Saturday, April 29, 2006
There is a beautiful two year old girl waiting for a family of her own on an adoption list. Her orphanage loves her so much and says she is extremely smart.
This little girl has a nevus on her face and scalp. Immediately after seeing her pictures, we wanted to do everything we could to help her – there was something about her face that called to us. A sweet innocent child, lovingly being held by an auntie. After sending her picture and file to many doctors, they all said the same thing, she was very treatable, but would require multiple surgeries. Just to verify everything was alright, we had an MRI done – everything was fine.
During her evaluation in Shanghai, our facilitators met and were so taken by this little girl. She loved to play and was very outgoing. In no time she was busily playing with her new friends. They commented on what a happy, fun child she was! The only time she wasn’t happy was when they went to leave – she wanted her new friends to stay and play some more! Our facilitator said, “She's a lovely and energetic baby. Hope she'll find a family soon.” We do too!
For more information on this child, please contact Karen@lovewithoutboundaries.com.
Today we went to visit the final university in the Xining area, where one student is studying physics. The university is very modern and new, and the grounds were beautifully landscaped. Shawo was so happy that we came to see him at his school. He thought that since he was the only student there, we wouldn’t make time to come to see him. He couldn’t wait to show us one of his classrooms. We were able to visit with some of his classmates as they waited for their professor to arrive, and the students were happy to practice their English speaking skills with us.
Shawo told us that he would like to show us his dorm room, but he thought it was too messy to show to us. Sounds like a perfectly normal college student, doesn’t it?
Instead, he ran to his room and back, and presented me with an award that he had won at the end of the first semester. Shawo’s scores were outstanding. In fact, his scores were the second highest in the entire physics department. Because of this, the university awarded him a “scholarship” or reward money of 300 rmb. He was so proud to have earned this award, and his Mama’s Wish teacher beamed with pride as he showed the award certificate to us.
As we were walking to dinner, I saw several children who were, of course, absolutely adorable. I couldn’t resist taking a few photos of them and attempting to play ball with one little boy.
He did NOT want to play ball with me, though, and refused to give up his toy. At least he allowed me to take his picture. :o) We then took Shawo to dinner, and asked him to order his favorite dish in honor of his achievement. Dinner, once again, was fantastic and we finished off every dish. Shawo then came with us to meet the other college students so that I could present them with the very best gift of all – letters and photos from their sponsors. They were SO eager to hear from their sponsors, and they devoured the letters. The room was very noisy as each one read their letter out loud. My heart was so full, and Nicole and I looked at each other with the biggest smiles. Each student was reading the letter from the sponsor without help, and none of the letters had been translated. I could not believe how well they were all reading. Many sponsors will recall their letters, and the extensive vocabulary that some used, and I know they will marvel at the thought that their student could read the letter from them without it being translated.
A few students had trouble with a word or phrase, but instead of asking Nicole to translate they turned to one of their friends, who helped them figure out the meaning.
Nicole only helped translate portions of two letters from sponsors. The students did the rest all on their own. After reading her letter, one of the students asked if she could send a message to her sponsor by having us videotape her. Soon every student lined up to take a turn at speaking into the camera and giving their sponsor a quick message. Some spoke in English and some spoke in Chinese, both of which are amazing since their native language is Tibetan. I know the sponsors will all be so proud of their students, just as I am.
No one wanted the evening to end, and we talked until almost 11:00 before saying goodbye. I am going to miss them so much, and it was such an honor for me to be able to come to Qinghai to visit them at their schools.
Tomorrow is an early morning for us, as we will travel a long distance to visit two of the high schools in the Mama’s Wish program. We will be visiting 53 students tomorrow, so I know it will be another long day of learning about them and filling out reports for sponsors. I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing than what I am doing right now. Each day has been amazing, and I know that tomorrow will be amazing as well.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
It snowed last night in Xining. I was grateful for our heavy down comforters, because there is no heat in the hotel and my nose was quite chilly when I woke up this morning. I took my shower, with no shower curtain, and by the time I finished the bathroom looked like our bathroom at home after the kids all take a shower together. :o)
Mr. Cuo, one of the Mama’s Wish teachers, picked us up and drove us to a university located 2.5 hours from here, where five students are attending the Teachers College. It was a bright, beautiful, sunny day, and the snow on the mountains in the distance was dazzling.
About half-way through the trip we saw that someone had had a minor wreck in their car. Thankfully, the man wasn’t injured, and we picked him up and took him to the next village where he could call for help. The man was Uyghur, and spoke only the local dialect. I had so many questions that I wanted to ask him, but none of us could understand each other so we just smiled and nodded at one another as the kilometers passed.
