Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Kaifeng Foster Care

While in Kaifeng, we were able to visit all of the foster families. The first night we made home visits, and the parents were so kind to allow us to keep visiting even when it was quite dark as we arrived late from Anhui. As I walked down the dirt alleyways in the village, I thought to myself how fortunate I was to be able to see such snapshots of daily life in China. I always try to remember every detail I can so that I can share it with my own children, as I want them to have the clearest picture possible in their minds of their birthcountry.

In every home we visited, we were met by beaming foster parents who couldn't wait to show off their child. The first mom we visited became a foster parent after hearing about it from her friends who were fostering. They had cared for a little girl for the last two years, and she was recently adopted. I asked if they were going to take another foster child and was told they were not, because the pain of having to say goodbye to her was still too deep. As I was told this, I realized exactly what we are asking our foster parents to do. We are asking them to love a child completely, to care for them as their own child....and then to let them go. What an amazing sacrifice they make when a child is adopted. Like so many things in is a complicated situation, but this was the trip that cemented in my mind that these wonderful parents are making such a sacrifice to their own hearts to say goodbye. They say goodbye hoping that the child they love will have the absolute best life possible. What a gift.

Two of the moms in our program are caring for little boys with Down Syndrome, and both of the boys are thriving in their care. The second mom we visited had her little boy dressed up so cute. He clasped his hands together and bowed to us saying "Xie Xie ayi" when presented with new shoes. His mom was so proud that she had taught him what all the animals say, and we got to hear his impressions of a cat, a cow, a dog and we were also treated to his cute little wiggle dance.

The next morning we visited with all the remaining families. Two years ago, we had written the story of Hercules, an extra tiny little baby with cleft who survived being failure to thrive when the orphanage staff, LWB volunteers, and the Hope Healing Home all came together at Chinese New Year to get him the assistance he needed. I was so excited to be able to see Hercules again, but he was a little less than excited to see me as you can tell from his picture. :-) He was running EVERYWHERE and did not want to take the time to visit with a stranger until he realized that we might have treats. Whether he wanted to see me or not...I was overjoyed to see this baby who had beaten the odds. He will always have an extra special place in my heart.
As we greeted each family, we were able to pass out new shoes and coats to each child, and one little girl looked shyly up at us and said, "I had been dreaming of new shoes." Everywhere we looked there were fat, happy babies with their cheeks hanging over their coats and with smiles from ear to ear or energetic toddlers and children running every which way. What a wonderful day. What a fabulous reminder that foster care can change a child's life in the absolute best way possible. Thank you again to everyone who sponsors a child in this way.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Comic Relief

The foster parents we met in China loved the children in their care so much, taking such joy in showing them off to us that one could only smile with happiness. Or occasionally cry with laughter.

We had visited one mom's home, a woman who had recently been remarried. We found her inside with three of her dear friends and one very loved little boy. The other grandmas with her showed us with pride the homemade clothes they were quilting for the baby for the upcoming winter, and there were lots of smiles shared between us as we all oohed and aahed over how cute the little boy was.

Our foster care director, with ever an eye for detail, noticed that the apartment did not have a crib, and that is something we normally provide for every foster family. When asked, the mother smiled and said she didn't want a crib because her foster baby slept with her each night. "Oh," we asked, "does it bother your husband?"

"Yes it did," she answered. "In fact, he moved out. The baby kept him up all night by moving around."

In panic, we all started saying how sorry and worried we were for her, and how we never had wanted to cause her a problem with her marriage. To which the foster mom said with a huge smile on her face to our translator,

"Oh it's not a problem. I like the baby much more than I liked the husband."

Insert sound of four grandmas laughing hysterically here.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Beautiful girl

I know so many of you remember Gong Lu, the little girl who came to America to receive surgery on a facial tumor, and who had a personality the size of Texas. Gong Lu is now adopted by Dr. Buckmiller, the surgeon who first operated on her, and in just a few days she will be returning to China with her mom as LWB does its fourth medical mission trip in Shanghai.

