Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Physical Therapy Camp

Well, it’s been a week since we got back from Lu’An for the physical therapy trip, and the fond memories from the week are still fresh in our minds. The team of 20 of us LWB volunteers was composed of two Americans, 2 Canadians, a handful of Shanghai young professionals and a group of college students from one of China’s top universities. For me personally, it was one of the most meaningful, fun and eye-opening trips I’ve ever been a part of!

Throughout the week, Ellen, our physical therapist, got to meet and assess 41 kids in the foster program in Lu’An. Most of the kids have been previously diagnosed with CP, have had restorative surgery (either for cleft palates or heart conditions), or are cognitively delayed. It was amazing for us to see Ellen at work and see her interacting with the kids and their foster parents. Ellen prescribed specific exercises, body positions and other tips to help strengthen muscles and encourage development. The foster moms that came with their foster kids were very responsive to her instructions, and each child got to take home a developmental tool or toy especially picked by Ellen to help in development. Ellen’s assessment/treatment notes were very detailed and pictures we took of each of the foster kids are the latest step in LWB’s efforts to closely monitor the progress of these foster kids as time goes on.

The highlight of seeing Ellen at work with the foster kids was that we got to see a few “firsts.” One of the photos I’ve included here shows Cheng-zhi, a little boy with CP who walked for the very first time after Ellen outfitted him with a LWB-donated walker. The look of joy and wonder on his face is something that I will never forget! Also, it was incredible to see how Ellen could prescribe seemingly small things (sitting position changes, small exercises) that would make a huge different in the quality of life for these kids.

We genuinely enjoyed working with Ms. Feng, the foster care coordinator at the orphanage. She reminded me of a caring mother hen! She knew each of the foster kids’ names, physical conditions and their foster family background by heart and hovered over them with great care and attention to detail. We were also encouraged to find that the foster moms that we met with were very caring and seemed attuned to their foster kids’ needs.
While Ellen was working her magic, the rest of the team took turns helping to play with the kids in the intake room or upstairs in the orphanage’s infant rooms. Our team really bonded with these kids, and it was really hard to leave them after a week. Over the course of the week, the college students learned the names of each of the infants upstairs and their personalities. One of the little girls burst into loud cries as if on cue anytime she saw a stranger and would cling to the ayi for dear life…but by the end of the week, she was happily playing with us. We brought music, sang songs to them, helped the ayis with diaper duty, feeding duty and in general, just held the kids and loved on them.

For me personally, my favorite times in the infant rooms upstairs was when I got to hold a little one that I nicknamed, “the Little Princess.” She was a preemie and even after two months, she was still tinier than a regular newborn, weighing barely 6lbs by my guess. It was a personal challenge…for me to look into her tiny face, think about her future and be able to say, “I believe that there is a plan for your life, and people who love you even though they’ve never met you, and I want to play my part (however small) in helping you along the way.” That’s a commitment that I believe many LWB volunteers hold to.

So that’s the story of our trip!

– Grace Chiang, Lu’An trip team leader

Sunday, July 16, 2006


One of the people who touched our hearts the most on our surgery mission to Henan was a 19 year old girl who had lived her whole life with a severe bilateral cleft lip and palate. Despite not having a normal smile, this courageous young woman set a goal for herself that she would study every day and someday be accepted to university, even though her loving parents, who had adopted her as a baby, were extremely poor.

Shortly after we did surgery, we received a letter from Cui that brought all of us to tears. I would like to share a portion of that letter here:

I am almost completely recovered now. I believe that it will not be long to see a true me living freely like other ordinary girls, these are my dreams for so many years. Thinking about possibilities and future life, I am very happy and grateful from the bottom of my heart because I know all these changes were given to me by warm hearted people.I still don't know who are my own biological parents, it's my adopted parents, who picked me up from the road when I was abandoned, that give me a new life. They are very poor but I can feel their love. Recollecting the oldtime, I got used to harsh ridiculous remarks, cold eyes and snobbish comments from ignorant bystanders, weeping and sleeplessness in dark nights are still vivid in my memories. Life, years after years has taught me a lot and made me stronger and now more optimistic. In the past, even though I had never said anything about cleft operation to my current adopted parents, I knew that they were anxious but all helpless,I could only accept this as my fate. I am like other girls who love to have sweet and beautiful dreams. Just before I went to LuoYang, I dreamed that I would meet good-hearted people some day. This miracle appeared unexpectedly and came to me in an unbelievably fast way. To tell the truth, it was nothing more than trying my luck when I went to LuoYang, My past living experience taught me not to expect miracles, they only appear in storybooks, but everything went smoothly. Thinking about all these now, I still feel that I myself were in the dream of fantasy. The pain and burden in my heart has disappeared, only happy smile is left.


We were fortunate to meet this young woman again in January, and she told us she would be sitting for the college exam this summer. We are THRILLED to announce that we just got the news that Cui has been accepted to University!! This inspiring young woman has beaten all the odds and will begin college this fall. LWB is honored that we can help make this possible for this determined young lady. I know you all will want to celebrate with us that her dreams are coming true! Recently, she sent us an updated photo of herself. This young lady, who had lived so long feeling different, now looks out of her photo with confidence and beauty.
Summer Camp Update: Henan Playground
Things here are going really well. We've been working incredibly hard. You know I got here and saw the "garden" and was pretty shocked because it was much more untamed and much LARGER than I had expected. On Monday we started clearing the space in a huge way and getting rid of all the unfriendly plants to kids. Myself and 7 others were working on that project and I couldn't believe it- in one day we cleared half the garden and got it ready for the next steps. Once I got here, I got the vision for what this space could be and have enjoyed being a "landscape designer"!!! Hah! luckily, we had an expert come in and he took a look at the space and gave suggestions as well. So, I would say what we are doing now is Phase 1 of potentially 2 phases. Just today, there were 2 girls on the swings having the time of their lives and it was such a joy!!!!!

Thursday, July 13, 2006


When I traveled to China in May for LWB, I was especially excited for a chance to visit the participants of our Preparation for Adult Life (PAL) and older teens in one of the orphanages we help in Guangdong. I’ve always loved teenagers. There’s something about their earnestness and playfulness all covered up in a desire to appear grown up that I find delightful.
On the first day of my visit I had lunch with the main caretaker of the PAL teens and older children at the orphanage, Miss Hua. I asked what her main concern is for the program. She answered that discipline of the teens was sometimes challenging. As she described situations that she’s been dealing with I realized just how much respect I have for this woman who has been taking care of and involved in the lives of these teens for many years and watches them grow toward adulthood.
Back at the orphanage, she showed me a reward system and chart that she had devised to encourage each teen in her charge to follow the rules in regard to appearance, attitude and completion of individual chores including homework. It seems to be helping.
On my second day I visited with the girls when they were home from school on lunch break. All the girls were very hospitable and excited to see me. I had given each of them a postcard with one word of a sentence on the back that encouraged them to listen to their teachers and study. I also gave them instructions for them to solve the puzzle of the postcards. The girls enthusiastically told me that they had solved the puzzle and which word of the sentence each had translated. And, the girls so appreciated letters their sponsors sent to me to deliver. Each girl wanted me to thank their sponsors for their support when I got home. When I asked the girls to write a note to their sponsors they ran for paper and pen and got busy writing in Chinese and English. I had a blast helping spell words and collecting notes to carry home for their sponsors.
As I toured the teen’s living quarters, Miss Hua showed me that all the books in their small library have been read. They are in need of new books in Chinese for the kids to read in their “down” time. I passed this request along to Amy Eldridge to share with parents who are adopting from this orphanage. It’s possible that some adoptive parents will purchase books for the library when they are in China. However, this is not an easy task to do on an adoption trip. There is now a donation gift card option on the LWB website. Donors who wish to buy books for the teens can do so through that link. http://www.lovewithoutboundaries.com/SponsorEducation.php
I was able to stay for dinner before my flight back to Guangzhou and the remainder of my travels with LWB. Dinner was a delightful experience. The cook made a delicious meal of local foods. The PAL teens and staff surrounded me and took care of filling my plate, chatting with me and making sure I felt welcome. I had the most distinct feeling of family as I shared a meal with the kids.
After dinner, several of the teens accompanied me outside to the courtyard where I waited for a driver to take me to the airport. I shared photos of my family and answered questions about my life and my thoughts about their town. One of the teens, was especially good at using her new English. She asked me many questions about what it is like to live in the states. She was and patient with me as I tried to answer some of her questions in my limited Chinese. I felt like I was sitting outside with cousins after a holiday dinner…away from the adults but acting like adults. Again, the feeling of family surprised and thrilled me. These kids really do love each other and those of us who support them with thoughts, prayers and donations. I hope I have another chance to visit them soon.
Linda Mitchell- LWB Education Director