When we arrived at the University the five students were waiting for us at the gate. They had been standing out in the cold for over an hour waiting for us to get there because they were so excited to have visitors. Once again, they greeted us with the hadas, and then we went inside to meet with their professors. One professor is teaching three students who are studying to teach science, and the other professor is teaching the three students who are studying to teach literature. They were both very kind and humble men who thanked us for giving these students an opportunity that they otherwise would not have. They reported that the students all study very hard, and they have hopes that two students in particular will be able to go on and study at higher levels in the future because they are very gifted students, whose scores are at the same level as the best students in the larger cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, who have had the opportunity to have been educated in expensive, private high schools.
From here, we decided to take a break and go to lunch. Lunch was so much fun. The students talked about their experience at college, and they were very serious when they discussed their studies. After lunch, I gave them their sponsor letters and Nicole translated for them. More than one student began to cry when Nicole read the letters. I videotaped the students sending a message to their sponsors, and one of the girls began crying when Nicole asked her why she wanted to become a teacher. She tried to compose herself for several minutes and I told her she did not have to do this, but she insisted that she wanted to continue. We learned that her father, a teacher, had been killed in a car accident one year ago and she wanted more than anything to be able to continue teaching the children that he once taught. It was so sad – in her village the tradition is that when a husband dies, the wife cannot wash her hair or leave the home for one year. So in the months after her father died, they had absolutely no income and no way to earn money. Although she knew that she had passed the national exam and had been accepted to college, she also knew that there was no way that she could go. It was during this time that the Mama’s Wish teachers visited her home and told her not to give up. They insisted that she continue her studies and they promised to do everything they could to help find a sponsor for her. Now she is the number one student in her department at school, and she still cannot believe how her life has changed. By the time she finished, Nicole and I were both crying.
Each of these students has a story that would make you cry. Each one is so very special, and such an inspiration. I wish someone would make a documentary about these young men and women, and show it in all of the high schools in America. There is so much that we can learn from them, about the value of education, the value of hard work, determination, and sheer will to never give up on your dream no matter what obstacles are thrown in your path.
We returned to the college with the students and they proudly showed us their school library. They were all amazed when they first arrived at school to see so many books. I was again moved by this, because this small teachers’ college has about the same number of books in its library as I have in my personal library at home – but to these kids, it was a wonderful blessing to have so many books at their disposal.
We were able to visit one of the English classes, where the teacher was teaching that one pair of shoes has an “s” at the end, and two pairs of shoes has an “s” at the end. He also taught that there are grand-mothers, grand-fathers, and people living in a grand lifestyle. :o)
Another student wanted to show us her classroom, which was empty at the time. Nicole suggested that I teach them an English word, so I taught them the meaning of Love Without Boundaries. I got to play teacher, at the front of the class with my five students, and they learned how the foundation got its name and what its name means.
When it was finally time to go, we had a difficult time saying goodbye. I know that it will be a long time before I can see them again, and I know that so much will change in their lives in that time.
The Trip Home
Less than ten minutes after we left the students, the beautiful blue sky began to turn gray and before long it began snowing – a horizontal snow, pushed by the high winds. I knew this would be a fun trip home. We had hoped to have time to go to Qinghai Lake on the way home, because it is only 15 km out of the way from the road we were traveling. By the time we got to the lake, though, the wind was so high and the snow was falling so hard that we decided we shouldn’t get out of the car, but instead turn around and head back to Qinghai. So, we were able to see the huge lake from the car but didn’t really get to enjoy it much.
Our next excitement is that we were very nearly run off the road by a yak. The visibility was not very good when the snow was falling so heavily, and a yak decided to cross the road at the very moment our car was approaching him. Yaks look big when they’re four inches from your car window! :o)
And speaking of yaks… is a yak really just a cow with long hair? Nicole insisted that it was after she called a yak “beef.” I said that “beef” is cow, and she said that a yak is just a cow with long hair. This all happened after I learned that the delicious meal that I ate yesterday – the one with beef dishes that I wish I had the recipe for – was yak meat. Hmmm…I would’ve never tried it if she had told me it was yak, but since she called it beef I ate it, and I loved it. Now she’s trying to get me to taste Yak jerky, but I’m not so sure. It probably tastes delicious, but I’m not sure if I really want to eat a yak.
We stopped at the medical university, where we have five students attending Tibetan Medicine School there. We saw their cafeteria, and now I know why all of the students have gained weight. Every day they have over 100 menu choices, and the food looked and smelled delicious. The cafeteria worker saw us there and wondered why we were in his cafeteria, so came over to talk to us. Nicole explained who we were and what we were doing here and he thanked us for helping these students have a chance at attending university.