On our trip to China last week, we left Anhui and headed into the province of Henan, to one of our most favorite orphanages because the staff are so completely committed to the children in their care. In the older children's room, we immediately met Yuan. This little five year old girl had entered the orphanage just one week earlier, and the tumor on her face was the very first thing we all noticed. She actually has two on her forehead and then another on her cheek, affecting just one side of her face, but both grown to a size that has changed her entire appearance. While we might have noticed the tumors first, within seconds we were treated to the beauty of her smile. Soon we were graced with her sweet and gentle personality and I thought to myself that this was a very special child.

We offered Yuan a little cake and she insisted that I have some, too, and then when she noticed that I had empty wrappers in my hand, she called out to me "ayi" and took them from me to throw away. When I pulled her close for a hug, she melted into my arms, and I could feel her tiny hands on the back of my head stroking my hair. She gently pressed her cheek into mine and patted my face, and my heart broke inside thinking of the fact that she had just lost her parents a few days before.

We asked the orphanage to get an immediate MRI, which they had done within 24 hours. Yuan will be traveling to Shanghai next week to meet Dr. Buckmiller to see what can possibly be done for her. She will most likely meet Gong Lu. I hope if she does, Yuan will look into her eyes and recognize what HOPE looks like. It is my daily prayer now that Yuan's story will have the same happy ending as Gong Lu.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fuyang Foster Care

LWB currently sponsors 13 children into foster care in Fuyang. Following our orphanage visit, we were able to visit with some of these great kids, and each home we stopped at reaffirmed our belief that every child deserves a family.

At one house where two little boys are fostered, we witnessed one of the cutest moments we had ever seen in China. Their foster mom's biological daughter, who looked to be about 8 years old, had decided to walk the boys a few doors down the street to buy them a snack. She was trying to get these two very rambunctious boys to hold hands so she could safely walk with them to the street vendor. She might as well have been herding cats. Finally, realizing she was fighting a losing battle, she gently put her arms around them like a little mother hen and then firmly told them in the cutest scolding voice who was boss. With grins on their faces, they complied. It was one of those tiny moments that might have seemed insignificant to most, but to us...after just having come from an orphanage, it was such a sign of normalcy and family that it almost brought us to tears.

We also got to visit with one of our individual nutrition babies who is on a special diet to help her gain weight. Jan Champoux, our nutrition director, got to hold and love on her for awhile, and the family told her that they hoped the special formula would continue as she was quite picky and "only likes the good stuff". :-) She was absolutely the picture of health.

Our final stop was to the village of a little boy who wanted absolutely nothing to do with us, but we loved seeing him immediately reach for the safety of his foster mom when such strange looking ladies from America showed up to meet him. We really thought we were never going to see a smile, until he spied someone's cell phone and then he was happy as could be pretending to call everyone he knew.

It was a wonderful afternoon. Thank you to everyone who gives the gift of family.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Ten months ago, we learned about an orphanage in rural Anhui who was in need of some essential assistance. We were so grateful to the donors who quickly stepped forward to provide their first heating system, extra formula, new cribs, warm blankets, and medical care. When we met with officials they told us that the help that has been given has truly changed lives forever. much more remains to be done.

As we meet with orphanages, it is always wonderful to find those that will take the aid given to them and use it in every way possible for the children. This is one such orphanage. They have many children with moderate to severe special needs, and what they have done with their limited resources is truly remarkable. When the PTs from Anhui Children's Hospital who work with LWB's mobile medical unit explained the type of exercises the children would need to do, the Fuyang SWI staff rolled up their sleeves and HANDMADE the equipment they would need to help the kids. They showed us with excitement how they had taken material and stuffed it to make bolster rolls to help the kids have support (the blue rolls in the photo below), how they had taken blocks of wood to create handmade steps for the children to practice climbing, how they had cut pieces of wood to make leg and arm splints for the children. Then they showed us each child's personal exercise book and how they work with the kids each and every day. The determination of both the aunties and the children in that makeshift PT room were truly inspiring.

