Friday, November 03, 2006

China trip 2006

Thank you barely seems adequate to describe our gratitude to those of you who helped make our Trip possible. So much was achieved, so many children helped and so many positive relationships further deepened. It was without doubt God’s work, and He used a wonderful team to make it happen. I will try briefly to describe for you what we did, although my words/even photos just cannot do more than glimpse the reality.

Day One

We visited Jingchengjiang SWI where many children were taken before being transferred to Desheng SWI. On our visit it appeared to be a poor, run down institute where only special needs children remained. There is no International Adoption here and therefore no money to provide adequate care for these children. While we have done much to help in Desheng SWI , here was an opportunity to provide desperately needed help in a much poorer institution. Our friend Helen was able to visit the SWI, speak to the Director and is investigating ways for us to help these children. In the meantime, we sent warm clothes for the winter, shoes and books.

On our way back from Hechi City, we managed to stop in Desheng town

We wandered along our favourite road leading to the SWI, when 2 girls came screeching round the corner, squashed onto an old bike. They are the only 2 older children left in Desheng SWI, and we were desperate to meet them, build relationships with them to be able to help them long term. God had just provided a way. We were able to talk with them and get to know them a little better.
We were due to meet them the following day on an “official” visit – but this meeting gave us an opportunity to make more meaningful connections! Our family already pay for one girlto go to school, and we hope to help the other next term. This means that these girls have some hope for the future as otherwise they would have little hope. We see them as “Big Desheng Sisters” to our daughters and are delighted to be able to help them prepare for their future.

Day Two

Next day we met in Yizhou City with the Assistant Director of Desheng, a Nanny, the Foster Care Manager and the 2 girls. We sailed on a riverboat cruise with them sharing a Chinese tourist trail. It was a great opportunity to share with them.

As a result of our “chance” meeting we were able to ask the girls what they would really like. We discovered they would both love their own bike – they had been borrowing one from a Nanny and being “slagged” by their friends! Some things are the same the world over!!!!. We were delighted to be able to buy them both a bike the next day in downtown Desheng for the princely sum of 200 yuan( around £12) each. It was hard to know who had the greatest joy as they cycled back to the SWI on their shiny new bikes – but I think it was us!!!

That night we were able to celebrate Autumn Moon Festival with our Chinese friends and think about the birth mothers who had had to leave their children for reasons we may never know. We knew they would be thinking of their children at this time.

Poignant evening.

But not much time for reflection – we had to match books, photos, specially hand-knitted scarves and money envelopes for our 66 Desheng girls whom we support thro GGEF – we were meeting them for the first time next day!

Eilidh had had enough by this time and decided it was time for bed!!!

We had no idea of the surprise that lay ahead next day!

Day Three
Matthew wanted us to leave early as we had to drive to Desheng, then out a dirt track to a village Quianhe( Chang Hu) where we had helped to raise money to rebuild some dangerous classrooms. We also had 8 GGEF girls to see there. As we drove slowly along the dirt path, we were amazed to see a red banner across the road with Hope4China, Portree High School, & Desheng Families Around the World, in Chinese & English.

We jumped out, amazed, to take a photo!

Little did we know what lay ahead!
As we approached the village we could hear music – suddenly we were facing a marching band, children with bright flowers lining the road to welcome us. They had never had a foreigner in their village – no-one had ever helped them before and the whole village had turned out for a ...

.......Major Celebration!
Local film crews were there, everyone in the village had turned out, a new song had been written for the occasion and was chanted by the villagers. The children offered blessings, ceremonial tea, wine. They gave Chinese gifts of Love Balls and Good Luck Charms. I presented a folder with photos of all the people who had raised the $10000 needed to rebuild their classrooms and spoke on their behalf. When we presented the cheque, we were given beautiful documents for each group as a Thank you! This is of course a school where our daughters could have grown up and it was such a privilege to be able to help in this way
It is quite impossible to capture the excitement and joy of that day.
We just felt so honoured to be a part of it!
It will live in our hearts forever!