We then went to the teachers’ dormitory to visit one of the professors, but he wasn’t in so another professor invited us into his room and served hot water to us. He said that although he is not the teacher of these students, he does see them quite often and the thing that he notices about these five is that they study longer hours than most other students, AND that they particularly study English very hard, which is rare in the Tibetan medical college. He is quite impressed with each student, and knows that they will do well in the future.
We asked each student what their ultimate goal was. One wants to continue to study Tibetan medicine and get her master’s degree. Another wants to do the same thing, but study western medicine and Tibetan medicine at the master’s level. The third student would also love to attend graduate school, and use the chemistry in western medicine along with traditional Tibetan medicine in order to improve his treatment of patients. And one girl, who began to cry, said that she has three wishes: One is to attend graduate school in western and Tibetan medicine; two is to be able to study medicine overseas, so that she can learn as much as possible about western medicine; and three is to return to her home village to open a clinic for poor people, and treat those who cannot afford to travel long distances. She cried as she explained that this semester she learned that the disease that had killed her mother was completely curable, but they did not have the money to send her to a doctor and so she died. She is very sad that her mother’s death could have been prevented, and she could have been cured of her illness. She does not want any other child to lose a parent to a disease which can be cured, and she wants to make sure that children in her home village do not have to go through what she has had to go through.
Once again, Nicole and I were in tears.
Have I mentioned lately how much I love and admire these students? Have I mentioned how much wisdom they have to offer the world?
At the end of another long but wonderful day, we said goodbye to the students and returned to our hotel. Nicole’s husband and his mother are joining us tomorrow, and will be accompanying us to TongRen to visit the high school students, and then to Yushu to visit the WenLe Orphan School and the Karnang Village School.
Tomorrow we will meet with the college students one last time, to go over some paperwork for the reports that I will be doing. Two students are majoring in English and Tibetan, and their English is so good that they are going to help translate the sponsor letters for the high school students. In return, to pay for their services, we are going to buy them an electronic device that will help them with English pronunciation. They are very excited to do this, and we are happy to find a way for them to feel like they are earning this, rather than us giving them something out of charity.
Once all of this is done, it will be time to say goodbye to the students and to Xining, because we leave for TongRen tomorrow morning.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Mama's Wish Education Site Visit
I was the only person on the plane today without black hair and black eyes. That was an interesting observation. I was acutely aware of how different I was from everyone else. It makes me wonder how our children feel, surrounded by light hair and light eyes. The flight lasted just over an hour, and before I was really awake this morning we had arrived in Xining. 8:30 a.m. As the plane began to descend, I surveyed the landscape and it wasn’t at all what I had expected. I thought we were landing on the moon. This is a barren land, lacking vegetation of almost any sort. It reminded me of Xinjiang Province, where Jacob is from. There is a stark beauty in the contrast of the rolling hills and the sharp jags of the rocks.
Our morning started with the most wonderful surprise. We had expected to be met at the airport by one of the Mama’s Wish teachers. Instead, we were greeted by all five founding teachers of the Mama’s Wish program; accompanying them were eleven of the local college students! I was so excited as I looked into the distance and recognized so many beautiful faces. As we joined them, each student came greeted us by placing a hada around our necks. A “hada” is a Tibetan prayer shawl, and it is their traditional way to greet someone. By the time each student had done this we were covered in beautiful white prayer shawls. Each student spoke to me in English, “Hello. Nice to see you!” I could not believe how well they were able to speak English. These students are nothing short of brilliant. Everyone followed us to the hotel, where Nicole and I checked into the Deluxe Suite for 120RMB per night (that’s less than $15). The room was nicer than I had expected, and there was a nice sitting area where we all crowded in to get to know one another.
The teachers introduced themselves, and explained their role in Mama’s Wish. It is interesting to talk to a group of people who speak three different languages. The students took turns introducing themselves to us, giving us their names, their majors, and telling us a little about their families and their hobbies – all in English. Nicole and I were both stunned to hear just how well they could speak and understand English. They have been working very hard to learn the language. They talked about college life – sometimes all at once – and we heard so many interesting stories about how they had adjusted to living in a city, how they overcame homesickness by concentrating on their studies, and how they had all supported one another while being so far away from home. Time flew by quickly as we learned about one another and enjoyed many laughs. The students were having a reunion of sorts, because they don’t all go to the same university so some hadn’t seen each other in several months. There are a few students who go to university in Lanzhou, and I knew that my schedule would not allow enough time for me to visit them. I was overjoyed to see them in the group. They had taken the bus from Lanzhou to Xining the day before, and they were there with the other students to greet us.