As we visited the different rooms of the orphanage, we made mental notes of all of the things that could be provided to help the beautiful but often fragile babies here: more formula, warmer clothing, glass windows, an on-site doctor, a refrigerator to store vaccines, simple medical supplies. As we walked to the older kids' area, we learned that the kids do not have a working bathroom at the moment, so they have no place to shower. They showed us a nice sized room with a toilet and pipes which had broken, and told us that a total renovation would cost just 10,000 rmb. ($1300). All of us on our team agreed that this is an ESSENTIAL project.

While we oohed and aahed in one of the baby rooms over their newest arrival with cleft lip, I couldn't help but think how I wish I could give this orphanage everything it needs to give the children here the best life possible. As I looked at her tiny face, I thought of how innocent she was, and how she had not been given a choice in her fate. How important her life is, and how deserving she is of our assistance.

It was clear during our meeting that the staff here are trying their absolute best with what they have. While definitely limited in resources and in one of the poorest regions of Anhui....the Fuyang orphanage is an institution truly worthy of our help. Yes, their needs are great... but their determination and desire to help the babies in their care is REAL. So is our commitment to partner with them in any way possible to make a difference. Thank you to everyone who has given in the past to their needs. Since they have only done a few international adoptions in the last few years, there is no parent group yet to make a long term commitment. We absolutely could not help them without your support, and we have seen with our own eyes what a difference has already been made.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A visit to JinJiang

Fujian province:

Following the special needs manual training, we were able to visit the main orphanage in Jinjiang. It has a history of 160 years. It was explained to us that most people don't even know that the orphanage is there as there is just a simple door in the middle of a busy street that leads up the steps to the orphanage floors.

As we entered the orphanage, we were met by over a dozen beautiful children with medical needs, who eagerly called out "hello!" and who held out their arms to be held. We had time to offer them a quick snack of little cakes and to play peek-a-boo, and then we began checking on all the children LWB has sponsored for medical children here.

The list was long, and it was so great to be able to see the beautiful children who once had heart disease or cleft now looking so much more healthy. One darling little girl that we helped with cataract surgery had on her new glasses, and the babies who had come to our cleft mission in Anhui last year were looking oh so cute.

We also got to meet the children who will be attending our new Believe in Me school, which is just in its beginning stages. These great kids have never attended school before, and they are so excited by the idea of finally getting a chance to go. We learned that one of the older boys is a great singer, and it was so wonderful to think of him getting a chance to have music class in the future. We were all so excited thinking about coming back on a return trip one day and hearing the stories of what they have learned.

Following our visit, we went to the construction site of the new orphanage. It was absolutely amazing...with so many great details which will improve the lives of the children. The baby rooms have wonderful picture windows and a balcony so that the babies will be able to sit outside for fresh air. The rooms we are being given for our school are large and bright, with a big bathroom and nice rooms for bunkbeds. It was easy to picture them in the future, with colorful murals and school tables and chairs. Our one concern was that people might look at the fancy building and think the children don't need any additional outside help. While the building itself is wonderful and is so very needed, support will still be required for the actual programs inside. The orphanage is so grateful for our upcoming help with setting up a school, as they have never done anything like that before. They are in the process of hiring teachers whom we will send to Beijing for Montessori training, and they asked for any and all advice on ways to improve the lives of the older kids with medical needs. Stay tuned for much more news on this important new educational program. We all know it is going to bring so much joy to some very special kids.

Fujian Training on Special Needs

Last Wednesday and Thursay, we held the first provincial training on our new special needs manual. Honestly, things could not have gone better. We were told that normally about 50 people attend trainings when they are offered in province, but when the orphanages heard what the topic was going to be (helping kids with medical needs and then learning how to file adoption paperwork on kids), over 100 people signed up. Orphanages from all over Fujian province arrived on Tuesday night, and the training sessions began at 8:30 Wednesday morning.

