“All Things Are Possible”

Senior Writer Robin Munro discusses her experience at a Holt-supported foster care program in Northern China.

by Robin Munro

Jilin City, China—Today, we drove to a small farming village just outside of Jilin City, a forested, mountainous region of Northern China where Holt sponsors foster care for 39 children. Here, amid lush green acres of corn stalks, rice fields and gable-roofed homes, we meet several of the children in our sponsorship program. Ducking out of the rain, we step into an unoccupied house – recently built by the village – where the families have gathered, anticipating our arrival. I am with Sue Liu, the Beijing office manager and assistant to Jian Chen, Holt’s China director; Jessica Palmer, Holt’s Waiting Child program manager; and a couple officials from the Jilin City Social Welfare Institute, with whom Holt has partnered since introducing a foster care project to this region in 2006.

I find a windowsill in which to sit and observe the scene – foster mothers sitting in a circle on the floor, cooing over babies swaddled in blankets as Sue and Jessica assess the children’s development and the foster care manager distributes formula and food. One boy – an older boy of about 9 or 10 – comes over to talk to me. “Hello,” he says in English, smiling. “Hello,” I say back, followed by a couple more simple phrases. He shakes his head, not understanding. “Ok,” I say. And he repeats. “Ok.” He wants to learn, wants to engage me with any means of communication he can find. I give him a thumbs-up. And he lifts his hand to mimic me.

But even this – this universal symbol for a job well done – he can’t use to communicate.   Continue reading ““All Things Are Possible””

Telling Their Stories

Holt Senior Writer Robin Munro is traveling with Waiting Child Manager Jessica Palmer to learn more about a new group of children in Holt’s Journey of Hope program, as well as other Holt-supported programs.

by Robin Munro

At the Jilin City Social Welfare Institute – the third orphanage we’ve visited in China – the beds are empty. Except for one tiny newborn who recently came into care, no children occupy the cribs and beds that line the rooms. It’s a lovely building – a home for the elderly, and orphaned and abandoned children, with a central atrium that lets in abundant natural light. It’s a wonderful sight, all these empty rooms – it means all the children who’ve passed through this orphanage are now in Holt-sponsored foster care, a program that serves 39 children in partnership with the welfare institute.

After a short stay when they come into care, the children occasionally visit the orphanage for physical and developmental exams, and rehabilitation training for those with special needs. But their homes are apartments and houses, where they get to experience family life.

Today, we get to meet five children in Holt sponsorship, a program that funds their clothing, food and other basic needs for 350 Chinese Remnibi, or about $55, per child per month – a cost shared equally by Holt and the Jilin City Social Welfare Institute. We enter a room – the only one emitting any sound – and find four boys in motion, bouncing on giant balls or rolling around in soft tubing, teasing each other and making faces. Two of the boys, dressed in matching striped polos and shorts, look like twins. They are foster brothers, though not related, 8 and 9-years-old – happy, hyper, outgoing boys with telltale scars on their lips from cleft lip surgery. Their foster mom tells us they are both their teachers’ favorites in their 2nd and 3rd grade classes, both very popular with other children.

I can see that right away. The older boy, Shen Ying (name has been changed), has a great sense of humor. He jokingly puts on a scarf and exaggerates his smile for the camera. I bet he’s the class clown – sharp, easily bored, requiring constant stimulation. When he lacks engaging activity, I bet he creates it, entertaining everyone in the room. I like him immediately, and think about how lucky the family is that gets to adopt him. Continue reading “Telling Their Stories”

Who do you see?

Holt Senior Writer Robin Munro is traveling with Waiting Child Manager Jessica Palmer to learn more about a new group of children in Holt’s Journey of Hope program.

Robin Munro, Senior Writer—Today, we visited a beautiful orphanage in Northern China – a place full of color and life.  Each room opened onto another group of faces – curious, apprehensive, wide-eyed faces.  Most of these children have special needs, conditions beyond which most birth families have the capacity to provide medical care – conditions like cleft lip and palate, CP, Down’s Syndrome, Spina bifida, feet and hand deformities, as well as a few cases of pneumonia.