Monday, July 10, 2006

Cure for the Summertime Blues
From a LWB Donor...
As I returned home from a routine school physical with one daughter, I found that my other 13 year old daughter, Kathryn and her cousin, Lucy had left me a note saying that they had gone off to sell lemonade. After I wiped sticky stuff off the floor and picked up the rest of the mess they left in the kitchen, I headed out to find their stand.
I first ran into Lucy (age 7) who informed me that they had already made $27 because one guy with a lot of kids gave them $20. This seemed strange to me that they could make so much money so quickly. Something was not right. I then continued off to find Kathryn to make sure she wasn't fleecing the neighbors. I was quickly corrected that the guy with "a lot of kids" had twin boys from Korea and he was more then happy to donate to Love Without Boundaries.
These 2 girls had decided all on their own to open the stand with the intent of sending the money to LWB for the Cleft Mission trip this October. Their goal is to earn enough money so that they can sponsor one orphan's surgery. So far they have made $50. The "Lemonaid" stand will contiune throughout the weekend. Fortunately for them the forecast is for hot dry weather! Editors Note: The girls earned $98 that weekend.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Good Cries...

Almost three years ago, I was in a scrapbooking store with my newborn looking for stickers for his lifebook. I was clueless about how to create a book for a child by birth. Adoption books for my older two daughters were what I was familiar with. I wandered the aisles slowly as my son started to fuss and then really make a racket. He was hungry. I rounded a corner on my way out of the store and was blocked by a smiling woman. She said, “I just love that sound.” I was dumbfounded for a second. What on earth could she be talking about?! That sound is the sound of a cold or hot or wet, or in this case, angrily hungry little man that I need to attend to. I quickly ducked around the woman and bolted to my minivan to feed my baby. It was a moment easily forgotten until I found myself sitting in the office of a Guangdong orphanage at rest time on a site visit to one of the LWB programs we are sponsoring.

I had just had lunch with the orphanage’s assistant director, translator, and kindergarten’s English teacher. We returned to the orphanage during siesta time. All the babies and children were bedded down for an hour. The director and teacher had business to attend to. My translator and I took a seat and rested our eyes during the quiet time.

I have to admit to dozing off for a few minutes. When I awoke it was to the sound of a baby crying. I found myself thinking, “what a wonderful sound”. The baby cried and within seconds, I could hear someone comforting the baby and soothing him or her back to quiet. It happened again, and again intermittently over the course of the next thirty minutes or so.

With closed eyes, I reflected on those good cries. Children in this orphanage are loved by their caretakers and all the donors and volunteers of Love Without Boundaries. They receive high quality formula and cereal. Babies look healthy. Toddlers and children unable to attend local schools due to disabilities attend kindergarten and school on-site at the orphanage. Children who need physical therapy receive it on a weekly basis as physical therapy students from the local university conduct internships and volunteer hours here. Children in need of life saving surgeries get them. I had seen at least ten children recovering or fully recovered from recent surgeries – all smiling and ready to take on the world. Best of all, during nap time, when somebody was wet or hot or scared a child could cry with the confidence that loving hands would touch them and attend to their need.

Tears welled up in my own eyes as I thought about all the children in so many orphanages that we have yet to reach with love and medical care, nutrition, education and loving hands. My prayer is that LWB continue to grow so that we can all hear and experience those very good cries.