New Members of the Family!

Last week in Fuzhou was a particularly exciting one, as you can see from the title of this entry.  After a couple months of slowly working on it, we finally brought in three new children to join three of our current family units.  The process of bringing them in took time, but was all worth it as soon as each child was residing in their respective new home.

A brief introduction to each of our three children:

Laura First is Laura, a ten-year-old girl.  She has joined the Liu family, joining three boys and one girl.  Laura does not communicate verbally, though she can understand communication with her.  We have approached a speech therapist and are in the process of assembling a treatment plan for her, with the hope that she can recover her verbal ability.  This will be explored more next week when the therapist visits Laura in her home.  Laura enjoys wearing cute clothes, and, since she is currently not enrolled in school, likes to spend time with her new mother, especially to show off her slow progress in learning how to write.  Laura’s new siblings like her, particularly the girl who is finally not the sole female child in the family, though Laura’s tendency towards meekness means most of the others think they are in charge of her.  Right now she does not mind being told what to do, but this may change when she can communicate more!

BeccaThe youngest child to join in this small group is Becca, a five-year-old girl.  She entered the Han family, along with Aaron, Graham, and Steven (whose information can be seen on our sponsorship page on this site).  Becca returned to the government orphanage when her elderly foster mother fell seriously ill, and was in there for just a few days before she was approved to join Living Hope.  Sadly Becca has experienced a severe developmental delay, and operates at approximately a two-year-old level.  How we will proceed with providing her with appropriate education and therapies is being explored alongside Laura.  Becca is gradually learning simple new words, she is able to express a handful of single-syllable words now, and is coming to better understand toilet training as well.  The Han family already love her very much, with Mrs. Han raising so many boys, being very happy to have a little girl.  Becca is a special girl in a special family!

JaredFinally, the third child who just joined us in Fuzhou is Jared.  He is a ten-year-old and while he has some level of developmental delay it is not severe as either of the girls’.  Jared can communicate rather clearly, though he has a slight stutter, and can understand everything that is said to him.  His self-control is a little lacking, especially when it comes to eating, but he’s learning a lot and has adjusted to listening well to his parents, the Zhao family, in the short amount of time he has been with them.  Whenever someone visits the Zhao’s home, Jared always greets them with a loud ‘hello!’ and requires a handshake before anyone can depart.

All three of these children are already very near and dear to the entire Fuzhou home.  They all have their strengths and weaknesses, and are learning to express their individuality in healthy ways.  If you’d like more information about any of the three, or would like to get in touch with them or their parents, you can contact our sponsorship coordinator Elena Sicilia at esicilia@livinghopeadoption.org.

The Big Box

Pile4One of the main tasks Director Yang has taken up, along with all staff, is revitalizing our home here in Fuzhou.  The five-story building that we have had now for several years was starting to fill up, with donations and things that could one day be useful, and rooms not currently occupied by children were discovered to be chock-full of all kinds of things.  Once general house repair was finished last September, the staff, during free moments, began to slowly go through all the items we found.

Some things were no longer usable, due to being past expiration dates or improperly stored.  Other things were perfectly suited to our current child population, with clothes for toddlers unusable before but now just right for Sam, Robert, Aaron, and Graham, our new four youngest Fuzhou children.  Throughout the process of sorting, we came upon many things that were worth saving, and appropriate for most of our children, and began to assemble a huge box (eventually more than one!) of toys, games, and little oddities we knew the kids would like.

It took several months, as you can tell by the date of this post, but eventually the sorting process was finished and the big box was ready to be used in some way.  Director Yang thought about it for several days, unsure how to make it fair, before he came up with a complex raffle system, spending an afternoon writing out tickets, numbers, and more.  Once the kids were all home from school on Friday evening, everyone was gathered in the second floor living area.  Gathering the entire home together is an unusual event, so there was general excitement among the children and then almost catastrophic happiness when the big box was revealed and its contents displayed (in the case of nicer items) and put on the floor (in the case of the broken, but still fun, toys).

Pile3More than a few minutes was spent trying to calm the bedlam, and as Director Yang tried to explain his system there were many antsy kids desperately trying to remain seated, the toddlers getting up and walking to the toys over and over, unable to resist the allure despite being told they had to wait for just a few more moments.  Eventually the more complicated portions of Director Yang’s system were decided against, after he realized it was not going to catch on, and instead each child received a number indicating when they could pick, with the first ‘round’ picking one item each, then the second two items each, and so on.

While the first few items were obvious, with some card and board games getting picked, then coloring books, then a jump rope, and other ‘choice’ toys, as the time wore on the decision between a sack of marbles and something resembling a Rubik’s cube was much trickier.  The entire ‘event’ lasted for more than an hour, without tears (except a couple toddlers) and plenty of happy children ending up with lots of new toys.

Pile1Following the big box being given out everyone returned to their apartments, squirreling away new treasures, bargaining about trading with their peers almost as soon as they reached the stairwell to their individual homes.  Only one question was left at the end of the night: which is better, a plastic dinosaur or a toy car?

 

 

In Memory of John

John1This week in Fuzhou was a sad one. Several weeks ago, we were informed about the passing of long-time staff member John (known to some as Xiao Feng or Feng Ge), who was tragically killed in an accident while visiting his hometown. He was 27 years old and in the process of beginning a new job.

When his memorial service was announced to us, happening in his hometown on May 14th, Director Yang made preparations to have as many children attend as possible. Our former director and long-term staff members also came along, in total eight children and four adults representing Living Hope were at his memorial. Normally the children in Living Hope’s care do not desire to attend this sort of event, as the trauma of grief can be difficult to cope with appropriately, but we encouraged them and ultimately they made the decisions for themselves to attend.