We then had to rush on to meet the rest of our Desheng Girls waiting patiently at Desheng Primary School. It was amazing to meet them, although we had seen them on video and had all of their photos at home. We gave them out their Scarves and Books from their Sponsors.
Then we all headed downtown Desheng for a special Lunch.

It was wonderful once again to have time to get to know these girls. We took lots of photos, but the time passed all too quickly and soon it was time to go and prepare for the next event!

We were meeting some wonderful girls from Yizhou Middle school, sponsored by Portree Primary school. Here they are with the scarves and books from their sponsors.Their stories are inspirational and their attitudes amazing in the face of great poverty and difficulties.

Here they are looking at the photos of the different people who worked so hard to knit the 145 scarves we took over for the girls.

Zhang Zhang wrote this beautiful letter as a gift to us:-

“Hello my dearest friends.
There are so many words to say, but so little time when we meet, so I must write this to tell my heart.
You have dragged us up from the whirlpool of difficulty
You have changed our faces from distressed to happy
You are the Guiding Star in front of us
You spray down the colours of the rainbow on our growing road
Your help for us is not only financial, but also spiritual. Words cannot express our gratitude
You love us too much and we cannot help loving you…..
Although there are dark shadows behind us, we will work hard and silently, smiling firmly
You are our Companions
There is an Invisible Thread leading us forward together…..”

Zhang Zhang lived a happy life until her father & sister were run over by a motorcyclist. Now her father is unable to work and her mother works from dawn til dusk every day to try and feed them. She wants to get good grades to get a good job and relieve the burden on her mother. She cries when she thinks of how much her mother has to do for them to survive. Her fortitude and appreciation is both humbling and inspiring.

That evening we were meeting all the Directors of Desheng SWI, the Foster parents and children of the Foster Programme we had set up last year, at a special dinner.
Ms Qin, the doctor who brought Eilidh Fu Yi to meet us two years ago was also going to be there. It was another memorable evening, seeing the children, who in that year, had blossomed from awkward institutionalised youngsters to thriving children.
What a huge difference a loving family had made to these children. We were so happy to be able to be involved in this too!

Desheng orphanage care certainly helped these children to survive, but the Foster Care had without doubt enabled them to thrive!!!!
These were the more personal aspects of this trip in many ways as we have such close emotional ties with Desheng – but there was much work still to be done!

Day Four

We were due to leave Yizhou City first thing next morning to return to Nanning City where my friend was to meet her new daughter – but with Matthew , our Guide & friend, nothing is ever that simple. On his early morning cycle, he “popped” into Yizhou Nationality School, as he had been given the names of 3 girls in urgent need of help for schooling. He arranged for them to come and meet with us at breakfast in our Hotel.

Afterwards, we took them back to their school and popped in to see daily exercise China style for 1400 kids!!!! Just look at these straight lines which appeared without effort!

Their teachers were very welcoming and happy to have "foreign visitors". Matthew arranged for their school fees to be paid by our sponsors.
GGEF’s sponsorship is arranged quietly like this whenever Matthew hears of anyone in need. These girls come from Minorities who work hard on remote farms and struggle for the basics in life. Through GGEF they have an education, learn about love, and have hope for the future. ( See Links for more info)

Day Five
Next day was another one of the highlights( there were a lot!!!!) for me.

Over one year ago, Helen sent us distressing photos of 3 children she had discovered in an orphanage. They had epilepsy and cerebral palsy, were left to lie in their cots most of the day, banging their heads ‘til they bled, for relief. She was distraught as she just did not have the means to do anything to help these poor children.

Through Hope4China we managed to find businesses who were prepared to pay not just the £18 needed for Foster care, but also special help for their needs which was nearly £40 a month. Helen then set about the difficult task of finding Foster Parents up for the job of caring for such desperately needy children. She succeeded, and we have followed their amazing progress with joy and special thanks to their generous sponsors. We were on our way to meet them again – my friend Cindy is an OT for kids with special needs and was also able to help with training , equipment etc….

They say a picture paints a thousand words – just look at these smiles….