In the first room we enter, metal barred cribs line the wall.  In each, a child sits or lays, staring at the ceiling, the wall, or nothing in particular – into middle space.   These children have some of the most severe conditions.  Most don’t seem to notice our presence in the room – don’t jump up, or cry, or reach out to us.  I walk over to one boy, who lifts his head when I touch his back.  His head is swollen from Hydrocephalus, a condition in which water gets onto the brain.  In some cases, this condition is minor and won’t interfere with the child’s life.  But this boy’s condition is serious, says Sue Liu, the Beijing office manager.  As I rub his back, he begins to smile.  When I stop, he stares at me blankly.  I gently touch him again, and his smile returns.   Continue reading “Who do you see?”

In Hopes of Finding a Family

Holt Senior Writer Robin Munro is traveling with Waiting Child Manager Jessica Palmer to learn more about a new group of children in Holt’s Journey of Hope program. On her first day in country, she met 3 of these beautiful children.  The following is her thoughts on this meaningful day.

Robin Munro, Senior Writer

Wuxi, Jiangsu, China—Today, we arrived in a town called Wuxi, in the south China province of Jiangsu. We are here to meet a group of children the Chinese Center of Adoption Affairs, or CCAA, designated Holt to find families for. They are all children in Holt’s Journey of Hope program– a special program for older children, or children with special needs in southern China.

On our first night, we meet three children. Their orphanage is in Zhenjiang, a great distance from Wuxi. But the caregivers know traveling to meet us will heighten the children’s chances to be adopted. Here, Waiting Child Program Manager Jessica Palmer will interview the children, assess their conditions and post their pictures on Holt’s photolisting, in hopes of finding them families.

*Yan Lin is 12. She is tall, in shorts and a T-shirt, a Mickey Mouse button on her yellow Crocs shoes. She seems shy among strangers. When summoned, though, she quickly snuggles up to Sue Liu, the young, sweet-faced manager of the Holt office in Beijing. In care since she was a baby, Yan Lin was born with a minor condition which made it difficult to control her bowels.  She underwent surgery to correct this condition.  Now healed, she is more confident in school. She wants to be a teacher, like her favorite caregivers. She feels discouraged when children find families. And fears for the day she turns 14, when she will no longer be eligible for adoption.

*Yan Bing is almost 5. He likes to pose for pictures – to throw up his hands as though about to summit a roller coaster ride, a big open grin on his face. He climbs on Sue’s lap and makes himself at home there, stealing her bracelets to try on his wrists.He is adorable, and seems perfectly healthy. When Yan Bing came into care – as an infant – his head was swollen from communicating hydrocephalus; he had water on his brain. Now, his symptoms are gone. He has developed into a healthy, high-energy charmer of a child. I can’t imagine he will stay in care much longer, and feel confident about his future. Continue reading “In Hopes of Finding a Family”

They Need Loving Families Too

Jessica Palmer, Holt’s Waiting Program Manager, is currently in China with Holt’s Journey of Hope children—a group of older children, some with special needs, who are in desperate need of families. On her second day in China, Jessica interviewed and interacted with the children and learned more about their specific stories and personality traits. Once Jessica returns, she hopes to use the information she has gathered to help these beautiful children find families of their own.

The following is Jessica’s account of her visit to Wuxi, Jiangsu, the location of Holt’s 2010 Journey of Hope camp and where Jessica first met the Journey of Hope children….

by Jessica Palmer, Waiting Child Program Manager

Wuxi, Jiangsu, China—Although I couldn’t understand the Mandarin being used by the loving caretakers as they described the children in their arms, I looked into their eyes and could still sense the feeling and meaning behind their words….“Please don’t forget about this child. She deserves a loving family too.”

On my second day in China, I traveled to the city of Wuxi, Jiangsu, where I assisted in interviewing and assessing children in Holt’s Journey of Hope program, in hopes of finding them permanent families of their own. Dozens of children and orphanage staff, from all over Jiangsu Province, attended this special camp.

One child, 10-year-old Xing Men, was able to share his touching story with us. In care since birth, Xing Men has leukoma of his left eye. This charming young man explained  his interests – particularly origami – practiced his English for the group and recited ancient poetry for us. He then told us about how he feels when other children go home with their families and  how he doesn’t understand why a family doesn’t come for him. Continue reading “They Need Loving Families Too”