Saturday, August 12, 2006

We arrived at Luoyang with great anticipation for an exciting week ahead at the music camp in the orphanage. Our team is made up of 6 females, including a local, Priscilla, who coincidentally is the professional musician among us. We were greeted warmly at the airport by staff from the orphanage including Chairman Pei who is the head of the orphanage. After a brief tour of the orphanage, many of us were filled with mixed emotions. Yet something about the smiles of the children and the love of the “aunties” who ran the place reached right out to our hearts and made us feel at home. We started the mornings with each of us conducting classes for selected individuals in the different instruments like guitar, piano, keyboard, violin and clarinet. All of us were amazed by the talent displayed by all our students, the level of concentration they had and their enthusiasm in picking up the instruments. While some of them have had experience learning musical instruments at some point, most of their prior lessons were usually given on an ad-hoc basis and were often haphazard and without systematic teaching. Yet, their brimming eagerness to learn made it such a tremendous joy to teach all of them. One of the teammates, Priscilla, taught piano to a blind boy called Gang-gang and another girl, Xiao-jing, who has only 1 arm. Both of them had very little prior experience in playing the piano. Nevertheless, at the end of the week, they were able to play a duet together, with Gang-gang playing chords and Xiao-jing playing the melody. It was a very touching scene as both worked hand-in-hand to play a “3-hands duet” of familiar classical tunes. In the afternoon, we had group activities that included more orphans of a wider age-range, from 7 all the way to 18 year olds. On the first day, Priscilla gave a quick overview of basic theory on reading musical notes and learning rhythm. We followed up by a fun time of singing songs with accompanying actions like“Edelweiss” and “Do-Re-Me”. On another afternoon, we conducted dance classes for both boys and girls and group singing sessions. These afternoon group activities gave us more opportunities to meet the younger children who did not attend the morning instrument classes which were mainly for older children. Once again, the children amazed us with their spontaneity and liveliness as they responded enthusiastically to all the games and activities. In the middle of the week, we had a chance to go on a day-trip to a local attraction with the kids, organized by the orphanage. The children could barely contain their excitement as they started snapping pictures with our cameras. It was during this day that many of bonded personally with the children as many of them opened up and shared more with us during this day. For example, a very adorable girl, Sarah-Abby (who doesn’t mind being called Sarah or Abby), shared with one of our team members, Mindy, about the dreams that she has and about other little facets of her life. Priscilla also had a heart-to-heart talk with Xiao-jing about her plans for her future. Many of us got to know the children at a more personal level throughout this day. During the lunchtime at a restaurant that day, the children were surprisingly very well behaved. Instead of fighting over the food like how most children were expected to, they waited patiently for the food to be passed to them and served food to one another and to us. It was definitely a very beautiful day as we witness how the children genuinely cared for people around them.During the week, the children held an out-door concert in a nearby village. Most aspects of the show were done by the orphans themselves. The older boys spent many hours setting up the stage, which was professionally done with lightings, sound systems and a PowerPoint display. Many of the performers did their own hair and make-up. I was especially struck by an older orphan, Cui-nan who was like the big brother in the orphanage. He was helping set up the stage under the scorching sun in the afternoon and the next moment, he was up on stage playing the drums in the brass band during the performance. The performance that night displayed the numerous talents that all these children possess. There was opera singing, an wu-shu display, brass band performance, singing and dancing from various groups of different age-ranges. One of the most touching and poignant performance was a play about a father who rescued an abandoned baby and took him home to raise the child despite his wife’s opposition. The message delivered by the play was clear: that all children is precious and should be loved and cared for. The play was acted by Cui-nan and the other orphans, hopefully the message will be taken to heart by the villagers who came for the performance. On our final day at the orphanage, the children put up a farewell performance. It was a very touching moment for many of us as we gave out gifts to the children and personalized cards to children whom we have developed deeper relationships with. We parted the children with tears and promises to keep in touch, encouraging them to have confidence to pursue their dreams.The most striking characteristic of theLuoyang orphanage is the overall love that fills the place. This love is very apparent, from the people who work tirelessly in taking care of the orphans to the orphans who treated one another as siblings in a big family. Many of the older orphans were responsible for the chores and looked after the younger ones, while the younger ones respected the elder children. There was no hint of bitterness at what the hand of fate had dealt them, only gratefulness for the simple joys in life. Most of us left feeling we had not given much to the children, yet we had gain so much from them. Written by one of native Chinese LWB Music Camp Volunteers

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Operation Happy Face

In what can only be described as one of those wonderful miracles of love we are fortunate to get to watch unfold, LWB is excited to report that the XiaoXian orphanage in Anhui is receiving some real help for their children, thanks to some incredible donors.

One of our facilitators had visited this rural orphanage, which is on the border of the Henan and Anhui provinces, and he immediately contacted us to see if we could help. This orphanage's well had basically run dry, and so the only water they could use was muddy, and unfortunately because of this, many of the babies had fallen ill. They also did not have any air conditioners, even though the temperatures were very hot, and they had old wooden cribs that were unsafe. The orphanage's small kitchen area did not have a refrigerator to keep food cool, and they did not have a sterilizer for baby bottles. Also, their washer and dryer no longer worked, so the aunties had to clean diapers and then drape them over a coal stove to dry.

Our facilitator told us that the staff was SO very kind, and that the children were receiving love, but this rural town was very poor and so there just weren't enough funds to meet all of the orphanage's needs.

We immediately told him that we would get to work on this end, and news quickly spread that we needed help for these kids. Our phone started ringing non stop, and donations began coming in. One grandfather called and told us that his 6 year old grandson had offered to give up something special in his life if his grandfather would make a $30 donation to the babies in need.

Meanwhile, we asked our facilitator to make sure that any sick baby was moved to the hospital immediately for medical care. In all, six children were moved to Anhui Children's. The tiniest baby, little Chun, was very sick when she was moved but she is already rallying on antibiotics and good nutrition. I think everyone will agree that she is a beautiful little girl.

A plea went out for medical support, nutritional support, and donations for supplies, and we were humbled and so grateful when we were given enough funds to buy 5 air conditioners, a refrigerator, a washing machine, 40 new stainless steel cribs, and a sterilizer. We loved the photo we got of the washer being delivered, while an aunty looks on with a huge armful of diapers!

In addition, we are hiring college students to paint the orphanage walls with clean paint and murals, and we will soon be tiling the floors (which are now concrete) and adding some soft foam flooring so the babies can have tummy time. We have volunteers in Beijing shopping for Little Tikes toys and new clothing, and their first order of the best formula possible is on its way.

Most exciting, work has already begun on an 80 meter well that will provide them with safe drinking water. We have added XiaoXian as an orphanage that LWB is committed to helping and we are excited to partner with them to bring real and lasting improvements to the beautiful children who call the orphanage home.

THANK YOU to everyone who has shown once again that gifts given from the heart can TRULY change lives! The CHI waiting child group was just amazing and really spread the word. The head of their adoption program dubbed the project "Operation Happy Face", and we feel that is very fitting! We hope as you look at these beautiful faces, you will know that you made these essential gifts possible.