It was awesome to see these children laughing and giggling with their Foster Mothers (they were the real stars of the show!!!) and we felt privileged to be part of such a wonderful team of people who had changed the lives of these children forever.
God had brought together people from China, USA and Scotland to make it happen!

Day Six
Last year when we had visited Desheng SWI, we discovered a young girl, Regina lying on the floor, banging her head on the ground. Our friends were concerned for her. They tried to hold her in a sling to support her and try to make eye contact – one took her home to see if she could help, but nothing seemed to make any difference. Eventually she was diagnosed with severe autism – unable to stand, no muscle control.
Helen found details of Ark Centre – a wonderful, if expensive treatment centre, with individualised programmes for children like Regina. We have managed to raise funds to take Regina there for 3 months. A Nanny from Desheng has gone with her which serves 2 purposes – continued support for Regina and training for the Nanny to use for other children in Desheng.

The difference in her in one month has been astounding, and so we hope to be able continue this treatment for her to make a difference in her life.

Later that afternoon, we headed to Angel House, where Kate runs a centre for children with Cerebral Palsy. She relies solely on donations to provide this care for these children who are marginalised in Chinese society. Teachers from there also visit Linda, Patricia & Bao Bao in their Foster homes to give them therapy.
We had donations from sponsors, equipment from Cindy and plans to discuss to build links with the pupils of the Mary Russell School in Glasgow. We hope to develop relationships between the 2 groups of children which will be of benefit to them both.
They sent warm scarves for the girls and caps for the boys.

A quick turnaround that evening and we were off to meet our “Girls”.
These are some of the first girls we sponsored after returning from China with Eilidh. We now sponsor many of their friends and we continue to encourage communication between them and the Portree High School pupils who support them.

This time last year, pupils paid for them to have an overnight at a hotel in Nanning, a day at the Zoo and a Birthday Party at KFC.
This year I was doing the same thing with them. It was such a pleasure to meet them again – they feel like old friends as we have communicated all year.
We had dinner together – their English is amazing and I gave them the gifts - Books with photos of their sponsors and Scarves lovingly knitted by people in Skye and around Scotland. They were delighted with these!

Afterwards we all went for a walk in the park where everything was lit up for the Lantern Festival - great chance to talk.

Day Seven
Next day we met in their Hotel to watch a DVD we had made in Portree High School showing the events of last year’s trip with photos & music from Scotland added in. Many had never had a photo of themselves and were amazed to see themselves on TV! They were also delighted to see their friends in Scotland.
We visited a park where we had the chance to talk to the girls in more depth.
Lui Jin Hua was struggling with the need to leave school to earn money to help support her family. She is a talented artist and it would be such a shame if her opportunity was missed. This is a common problem for many of our girls.
Matthew offers support and advice and financial help if appropriate

Despite their struggles, I am always impressed by the positive attitudes of these girls – they can teach us so much!

We moved on to happier things with the 2nd Birthday party at KFC. Last year we discovered not one of the girls had ever had a Birthday Cake, Party, Card or Celebration of any sort! Portree High School pupils have decided that they will sponsor a party for them every year in October.

I would love to be there every year, but might just have to leave it to Matthew sometimes?

This was such an amazing event that a film crew also turned up here to film for local news!!!!

Our trip was almost at an end, but Jin Hua was desperate for me to go meet her friends at Da Tang High School and teach her class of 70 students.
A wonderful experience with happy students desperate to learn English. We discussed Scotland - the only thing they knew about us was our Football? What could I say???

Appropriately, our time ended singing the words of Auld Lang Syne together – even if they
didn’t understand all the words, I know they understood the sentiments.

I have to leave you with my favourite photo of the man who makes all this happen and who is seldom in the photos - because he is taking them all!!!!! He calls himself
" China's Greatest Gofur"

We just think he's "China's Greatest!!!!!"

Many Thanks for all of you who have helped in so many different ways to make this Trip happen.
You have helped to change the lives of so many wonderful young people in China in more ways than you will know!!!!!!