Friday, June 30, 2006

Yi's Barbie

Yi was born with multiple heart defects and had her first lifesaving surgery in China at 8 months of age due to proceeds from the 2004 Art Auction. Her family was able to adopt her and she has filled their lives with miracles and wonder. She has had three additional surgeries in the last year and will have one additional surgery to complete her heart repairs. She consistently touches the lives of those she meets through her courage and delightful character.

On May 1, we posted an article, “The Miracle of Yi, An Art Auction Child”. Today we wanted to share another inspirational story about Yi.
Yi’s family wanted to give back to help other children have healthy hearts and to find families. They donated a “Going Home Barbie – 4th edition” to the art auction this year in order to help a child who needs heart surgery. These Barbies are limited edition dolls that are given to adoptive families that stay at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou and are not available at stores. Yi’s Barbie sold for close to $200! In addition, to the doll the winning bidder will also get a special note from Yi’s family with her story of miracles and the following cute picture of Yi posing with her gift. Yi has truly made a gift of the heart to give another child a chance at life and to find their own forever family!

Monday, June 26, 2006

A Child's Gift...When I traveled with LWB volunteers to a Hunan orphanage, we met a little boy in a red shirt I’ll call “Q". He was very sly and every time we tried to take his photo, he pretended to instantly be fast asleep and snoring. Even when we tried to tickle him and pick him up, he stayed "asleep." After we were there an hour or so, he finally gave up this game and with a long face, let us take this photo. He has a club foot, club hands, no knees and weak limbs, overall. We saw that he moved around the room by pushing a plastic chair in front of him as a walker. “Immediate need--pediatric walker,” was hastily written in our notes.

I wasn’t sure how to get Q a walker. I contacted a yahoogroup of parents that have already adopted from there. The group set about purchasing one for July delivery. A few e-mails flew back and forth between us as to acquire the walker when Amy Eldridge let us know that had a pediatric walker sitting in a box in her foyer…where could she send it? The walker is from a mom of a special needs boy, Kevin, you see in the photos accompanying this entry, I sent her an e-mail of thanks. Her response sent tangles spinning into loops of love around some special China boys. She elegantly tells the rest of the story:
"Having a son with a limb difference, I have a real burden for the little ones in the same boat. The walker we donated to LWB was Kevin’s. He hardly ever used it. He has a prosthetic leg now and runs with the wind. If he ever needs one, I have resources to get him another. I'd rather give a child a chance to get around independently than leaving it in the garage for what might happen. In the school picture you can see his original "little foot". In the others you see him after. Maybe you can use them to educate people about the possibilities. Kevin swims, plays tennis and enjoys karate. Funny thing, when I started the special needs process, I was looking for a child with a very minor that could be easily fixed and not seen. I am single and I didn't think I could handle more. But when I saw Kevin's picture, I could not turn away from that face. I educated myself, faced my fears and moved forward. I learned from adult amputee athletes and another single mom who adopted from Russia with a similar situation. My resolution to bring Kevin home grew. I had to buck a lot of naysayers. However, when I returned home with this Chinese version of Billy Crystal, everybody knew I had the correct son. I tell people that I shutter to think what I would have missed if I had let fear rule my decision. Kevin has opened an entirely new world to our family. I am active with the pediatric amputee network. I've met families with children who have limb differences and am comfortable with them. There is a boy in Kevin's orphanage who will never get adopted. “T”, used to look out for Kevin like a big brother there. When I saw T and Kevin dragging themselves around on adult walkers, I vowed to help get pediatric walkers and crutches to China. I looked for the best pediatric crutches I could find and have sent forearm crutches back to T and he was able to go to school. I have a picture of him smiling with his school certificate ... he was top in his class. Right now there is a new pair of navy blue crutches, donated by the company that makes them, waiting to go to him. The company donated them and shipped them to me and a family will take them to him (along with a pencil case chockfull of goodies for school as a reward for doing so well) in September.
I’m asked why I send crutches. I guess I want this little boy to know that there is someone who cares for him and who wants to send him the best.
It would please me to no end, if our story could help bring another child to a home. One of my favorite moments of this whole experience is when I sent photos of Kevin back to his orphanage. The assistant director wrote back to me, ‘Kevin doesn't look like disabled child anymore.’ "

After reading Kyle’s message, full of love and hope for not only her son, but for Q and T both living in orphanages in China, I knew beyond a doubt that greater forces were at work here than a few volunteers searching for a pediatric walker.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Remember Me...
Working in the orphanages of China has caused me to re-examine all of the things in life that I take for granted. I honestly think that each of my children has at least 1000 photos of themselves as kids, especially since the invention of the digital camera, where you can snap away like crazy for no extra cost at all. I have boxes full of photos, stacked every which way in my closet.