We invited them out to lunch with us, and had the most amazing meal at a restaurant near the hotel. All 19 of us crowded around one large table meant to seat 10 people. We didn’t want two tables so we made room for everyone at one table. We were all quite cozy! As always in China, there was quite a feast. We had lots of noodles and vegetables, two kinds of soup, and a few beef dishes that tasted better than just about any meal I’ve had in China so far. Some of the beef dishes were local specialties. I wish I could have the recipe for everything we had at lunch. The tea was also the best I’ve ever had. Everyone laughed and talked and had a great time. The students were so glad to see one another, and also to see their beloved teachers again. They thanked Nicole and I so many times for helping them to go to college. It was an undeserved thanks, I assured them. All of the thanks should go to their teachers - who taught them so well and encouraged them not to give up but to study hard and stay in school – and to their sponsors – without whose generosity none of this would be possible. I accepted their warms thanks on behalf of the sponsors, and promised to pass it on. During lunch we were treated by some of the students representing their villages by singing a song from their home town. They all have such beautiful, pure voices, and I was told that the children from this region begin singing as soon as they are born and begin dancing as soon as they can walk. Some students are from remote mountain villages, and their songs were different from the students who are from the remote grasslands and valleys. Finally the students convinced one of their teachers to sing a song in order to represent the area where some of the teachers are from. The meal ended by all of the students getting up and demonstrating local dances from their villages. I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun! The students returned to school after lunch, and a couple of hours later we joined them at one of the universities in Xining. We met two of the students’ professors, who told us how proud they are of the students and how hard they are working. One girl, who is majoring in English and Tibetan, is the number one student in her department at the university. Another girl, majoring in computer science, is the number six student in her department. The news of this struck me again at just how hard these young men and women are working and just how far they have come already. I cannot begin to imagine moving far away to a place so foreign to me, studying in a university where I am not very familiar with the language (classes are taught in Mandarin and their first language is Tibetan). That alone is quite a daunting task. But then to finish the first semester at number one, or number six…what an amazing feat! The professors were very pleased with progress of all of the students at the university. They told us that our students study very long hours, that they are always on time for class, and that none of them has ever missed a day of class. We were also happy to learn that they have an American teacher in the English Department at this university. I believe that this professor is doing a great job in helping the students learn the language, and I would have loved to have met him.
The professors then went with us to visit the dorm rooms of some of the students. Six students sleep in each room. The accommodations are simple, but the students were very eager to show off their rooms to us. While sparten, the students showed them off with pride and joy. Their faces beamed as they showed us their beds, their books, their desks, etc. These students have such strong and pure spirits. They laugh so much, and they are so very sweet. I would be proud to call any one of them my child. The sponsors have provided them with everything they need to make it as a college student. Tuition, room and board, books, tutors for some, food, clothes, and love and support. The more I learn about the Mama’s Wish program, the more I am impressed by it. I am so thankful that we learned about these devoted teachers and their dedicated students. I was sorry to leave the students. We had so much fun with them, and it was an incredible first day of my trip. I can’t imagine how any day could top this one, but I still have many students to visit so anything is possible.
Angela Taylor/ Mama's Wish Coordinator
Friday, April 21, 2006
When the aunties found the tiny baby outside their gates, she weighed just 1.5 kilograms. She was the tiniest baby that had ever come to the orphanage. Quickly, they examined her and placed her in the incubator, and they slowly began to tube feed her with the gold standard formula we had provided them. Everyone that came into the room would stand at the side of the incubator and shake their head, thinking there was no way she could survive. But she did.
She continued to be fed with the best formula possible, and her aunties made sure she was fed at every opportunity. She went from 3 pounds to five pounds to 10, and she earned her nickname of "little miracle".
Today, she is healthy and happy child who loves music and her aunties. We will all celebrate when she eventually finds a family, and we know you will love seeing how much she has grown!
EVERY child counts!
Recently an orphanage asked us if we could buy clothing for the 150 children in their care. They wanted soft "play clothes" that the kids could wear that would be comfortable and keep them warm when they played outside. Thanks to a generous donor, we were able to buy clothes for every child in the orphanage! We know you will love these photos.
Recently we learned that the medical bills of an orphanage we are helping with nutrition went down 90% after the babies started receiving the absolute best formula possible. Isn't that amazing? 90%. We know that funding nutrition often isn't as exciting as funding something with immediate results like medical, but we are SO grateful to everyone who gives to this essential program. The orphanage staff tell us over and over that babies who receive adequate nutrition are happier and healthier, which improves the mood of everyone in the orphanage! It is so wonderful to have parents adopt children from where we do nutrition write us when they get home to tell us how healthy their children are. We just got some updated photos from one orphanage and just had to share. Too cute! Don't you love the hats? They were handknit by some wonderful supporters.