The first sessions were led by Dr. Bao from Shanghai Children's Medical Center. He covered the topics of neurological issues, bone, muscle and joint issues, and ear and eye issues. All of the aunties and staff listened SO carefully, taking notes and asking questions so they could give the best care possible to the kids in their care with those conditions. Even after his session was finished, he was surrounded by aunties asking more conditions about specific kids in their orphanages because they wanted to make sure they did everything right.

Following his training, the head of SCMC's nursing department, Nurse Meng, gave her talk on feeding and colon issues, failure to thrive, and how to care for babies post surgery. Finally, it was Dr. Qiu's turn. She is a heart surgeon at Zhejiang Children's Medical Center. She had prepared a detailed powerpoint on the care of orphaned children with heart disease, and once again, a crowd of aunties surrounded her after her talk to ask her specific questions on the kids in their care. Even though the day was long and went past the dinner hour, no one minded because they wanted to take away as much new information as possible. Several staff even asked for it to please be longer!

One particular orphanage director really touched all of our hearts. His wife had given birth to a baby daughter the night before the conference, but he still came to the training because he has so many children in his care in need of medical help and he thought he could not miss this opportunity to learn how to help them. He asked question after question of our team, and when I learned that he has more than 8 children with heart disease, 5-6 with cleft lip and palate, 3-4 with spinal sad as I was that he felt he had to leave his wife right when they became a family, I could not help but be touched by his dedication to the children in his care. We are ordering echoes and testing on all the children he is so concerned about. (photo of director included) He is so excited by the possibility of his children having the chance to find their forever families.

The second day of training involved the topics of nutrition and special needs adoption. Jan Champoux, our nutrition director, began the day discussing the importance of good nutrition especially pre and post surgery. When she said that there were cleft bottles available to any interested orphanage, there was a mass race to the side wall where the boxes of bottles stood. Soon everyone had bottles to take back to their children with cleft. Then I presented a talk on special needs adoption and how orphanages can better prepare children's files so that parents have the most information possible when they make adoption decisions. We held a question and answer session following the meeting, and the questions from orphanages varied from "what is international adoption?" to "do you really think a child with special needs is adoptable?" Soon orphanages were asking specific questions of us, such as "there is a little boy in our orphanage, age 2, who is clever and cute but who is missing a he adoptable?" or "there is a 12 year old girl in our orphanage who is so intelligent and wants a mother but she has she adoptable?" Over and over we replied, "yes....send their file", "yes, a family would love to adopt a child with missing limbs, "yes, healthy girls age 10 are adoptable." My heart was full of happiness that so many new orphanages were going to be trained in how to file the paperwork on the children in their care.

After the training, so many orphanage staff came up to me to thank us for doing such a "practical" training. They all agreed that it gave them real information that they could take right back and apply to the kids. They also asked us when our next training was because they want to come back for it! :-) In fact....several officials told us this was a training that should be held in every province. I assured them that when I find that proverbial money tree....that should definitely happen! I would love to see every province educated on the reality that almost every child with special needs IS adoptable.

I am just so grateful to everyone who allowed this to happen....from the One World Orphanage Trust in the UK to the officials in Fujian province and our wonderful hosts in JinJiang city. I am so happy thinking about how many new children in Fujian province will now have the chance of adoption. The whole entire trip was worth it just for this training, but there is still so much to report on other days as well. Stay tuned!
Amy Eldridge

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Okay, so we are going a little out of order but I hope everyone will understand. We are running through China and this is the first time I have been able to get online.

