org for more information!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Reflections by Martha Osborne

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. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Jian

Ji'an Social Welfare Institute has a special place in my heart.  When I first visited the orphanage in 2013, we drove on a bumpy dirt road to a very poor orphanage.  We visited with the children in 2 cramped dark rooms.  Even though we see over a hundred kids each trip, I vividly remember the kids climbing in the windows, their faces, and the clothes they were wearing. We left with tears in our eyes that day.   

The transformation over the last four years has been amazing. It is now housed in a beautiful new facility with one of the region's rehabilitation centers on campus.  The staff is attentive and truly interested in ideas on how to improve care of each individual child.  




In addition to our "usual activities,"  Nancy Dobson did a presentation on early intervention, focusing on special needs kids.  She then did some hands on training with the nurses and therapists.  We only visit with a small percentage of the orphanage children, so we love the opportunity to train with the hopes that many more kids will benefit.



Of course, I will end with my favorite part....the children.  They were ready and waiting for us, and, as always, they capture our hearts.  It is always fun to celebrate what they CAN do, as sometimes we focus in on disabilities.  




Speaking of transformation.... Four years ago, my little friend walked into the room and proceeded to fall multiple times during our visit due balance and vision issues.  It broke our hearts.  Today, with evidence of healed bumps and bruises, she was a confident young lady answering my silly test questions.  What could be better than that?  ....a family!

Stone Lion

We are soooo happy to be back with the children from Stone Lion.  They don’t get as many visitors as some of the other orphanages we travel to, so they were pretty excited to see us too. All the older kids remembered us from our trip in September.



There are about 40 children that live here with another 20 more in foster care nearby. The kids in the orphanage live in units with 2 nannies and 7 kids of various ages. They stay with the same nannies and same group of kids as they get older.  Because the numbers are smaller and there is more consistency with caregivers, there is an intimacy here that we don’t feel in some of the larger institutions.  And the smaller numbers also means lots more time with each child that we meet! 



Our day started with Renae and Reagan—yin and yang.  Renae is quiet, gentle and very sincere. Reagan is outgoing, silly, and incredibly charming.  They are best friends. They bring out the best in each other.  Opposites really do attract.



We then moved on to some other familiar faces, the boys: Reid, Remy and Rylan. They amazed us with their goofy jokes and rough-housing when they played together. As well as their intensity and concentration in showing us their math and reading skills.  And the sweetness of their grins, I mean….



The end of the day really was the icing on the cake though. We played memory. Well, that was the central activity—but it was mostly an exercise in turn taking.  With six kids of various ages, things got silly quickly. As the kids got more comfortable, more English started getting spoken.  Echoes of “Ok”  “your turn” “what?” and huge giggles filled the room. 

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It’s so good to be back here!! We have a few more kids to see tomorrow and then we will travel back to meet up with the rest of the team again. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Friday, April 15, 2016

Day 5. Back at Changsha Welfare Institute.

Today the advocacy team got to spend the morning with the babies and who doesn't love the babies?! We played with bubbles. We read books. We cuddled. We helped them walk. We fed them lunch. Then it was nap time and we parted ways. 




In the afternoon we split into 3 groups. Some going back to the babies. Some going to the Butterfly House, the palliative care hospital. And some going to talk to a few older boys. One boy ages out soon and is hopefully getting adopted very soon. Then we all met back up where we had dinner and said our goodbyes as the team comes to an end.

Memorable Moments: Week 1

Meeting a foster mom who is doing an amazing job caring for a little girl with Down Syndrome (whom I affectionately nicknamed “biker chick”).



Reconnecting with local staff who care so much about the children they dedicate their lives to, like Katie from Butterfly Home.



Seeing Landon again and hearing about how well he is doing in school, and that he loves computer class and chess! 



Crossing the street with only one tiny brush with a mope head!

The food!

Meeting and spending time with the passionate and caring women participating in the advocacy camp this week.