LWB has been compiling before and after photos of the children we helped heal last September on our cleft mission. We just love seeing the photos so much, and so we know you will as well. No more words needed.
Recently, one of our babies we were trying to help in Henan was very, very sick. Little Fei was in and out of the hospital with tonsillitis and pneumonia. He would be discharged, only to get sick again. He wasn't feeding well and was very weak. Over and over he was taken to the doctor but he just couldn't seem to get healthy.
LWB decided that the baby would have the best chance of becoming stronger if he was in a one on one foster care setting, so an ad was placed in the local paper asking for possible families to come forward. "Granny" was one of the first people to respond. This elderly woman rode on her tricycle for 10 km from her apartment to the orphanage in order to submit her application to "love a baby". When she met Fei, she was so taken with him that she asked to take his measurements, and the next day she again made the 10 km journey by bike, but this time she carried with her a new baby blanket that she had custom made the day before for Fei. Once again she pleaded with the staff to please be able to be his foster mom. The orphanage was so moved by her dedication to help that they chose her to foster little Fei. The day she took him home, he was still very fragile. But in just one month, he is now healthy and strong. His foster mom is determined to make him the healthiest little boy possible, and so she is feeding him 8 times during the day and 2-3 times at night as well!
Granny is so in love with her foster son, and is giving him very special care. When her neighbors heard that she was caring for an orphaned baby, they all came to visit and fell in love with him as well. Now they have all donated clothing for Fei. All of us at LWB are so grateful for the tender care that our foster parents give the children. For many children, foster care is simply essential, as it allows them to truly bloom and grow.
We always have many children in need of foster care sponsorship. If you would like to help give a child their very own "mama and baba" to love them, you can visit our foster care page at http://www.lovewithoutboundaries.com/FosterCare.html
Heart Babies Update!
LWB has a special spot in their hearts for any child who is struggling with heart disease, since our foundation began when one beautiful little boy needed heart surgery.
Now we routinely are sent the files of heart children in need of life saving surgery, and this week we celebrated 3 success stories. Dr. Li in Hangzhou is the heart surgeon we use most often and he is truly a miracle worker. With his 98% success rate, he has helped change the course of many children's lives.
Yan, from Anhui, suffered a heart attack a month ago. She was in critical condition and we weren’t sure that she would make it through surgery. On Tuesday, she had the first part of a two part surgery – the BT (Blalock-Taussig) shunt procedure. This procedure creates a conduit between a large artery to the pulmonary artery and this will help to increase blood flow to her lungs. She is in currently in ICU and is in critical condition, but she is doing VERY WELL!!!! She has been extubated and is now breathing on her own. Her situation was SO serious, but Dr. Li performed a miracle. She will need to have the second part of her surgery in about 6 months, but this surgery is very complicated. We will keep you updated on her.
Another child, Xin from Jiangxi, had been placed on an adoption list in the US. After doctors in the US reviewed her file, she was deemed inoperable and her file was returned to the CCAA (The Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs). Many parents who had seen her file and loved the sweet smile of this three year old contacted us to see if there was anything that could be done. Once again, we sent her to Hangzhou Children’s Hospital where she had a heart cath done to determine the severity of her heart defect. Dr. Li thought he would be able to heal her. He performed the first stage of a staged surgery, the bidirectional Glenn procedure. After this first heart surgery, her orphanage is redoing her paperwork and should be updated next week. The CCAA has agreed to send this child's file to another agency so she will have a chance to find a family. We are so happy that this first stage was SO successful and this child who was thought to be inoperable has now on her way to being healed!!
Baby Ming, who had a large VSD and severe pulmonary hypertension, was hospitalized for 20 days with pneumonia. This sweet little girl from Hunan was so sick and we didn't know if she would make it though her illness. The doctors at Hangzhou Children’s Hospital watched her closely, treating her with many antibiotics. She finally was healthy enough a week ago for her heart surgery and her heart is now healed! The doctors at Hangzhou are also planning to heal a hernia she also has and after this procedure is performed, she will be totally healed. This little girl has waited so long to feel healthy and strong. We are so grateful that she will soon be feeling SO much better!
We are truly grateful for the support of our sponsors that helped to heal these children, the thoughts and prayers that got them through their surgeries, and the wonderful skills of Dr. Li.
“Every Child Counts”