Each and every day I look at one particular photo, however, that means the world to me. It was given to me by a very special young lady in China, who has been orphaned her entire life. She was never given the chance at adoption, and now sadly, she is considered "too old". She has lived her entire life so far without having a mom or dad, and each time I go to China I truly look forward to spending time with her. Each time I bring her a small gift she looks surprised, and she blushes the most amazing shade of pink when I hug her and tell her how happy I am to see her.

It was on my third visit to China that she came up to me shyly and pressed a small photo in my hand. I don't know if everyone realizes how precious photos are to the orphaned children in China. Many kids have just 1 or 2 photos of themselves. Sadly, I have met children who have none at all. No parent has their photo proudly displayed on a fireplace mantle. And so when I looked down and saw the photo in my hand, that she had taken from her room to give to me, I at first said I could not accept it. "No....." I argued, asking her to please keep it for herself. "It is too important to you". But she kept pushing it back to me and finally covered her hand with mine, looking at me very intently. "For you", she said......"so you will please not forget about me".

I had to turn my head to blink away my tears. Please not forget about me. REMEMBER ME. All any child wants is for someone to look at them and see them for the special people they are. There are thousands and thousands of children in China who will never be chosen for adoption, and who will never have their photo on someone's wall. I wish there was a way to tell them all that we DO remember them.....each and every day. But since I can't, I will always treasure this photo that was given to me by a very special young lady, whom I will never forget. And I will look at my own kids' photos and realize how blessed I am to share their lives. I am humbled every day at the experiences I get to have working with the children in China. They have taught me never to take anything for granted.....not even the simple act of taking someone's picture.

Monday, June 19, 2006

When my husband and I started our adoption journey almost 6 years ago, we didn’t do so out of any desire to become humanitarians ; we simply wanted children, and after exhausting all of the traditional means to do so, international adoption seemed like our surest route to parenthood. It was only after we got involved in our adoption process that we started to learn more.

After visiting China to be united with our children, and visiting the orphanages where our daughters first lived, we came away indelibly changed. We experienced not only the changes that come with the awesome responsibilities and joys of parenthood, but we did this with the painful awareness that, in bringing our children into our families, we left behind both their homeland and thousands of other children who may never know the love of a mother or father. The directors and caregivers in these institutions love and care for their charges to the best of their abilities, but they are challenged on a daily basis to “make do” with limited resources. As adoptive parents, we can’t forget the faces of the children we left behind.

Let me tell you about one such little girl that I personally met, and because of whom I have become involved in Love Without Boundaries.
This is the story of Jing. Jing was very ill when she was brought as an infant to her orphanage in southern China. At 15 months, Jing was not able to sit, to crawl, or even to roll over. She couldn't feed herself, couldn't really hold onto anything for more than a few seconds, and was almost like a newborn. Perhaps most disturbing, Jing made no eye contact, and almost no noise, at all; her primary activity seemed to be staring at her fingers, or repeatedly kicking her leg against the side of her crib. She was very thin; we suspected brain damage or autism. We were terribly fearful for her future.

After we got home from China, a fellow adoptive mother led me to Love Without Boundaries With the help of LWB, we were able to arrange to move Jing to an LWB foster care program. With two caregivers at her side, this one very small girl traveled to new city in a different province, to be placed into a private family experienced with special needs children, where she now experiences the care and love of a wonderful foster mother and father.

That was less than six months ago, and I can't tell you what a difference we can see in Jing, just in the photographs and the information that we receive on a monthly basis as her foster care sponsors. She has gone from a vacant-eyed child who didn’t interact with her surroundings, to a walking, running, clapping, smiling and laughing three year old, and we are hopeful she may become eligible for adoption in the future. Jing is now starting to try to form words by imitating her foster parents’ mouth movements. I view Jing’s progress as nothing short of miraculous given what we observed - and didn't observe – when we first met Jing. This would not have happened without foster care.

I’m proud to report that a little over a month ago, I joined LWB as a volunteer. In the weeks that have passed, I have been both thrilled to see the amount of daily activity in which the volunteers are involved, and also, at times, a little overwhelmed by the need, which – now that I am exposed to the names and faces – feels even more personal. In one recent medical report, I counted well over a hundred names of children needing surgery or other medical attention, many of them still awaiting sponsorship.