Week one is coming to a close and the advocacy camp team members are heading home, but the Superkids team is gearing up for week 2 in Jiangxi, Fujian and Zhejiang provinces. Stay tuned!​

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Changsha Advocacy Camp

Today the Advocacy Camp Team visited the children of Changsha #1 Social Welfare Institute.  We received a tour of the facility where we were able to see the therapy floor and learn about the rehabilitation program they have in place.  It was so interesting and we loved getting to see first hand what they are doing here to help children reach their maximum potential.  It was clear how dedicated the leadership is to these children, not just to meet their basic needs, but to help improve their medical conditions so that they can be successful in life.

Our team was able to meet a few of the children in the rehabilitation program and learn about the progress they've made.  It was amazing to hear about the improvement these children have experienced as a result of this growing program.

Once we finished up our tour, it was playtime!!  And boy, oh boy, did we play today!!




A few of the children, accompanied by their music teacher, sang songs with us and even did cute little moves.  Once we finished that, it was time to get down to the one-on-one play time!



We had a few boys and girls to start...

But then a few more showed up to play...

And then we think a few more heard the fun being had and just didn't want to miss out!!



Before we knew it we had a roomful of kids having a blast with our advocates.  

And in the afternoon we hit the playground for some more fun with a few kids from the morning and a few new, adorable little faces.





It was a great day for us all!  These kids are precious and as good as the care is here in Changsha, nothing replaces the love and support of a family.  It is our hope that all of these children will receive the gift of a family.  We hope that as we share these kids stories in the coming months that someone who has considered adoption will decide to take the leap.  These kids are amazing.  We are witnessing it first-hand and we can't wait to play with more kiddos tomorrow!

Changsha, Day 1: It Never Gets Old.

It just never gets old.  These sweet faces.  These giggles.  Babies that we saw last trip that are now toddling around.  Toddlers that are now longer and leaner… and talking like crazy.   Their confidence and personalities blooming more and more each trip. Elementary aged kids that amaze us with their silliness and growing math skills.



Seeing kiddos who we know have a family working to bring them home.  And we get to deliver care packages!  It never gets old to see that look in their eyes when they see photos of their families, their houses, their dogs, their cats.  It is a true honor to get to be the ones who bridge the distance from the US to China with so much love.



And then there are the new ones, the ones we have not yet met.  These little people—some of them babies, others toddlers or even school-aged.  Before we came, we knew them as a name, an age and a diagnosis.  Or maybe, for a few, we even knew them as a profile. We knew the paper version of them.  But it never gets old to meet them, to hug them, to play with them, to really start to get to know them.  It never gets old to hear them cry, laugh, and hiccup.  It never gets old to listen to their little hearts or see how much they weigh.  It never gets old to ask what their favorite color is, who their best friend is, or what comforts them when they are upset.  Knowing these kids will never get old.





But it does get sad, sometimes.  It gets sad when you do start to know them, when you start to really love them. It gets sad when you find that one in a million, truly special thing that makes that child perfectly unique.  



And then you have to watch them get six months closer to turning 14-years-old with every passing Superkids trip.  Landon is one of those kids.  It never gets old to see this amazing boy. But it does get sad sometimes.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

On To Changsha!

Today our group, which consists of the Superkids team and the advocacy team, left Shanghai and flew to Changsha.  It was a bumpy ride but we made it safely.  





In the afternoon we went sightseeing and learned about the city Changsha.  We soon learned that Changsha is called the burning stove for a number of reasons.  Changsha is known for it's spicy hot food.  It is also one of the top four hottest cities in China.  Even in April we got to experience the heat as we walked around Orange Island.  



The island has a large statue of chairman Mao.  When he was young, he used to work in the city and swim across the Xiang river to go hiking in the mountains.   He would rest on the island before swimming he rest of the way across the river.  



We can't wait for tomorrow when we get to meet some new children from the Changsha welfare institute.