I know Heidi and Jan already wrote about their wonderful trip to Gaoming and Foshan. Linda and I headed from Beijing to Shantou instead. Early the next morning, Linda and I started at the orphanage and were met by the kids in our school program who were downstairs playing on the new playground equipment that was recently installed. We got lots of hugs from the children before heading upstairs to check on all of the kids LWB had sponsored for surgery this year. Each baby was so beautiful, and it was great to see how the children who had heart surgery had filled out and were looking so great. The aunties joked that following surgery they all became so active that their work load increased. There are several children needing cleft surgery, and one particularly stole my heart. His eyelashes are so long that they looked like black fringe, and he was sitting in his bamboo chair listening to the music playing in the room. He is so tiny but he was wiggling back and forth to the music in perfect time. It was SO cute to watch!

On the third floor the kids were having lunch, but they still took the time to come and say hello. Many of the foster families stopped by with their kids as well. I am always so touched by the care and concern of the mamas and babas, and one dad in particular was SO proud of his foster daughter. He brought her up to me over and over again to say “see…look what she can do!” and he would stroke her cheeks and say “beautiful girl” with so much pride.

At lunchtime the teen kids came back from school, and it was so great to see them all again. We were able to sit down and talk with them about their futures, and as I listened to each one speak, my wishes were that each of them be able to find a way to make their dreams come true. I have known them for five years now, and can’t believe it is now time for them to make very real decisions about what they will do when they leave the orphanage.

All too soon it was time to head to the bus station to catch our bus to Fujian province. As we headed off on the highway north, my head was filled with the images of all of the beautiful children I had seen that day. So many amazing children….. each one so deserving of knowing love and happiness.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Special Needs Training in Fujian

Have you seen our Manual of Special Needs? Did you know that in partnership with the One World Orphanage Trust in the UK we had it translated into Chinese for use to train orphanage staff in bringing the best possible care to the children in their charge?

Today was the first Special Needs Training in Jinjiang, Fujian. It was attended by more than 100 nannies and orphanage officials from more than 50 orphanages in Fujian. We were also honored to have the vice-mayor of Jinjiang give a speech and attend the evening banquet. Officials told us that almost every orphanage attended because all of them want to learn everything possible about giving the best care to children with medical need.

As soon as we can get more reliable internet access, we are going to blog in depth about this wonderful day, but we wanted to share some quick news that the training was a complete success!

If you haven’t seen the manual yet, you can see more about it on our website at

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ni hao from China!

It’s hard to believe that the four of us haven’t even been here 24 hours, and already we have so much to report. Heidi Reitz, our foster care director and I are waiting in the Jinjiang hotel for Amy and Linda Phillips (our newsletter editor) to arrive…so for now you will have to settle for only one half of the adventure. After a long day’s travel, we all arrived safely in Beijing and then split up briefly to visit different programs in Guangdong Province. Heidi and I hopped a plane to Guangzhou and were able to get a good night’s sleep before visiting two orphanages from our nutrition program on Tuesday morning.

We met our wonderful guide, Cindy Wu, after breakfast and then drove to the Gaoming orphanage. We have been providing formula to Gaoming for the past three years, and this was my first opportunity as nutrition director to visit in person. We were happy to visit with the orphanage director and staff, and of COURSE, cuddle some very adorable babies!

Gaoming is a small orphanage with BIG babies. Our arms got a workout as we picked up and held each of the babies as we chatted with the orphanage staff. The director proudly pointed out renovations recently made to the baby room…all provided by Gaoming families. The new paint and tile made the room look so bright and cheery!

In order to meet our next flight, we had to do a quick turnaround and zip off to one of our newer nutrition programs at the Foshan Shunde orphanage. Again, it was absolutely fabulous to see such bright-eyed, lovely little babies. The orphanage director told us that one precious boy was soon to be adopted by a family in the United States soon, so I gave him a little hug in advance of his adoption. That had to be the highlight of my day! Again, we held as many babies as we could get our hands on, and were rewarded with bright smiles and sparkling eyes. The babies there obviously receive plenty of love and affection from their caregivers.