It would be easy to conclude that the need is simply too much for one person like me to make a difference. This is where LWB’s original mission comes into its sharpest focus for me: the belief that every child counts. A few weeks ago, Amy Eldridge shared something she had read in a book about Mother Theresa, and that quote has stayed with me: “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.”

We obviously can’t aspire to help every child in every orphanage, but each child that is helped has worth, and the possibility of a brighter future that we can now imagine.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Hats off to Helpers!

I just want to take a moment to thank all of the people around the world who have taken the time to help orphaned children in China. If we started a list of all of the kind people who have helped us, it would run off the table and out the door.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love quotes, and I have collected so many over the years that deal with giving to others. I like this one by Bertha von Suttner......."After the verb 'to Love,' 'to Help' is the most beautiful verb in the world." I know I am very fortunate in that I get to read so much of the mail that comes into our Oklahoma office. So many times, the checks that arrive will come with a note that says "I am sorry it cannot be more". I want to write everyone back who has written such a note saying, "your gift is priceless to the children because it so obviously came with love". Whether it is $5 or $5000.....the very fact that someone looked at the face of a child in need and actually took the time to help them is a wonderful blessing and a testament to the fact that this world is still filled with hope.

We also get emails and notes from people telling us that they are praying for the kids, or lifting up the work of LWB. Now that we have been helping for three years, we sometimes get notes from the parents of the children we have helped as well. I cannot tell you how much these keep us encouraged. I always tell people to always remember that all of the work is worth it to help the life of even one child.....and of course, thanks to the generous spirits of others, we have been able to help so many more.

So "hats off" to everyone who has made a difference to these beautiful children! This year we had so many wonderful people make blankets for the babies who live in orphanages with little heat, and also wonderful volunteers who knit the cutest hats to keep the children's heads warm during the winter. We've had people make scrapbook pages for the older orphans, and who have helped us research the best hospitals, and so many wonderful volunteers who helped with the art auction and now the special needs manual. So many people helping in every way possible.......We couldn't do it without you.

I know the media is often filled with stories and images of a world in turmoil, and I think we all hear over and over again that the world is "going to pot". Yet through my work, I wake up every day knowing with certainty that the world is also filled with incredibly kind people who love children and want to help them in any way. Each and every day I get to see the beautiful kindness of strangers. Each and every day I get to see people reach out a helping hand. And it reminds me of one of my most favorite quotes of all...a beautiful one by Carl Sandberg: "A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on......" That sums it up well, don't you think? THANK YOU to everyone who has helped change the life of these beautiful babies. All of us at LWB are so very grateful.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Going the miles for their smiles!

What a super-de-dooper day to coin a phrase from Dr Seuss! The Flora Ladies Irish 10K mini-marathon 2006 brought the sunshine out in Dublin city PLUS over 40,000 woman all running, jogging, walking or crawling for their charity of choice. Of course our little band were walking for LWB!

Fun started on the DART (rail) transport into the city centre. Every station stop saw woman pile on sporting their “attire” mainly the T-Shirt of their organization. The laughter upped a decibel when these women appeared – fully made up with blue eye shadow and rouge …. Well they were supporting a good cause!

Have you ever been in a crowd that size? …sure you couldn't make your granny out and they could be through the starter line at the same time.

Jane and I slowly moved sideways towards the “media stage” as we advanced on the balloon festooned arch for the “off” (that took us 15mins!). We WANTED the guy announcing all the various charities the women were fundraising for to see US and shout LWB from the pulpit! Suddenly Jane nudges me .. “aha! That’s how he can read the T-Shirts …they have spare ones to hold up! - Take off your t-shirt, quick!”
Well I know I have done some things to help LWB – but shirt off? 2 secs later I'm walking holding her Camera close at the ready to take the shot. Voila! He spotted the T-shirt (not me – I did have a vest) and shouted “Love without Boundaries ….helping to heal children” Gosh that felt so good! I discovered later that fellow LWB Walkers heard the announcement and didn't see us – I told you that was one BIG crowd!

It was such an emotional feeling to be amongst all these woman moving forward with their hearts set on having a good day, sharing the fun and laughter and raising funds.

So many incredible foundations being helped ….40,000 woman all with love in their hearts WOW!Friends walked side-by-side all-be for different causes!