The service itself was very emotional but cathartic for the grief process for all our children, especially little John, for whom John was a constant throughout his entire childhood. His family was in attendance, along with his fellowship, the large group taking up almost the entirety of the crematorium, filled to capacity far past what is average. Despite his life being cut tragically short, John left a strong legacy and the many stories about the impact he had on those in his life proving this over and over again.

JOhn2John joined the Living Hope staff here in Fuzhou back in 2007 and departed at the end of 2013. Working as a house parent for Living Hope was his first job following college, and his schoolteacher mother hoped it would be a good match for him, as he had a loving heart for the ‘orphans and widows’ in society. During his time on staff, he took care of most of our preteen boys, taking care of little John specifically from when he entered and little John was 7 until his departure when little John was 14.

One of John’s jobs was picking up foreign visitors to the Fuzhou home, and many say that their first impression of our home in Fuzhou was seeing John’s smiling face greeting them at the airport. John also enjoyed singing, and would often lead singing for our groups and participated in a weekly chorus outside the home. Past this, he loved to take little John and any other children out fishing or swimming, two activities that the children still all associate as being ‘John’s thing’. For me personally, he was the first person to ever bring me swimming in China!JOhn3

Despite this accident causing John to no longer be physically among us, his memory is held in the hearts of all who knew him here at Living Hope. His infectious joy, studios attitude, and good example will be remembered forever.

A Day at the Zoo!

In China, the opening of May is celebrated as ‘China Labor Day’, though sometimes it is translated as May Day.  Because of this, most schools receive time off for the first three days of May.  This time is made up through extra classes, including a full day on Sunday, May 4th, so while the kids are aware they have to ‘pay back’ the time off, there was still a general air of excitement heading towards the holiday.

The home was in the process of making plans, with specific encouragement from the administration for the family groups to make individual plans for the houseparents, all married couples, to take the children in their care on unique outings as they were able.  Plans were made, but then a call from Nurse Gu, a good friend to the home mentioned in previous updates on Facebook, called to say that she and her colleagues also had time off for the holiday.  They wondered how our children would like visiting the Fuzhou Municipal Zoo on Thursday, May 1.

Of course the children were more than interested in going to the zoo, with the family groups all agreeing we could do one big outing, with everyone (except some administrative staff remaining back home) preparing.  Even better news, Nurse Gu called to let us know that she and her colleagues would also treat everyone to a picnic lunch.  In collaboration with the medical school which feeds into her hospital, Nurse Gu had found their welfare-oriented group and come up with an even bigger plan.  Their obvious love for our children definitely shown!  These sort of outings are usually not feasible for us, and having someone willing to sponsor it made the difference.

Most of the outing was spent looking at the animals and enjoying the very nice weather.  The kids all saw some animals for the first time, enjoying them very much, specifically entranced by the giraffes of which there were quite a few for a zoo in a small Chinese city!  There’s a picture of Daniel with a giraffe at the bottom of this post.

As the pictures show, following eating and after finishing in the zoo a nearby playground was commandeered, where the kids all worked on getting out all their excess energy, with lots of laughter and smiles.

The rest of the days off were spent with the family groups doing things individually, with some going out to local tourist spots, others spending some extra time in home and watching a movie or two.  With the shift towards full family-style care, we’re seeing rapid emotional development in the children we care for, and while there is plenty left to do, it is the small results we see every day, and the love we receive from here and abroad that keeps us going!

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Reaching for his Dreams

Piper has lived in orphanages for his entire life.  He has no memory of life before coming to the children’s home here, and no evidence regarding his background has been uncovered.  Now fourteen, Piper still retains the appearance of a much younger child, due to nutritional deficiencies early in life.  Throughout his life, Piper has seen many of his friends leave the orphanage to enter foster care or adoptive families, but he has always remained behind.

He can still recall the first time he saw Westerners come to the children’s home, when Living Hope International first opened our home there.  He can even remember with astonishing accuracy exactly which window he stood in to call down to me in 2005, and who I was standing with, during my own first trip to Fuzhou.  Despite his memory for some things, Piper suffers from some mental development delays, likely due to growing up alongside children with other more severe special needs.  He currently attends a special education school, despite his desire to return to ‘normal’ public school.

Piper is now too old to be adopted, which he knows, and for a time he said he had given up on himself.  Living in the government home, he had others to look up to who did not provide him with a good example of how life should be led, but he saw himself walking down that road anyway.  When he was brought to live in Living Hope’s Fuzhou home during our relaunch in summer 2013 Piper was ecstatic though wary, as can be seen here.Piper

Placed into a family unit where he was the oldest child cared for by an older couple with grown children of their own, Piper was at first perfectly obedient but over time his personality came more to light.  He feared being rejected by his new parents, or being disliked by his siblings, but received nothing but love from all those around him.

Now, more than nine months later, Piper has experienced profound change in his life.  He has made some of his first true friends, including from a group of Americans who visited in February, and is for the first time looking past what he may be doing in the next week and focusing on what he could do with his future.

Piper loves to receive letters or notes from friends around the world, and the encouragement he has received from some letters already has had a marked impact on him.

Those who have known Piper for a long time can hardly believe that he is the same child he was last year.  He has matured greatly, realizing that a

Piper, for the first time, has dreams for his future.  He has hope.s one of our oldest children he is an example to all.  He listens to his house parents, and even after many months of struggle has come to address them as ‘mom’ and ‘dad’.

(Currently, Piper is in need of sponsors. To receive regular updates and to communicate with him directly, please get in touch with us about sponsoring a child and supporting our mission to bring this kind of hope to disadvantaged children in China.)

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