Then it was a mad dash to the airport and for a quick flight to Xiamen, our second province of the day. We made it to our hotel in Jinjiang in time for a dinner with government officials, doctors, about 100 directors and nannies representing approximately 70 different orphanages in Fujian Province. Tomorrow begins the training seminar for adoption of special needs children, and several of us plan to make another orphanage visit as well.

We are looking forward to a good night’s sleep, I know I will be dreaming of babies in my arms all night! Amy and Linda won’t arrive for another hour long after Heidi and I are sawing logs. We can’t wait to meet them at 7:00 AM for breakfast to hear about their adventures.

Wishing you all well from Jinjiang!

Jan Champoux

Nutrition Director

Thursday, October 11, 2007

LWB Charity Ball

Earlier this year, I was contacted by 3 ladies from Essex who wanted to raise funds for Love Without Boundaries. Caroline Chesterton, Julia Wilson and Karen Soanes had decided to hold a Charity Ball, which was held on September 28th. These wonderful women handled all the details for an absolutely amazing evening.

The day of the ball we headed to Essex to the Stock Brook Golf Club. The room for the Charity Ball was GORGEOUS. There were wonderful flowers for the tables, Chinese red envelopes for the raffle tickets and red lanterns to put coins in for those people daft enough to use their right hand to drink with or those rude enough to swear. They had also organized a professional Toastmaster who was fantastic. He was decked out in his Toastmaster "Tails" and greeted everyone as they arrived, with the ladies in beautiful ball gowns and the men looking like 007!

We sat down to a lovely meal followed by an LWB speech and photoshow and then an auction and dancing to a band and disco. Julie Flynn Coleman was kind enough to relieve me of the duty of giving the speech, which focused on a little girl who had died earlier in the year and how there were so many children still in need of live saving or life changing surgery in China.

Caroline and trusty Toastmaster then launched into the Auction, which had wonderful items to bid on. Then it was time to quickly draw the raffle before the band started. Again a wonderful choice of band...but even better, a guest who wanted to sing with them but who would only do so everytime $200 was donated!!
As we were leaving, one helper counting the lantern donations said that as she viewed the photoshow, she just kept thinking of her own children and how that could be them in need. She felt the room, although not connected through adoption, had responded as any parent would "These children are the same age as mine…I need to help!"

LWB is so very grateful to these 3 wonderful women. Their efforts for that one evening raised enough money to fund Physiotherapy in orphanages in Anhui, pay for hip, leg and foot surgery for one little girl with very deformed legs, saved the lives of 2 children by raising the cash for their heart surgeries, will help one child to talk with the aid of tongue surgery and more……. The event was a really great evening, organised by 3 wonderful, gifted and caring women.

Arlene Howard
Mobile Medical Program Co-Ordinator

Monday, October 08, 2007

Love's Journey 2 is on the press!

We just got these new photos from Canterbury Press and LJ2 is in print! Don't forget that if you order by November 1st, you get $5 off the price of the book. We are still on target for a mid November completion date. We know this is a book you will treasure forever, and don't forget it will make a great holiday gift! With 100% of the proceeds going to help our programs in China....we know you will want to order at least 10. :-)

Irish Bikers Support College Students

This summer these 3 Irishmen raised funds for Love Without Boundaries in a motorbike challenge from Atherlow to Africa.

One of these bikers is a high school teacher that is delighted to be supporting the complete college education of two hardworking young people.

One of our students will be majoring in Chinese in a 2 year program. Her hope is to one day be a kindergarten teacher.

Our other student will be majoring in computer sciences in a 3 year program.

We are very appreciative of the efforts these men made on the behalf of these girls! In addition to supporting education, this fundraising effort will also support medical services and the purchase of incubators and coats in Hunan Province. We are so grateful… Happy Trails to You!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Photos from Shanghai Children's

Things have been very busy at Shanghai Children's Medical Center lately, with lots of babies and children coming for surgery. Even though the rain and winds are blowing heavy outside, the kids are safe and warm inside. We wanted to share some of our favorite recent images and are so grateful to everyone who helps make the healing of these beautiful children possible.