That arch of balloons looked good as we picked up speed 10 strides out from the finish line…. Some of us beating last years time by 10 min (ahem cough cough)

I am still getting funds in from those that went the miles for the children’s smiles.
One walker emailed me “Two years ago yesterday we collected Fu Liang's photo from the Adoption Board and then it all began, it seemed fitting to be in the same district doing the walk on Monday.The girls at Heiton Buckley have been fab and I must single out one lady in particular - Mary O'Brien who so far has raised E1,400 approx on her own and is still not finished. This lady is a legend in our company for her tireless efforts at fund raising, we are so lucky she chose LWB this year!

Ester Carol & Kim from Carlow

I am Proud of the Irish and their efforts to help the children we love in China receive their cleft surgery.

Go raibh maith agat gó leir
Xie xie ni men
Thank you all!

Julie Flynn Coleman
Vice-President LWB

Friday, June 09, 2006

Just for Kicks (or is that Kix?)

It’s no secret…sometimes the easiest path to a child’s heart is via the stomach! I will never forget the very first time I saw my daughter’s eyes light up: we had just met Emily an hour or so before, and settled in on the bed to get to know each other. I poured a handful of Kix cereal into a small cup, praying that a little bribery might bring a spark to those cautious eyes. I handed Emily a piece of cereal, which she briefly contemplated and then “down the hatch” it went. Eyebrows raised ever so slightly, and I caught the tiniest little twinkle of approval. Eureka! I offered another piece, and then another. I handed over one more piece, and then pointed to my own mouth. “Mama?” I must be darn good at charades, because Emily knew EXACTLY what I meant. Just as if someone had flipped a switch, a light came on in her eyes…she looked at me, looked at the Kix…and gobbled it down with a mischievous grin. When I faked huge disappointment, the grin got bigger.
We continued our charade for a few minutes, until we got down to the very last piece. This time she reached into the cup herself, gave me a triumphant smirk as she ate that last piece of Kix, and then she giggled. That was the moment I truly fell in love. Yes, we bonded over a handful of Kix! Great minds must think alike, because five years later I discovered that the LWB volunteers always take a good supply of Kix cereal whenever they visit an orphanage. It’s lightweight, easy to pack, and the aunties are happy to see us bring a treat that is healthy for the children. They are even kind enough to clean up all the runaway cereal that ends up being crunched underfoot. (This little gal got a fresh bag, just in case you are wondering) We probably have a volunteer visit China to check on one of our programs (or to adopt!) nearly every month of the year, so we have used these little gift baggies to warm up to countless kids! The children are so precious! Some will sit and study each morsel carefully, while others will cram their Kix in by the happy handful. Some of the sneakier individuals will try and secure a second bag, while other children will take the time to help feed another child who cannot manage this task on their own. It’s the most touching thing to watch, and such a simple pleasure!

So if you are getting ready to make your own adoption trip to China, be sure to pack some Kix cereal and snack bags for the children, and brighten their day! (and don’t forget to help clean up the mess, ha ha!)

Jan Champoux

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

What a truly wonderful day! This trip to visit my foster care program filled me with joy to see all the love poured into each and every child in this 30 strong program.
The children were so connected to their foster parents watching carefully that they stay close by. Once again I got to meet the folk who work so caringly to give the children a great start in life. One mom showed me all the sweaters she had knit for her girl …an array of colourful work. Another showed the “adapted” mobile of a Chinese lantern now swinging above the crib. I delivered the gifts of baby cream, bath cologne, soap, fever medicine and towels paid for by the adoptive families worldwide with children adopted from the same orphanage …some of the children past foster children of these same homes I stood in.

The foster parents eagerly scanned the collage I presented them with, commenting on the smiling faces they once cared for. Nana …that wonderful Nana … Rushed to the window to study the photo of her girl only 2 months gone from her arms but not her heart. She turned to me and wiped a tear freely falling, a grin so wide on her loving face. This kind lady has cared for 2 children now in the USA and currently pours her love into a new cleft affected baby – no better home for this little angel! I was delighted to see the cleft bottles carried from the states by the adoptive Mom of this Nana’s last foster child were now in use by this sweet granny – what a circle of love!

As our group wound it’s way from building to building to climb the many stair to the apartments we passed lots of local colourful life … woman knitting and men playing cards, noodles drying and children playing – everyday life.

Chatting with another foster mom I learned that her “Princess” would only go to sleep if she lay down beside her and stroked her cheek. The families all had little snacks laid out for us to nibble on, peanuts, fruit, cake and watermelon were frequently offered and shared by all! At each home I delivered a little gift from Ireland and noticed that last years toy gift was still there and well used.

One of the children was in the local hospital so we stopped by there to say hello before calling into the orphanage to meet with the older kids. I was delighted to see a whole floor now empty of babies – all the young children are now in foster care. Yes the orphanage have worked hard to find these loving homes where the children will reap the benefit of one on one care!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Can anyone guess who this is?
Here are 3 hints:
1) LWB thinks he is will always be on the "top" of his game with his winning smile.

2) Do you think he ate that pickle in "10" bites?

3) LWB can never be tired of looking at his "photos"

If you guessed he is the child from our #1 Top 10 Photos of 2005 you are correct. We are overjoyed that a family has chosen him to be their son!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Oh Baby!....

Last month two of our volunteers visited an orphanage in Guangdong Province.
We have helped in the past with surgeries and some physical therapy equipment, and wanted to check up on the children who reside there.

There were babies, babies, everywhere!

We have never seen so many babies in one place before, and oh my, but they are all so GORGEOUS! We were so impressed with the care these little ones were getting...everything was clean and bright, and the babies were smiley and as cute as could be!

The children are obviously getting very good care. But with such an overwhelming number of babies, the doctor at the orphanage could really use several pieces of medical equipment for those children who need a little extra attention: An incubator would be a huge blessing for any preemies that come into care, and they could also use a nebulizer/aspirator for babies who need respiratory treatments, and an ultrasonic b-scanner to help check for masses and tumors.

We are accepting donations for this equipment, which can be seen on our website at: Thank you for helping to give these children the best start possible!

The Assistant...
On our whirlwind trip to China taking 8 flights in 9 days and visiting 6 orphanages, we saw more than our fair share of gorgeous children with cute button noses, sparking eyes, & killer smiles. In every orphanage and town, we fell in love with children and wished we could just pick them up and take them home to be a part of our families. Yet, after seeing hundreds of kids, there was one particular child whose face continues to haunt my mind a dozen times a day since our one and only encounter. He was a 6 year old boy with an uneven smile and an awkward gait due to cerebral palsy. If I had not met him in person, I don't think I would have looked twice at his photograph or thought him as being special. He is not at that cute toddler age nor is he what you would call the most handsome of children. As a matter of fact, I think he was what Hollywood would call a "character face” and he reminds me of a very young Jerry Lewis. But there is something about him that shines and you cannot help but smile when you are with him. This is how we met.

At one particular orphanage, we asked to see the 25 children who the staff would like to attend a new LWB preschool. We were led upstairs to a room filled with active toddlers and young children happily playing and obviously excited to see strangers in their midst. They swarmed around us like bees to honey, curious as to what was in our pockets and lifting their arms for us to toss them around in fun. It was a little chaotic as we tried to match each child from our list and make sure that we had taken their photograph and asked the suitable questions. It didn't take long for one little boy who was dressed in a coat that was reminiscent of a leisure suit, to get the gist of our need to photograph the children and take the bull by the horns. One by one and he started pulling the kids here and there to get them to us in an orderly fashion. With his help, we found the correct child and lined them up against the plain wall and took their photo. It was fun to watch him urge the others to smile by saying “CHEESE” as soon as our camera was ready. We couldn't believe how quickly he had learned the ropes of photographing and recording the children. For the rest of the afternoon we referred to him as “The Assistant.”
My sister, who is an elementary school teacher with training in special needs, came with us on the trip and pitched in to help with the entry of data. She had her notebook to record the handful of new children and update our information. Once again, The Assistant was eager to help us with our record keeping. He was enthralled with the notebook. Noticing his curiosity, my sister took out a fresh piece of paper. Ever so carefully, The Assistant put his hand over hers and intently drew on the pad. Never mind the details that he does not know how to read or write. They drew smiley faces and peace signs with the same seriousness as if they were signing legal documents.
Soon, 4 more children arrived from their foster care parents to be photographed by our team. Not missing a beat, The Assistant ran over to them and helped them over the toddler gate and helped them with their hoods and straightened their clothes, ready to be photographed.
My sister told me that this boy is the type of kid whom teachers in the USA would cry when they graduated from their programs. He is a teacher’s dream.

Looking back at our photographs from that day, we all laughed at how almost everyone on our team had their photo taken with The Assistant.
My sister made sure that Linda knew that she would cover his education fees if the program moves forward. She vowed that she is going to have to sponsor The Assistant through college because with some help, he is going to make something of himself. And when he leaves the orphanage, she wants to buy him a bike. We all know how it is hard to leave when we make a connection. I don't know if it was a promise or a prayer, but as we left, she turned to him and said, “You just wait and see. I am going to dance and at your wedding” and she gave him a hug goodbye. You know, greater things than this happen every day…