Sunday, October 31, 2010

Off we go........

I have come to realise that half of my year is spent preparing for a Trip to China.
The other half is spent recovering and sending out all the information gathered!!!!!!

A pretty good way to spend a year :-)

We were SO busy preparing for this special trip that I had no time to even mention it here.

However before the Team begin to share their experiences here, thought we should let you know how we got there..............................So as I sit at 3am in Jetlag fog, maybe now is the time to begin.......................

Praying for direction , as always, we were amazingly led to  a new group of people wishing to share the work in Guangxi - lots of new talent, experience, insight, training and practical help for our Guangxi children. Also lots of additional support ( financial &otherwise) behind the scenes which of course makes our work possible.

Our aim was to continue the steady growth and development of our work with foster families and children thro Grace& Hope for Children, meeting with the families and children, having fun, sharing gifts, meeting any needs - medical or otherwise and encouraging the foster mothers in their so important jobs.

In addition to continuing our work with our Guangxi girls thro GGEF, we wanted to move our developing relationships with the girls to a new level. We spend a lot of time and effort communicating with the girls over the year, building relationships between the girls and their sponsors. Our work and support is not about money - it is about inspiring each girl to believe in themselves and reach for their dreams. As they have written to us about their hopes and fears, we want to continue to visit, building trust and sharing our hopes and fears.
So this year, in addition to the fun we always have,  we wanted to introduce more reflection with the girls to create more confidence and self-esteem.

Continuing our work at New Hope for Special Children, we wanted primarily to encourage our dedicated staff, and build on her excellent work with the children and foster families. And then to put new training in place to help each child develop to their full potential.

I have long wished to visit the unique area of Da Mo, a remote Miao minority village in Jingxi, where a friend, Shelley helped to set up programme to help girls there. This time I also hoped to work with another friend to set up a doll & embroidery business to enable the Da Mo women to share their skills and become self-supportive.

Amazingly as we communicated with friends in China to plan our trip, all of the above areas and more, were incorporated into in our itinerary. We are so thankful for their help in these areas.
We were set!!!!!!

Then the real work began working with sponsors we prepared gifts and photos for all the foster families we would meet - a big task in itself!!!!!

The Teddy Bear's Picnic was created in my mind...and off we went on an amazing journey connecting so many people around the world, to provide a Teddy Bear and clothes, accessories for each girl. This took many, many months of planning with special help from Build-a-Bear in Glasgow and Edinburgh

 I also visited local charity shops and built up a supply of wonderful Teddies needing new homes :-). This lovely lady in Dunfermline is excited to see photos of her teddies in China!!!!!!

 We got a bit carried away organising the outfits and accessories :-)
Wonderful sponsors around the world sent donations, teddies and outfits
                                      Chaos of Teddies......arriving in 3 homes, bound for China
                                          Special friend to help bring order out of chaos.......
                                                                  Lists and labels......

                       Very special little helpers who carefully put stickers on the labels for the girls
                  Some of the donations to create sensory boxes in the homes of each New Hope child.
                                Letters, photos, small gifts for Buckhaven pupils to send to China

 Lists and more lists of over 150 girls, with sponsors names in Desheng, Yizhou, Da Mo, Nanning.
NO mean feat to match all the names, teddies and donations!!!!!!!

Finally some order out of the chaos
Then the final squishing to get them packed in suitcases for the long journey
I cannot find the words or the space to thank all of the wonderful people who made all of this possible and we look forward to sharing the photos of the Teddy Bears meeting their girls in China!!!!!!!

Meanwhile Ellen was busy preparing special activities for our Guangxi girls....

Shawn was busy preparing training for Helen and our special children...

Friends in China were meeting together and consulting with SWI and local groups.

In addition to all of this we were meeting with special friends from Finland and Hong Kong in Desheng Town, Guangxi and making special preparations for our trip.

There were indeed days when we wondered if we would ever get there, but miraculously it all came together, and we set off for Hong Kong on the 14th October to begin our adventures.

Looking forward to sharing news of our travels......

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Special Care for Special Needs! Qingdao, Oct 2009

Perhaps one of the most amazing parts of last year's Trip was our visit to Jiaozhou town to the "home" for many Qingdao children. It is located abour 2.5 hours drive from Qingdao. The staff quite rightly insist on calling it a home, because they believe every child is nurtured and valued as part of their wider family and community here.
It was quite amazing to capture photos of the very rural scenes a thro the window, then suddenly to draw up at the incredible new buildings of the Therapy centre.

The land in a remote area was gifted to Qingdao CWI by the local Civil Affairs and funding received from many agencies to facilitate the build.

Impressive doesn't quite do it justice!!!!!!!

                                                   Our official welcome with Civil Affairs
                                       Getting to meet with the special children and nannies...
                    These were the cutest boys!!!!! I hope some of them have families by now!!!!!!

No words for this beautiful angel.........

However what was even more impressive was the family care received by each of the children here,
many with severe special needs.
Conditions were warm and welcoming.
Staff bright animated, involved and providingone-to one attention for many of the children!

We were treated to a special ceremony which included so many of the children singing,
 playing games together, making music

We were then welcomed to visit the group homes in the Centre and walked along corridors with children's photos and paintings on the wall.

There are apartments within the building where a foster family live with around 4 children. We arrived just as some were waking from a nap in bright, comfy bedrooms with warm foster mamas, fresh cooking, toys lying around...just a "home". The children were happy and confident, very comfortable with their carers.

Ms Zhang Ronghua's vision is that each child in her care will flourish and reach their FULL potential,
 no matter what the need or disability....

And so, while she hopes AND prays that each of "her children" will find their forever family,
she is also aware that many have such needs that this is unlikely.........

So she has planned ahead.......

                                A large market garden grows all the fruit and veg for the Home
The children are encouraged to help and this is to be developed into future employment
for some who will not leave this home

For those not as interested in growing, she has set aside an area for machinery and has made plans to set up a business for her older children to begin making things and supporting themselves as far as possible

Therapy Centres are the "big thing " in China these days, recognising that many of the children in orphanages now have many special needs. Many are trying hard and succeeding, but far too often children are taken out of loving foster care, returned to SWI for therapy where staff are overworked and undertrained and children left to languish.........

The wonderful thing about the Therapy here is that it recognises firstly that the children need a loving family and then builds on that by providing therapy in a variety of different ways to suit each individual child.
This room just amazed us is a sand tray with many different kinds of objects. Children are encouraged to place different objects in the tray and use them to try and describe how they feel about different things in their lives.
        Here was the Craft centre where the children learn how to make beauriful ornaments with beads
The kindergarten where all the fostered children in the area come each day to PLAY!!!!!!!
Some fantastic toys for the children to play with.............
but I was really impressed by the good old cardboard box
which has always given kids everywhere hours of fun :-)
My daughter disappearing under brightly coloured balls
seems to me to sum up so much of the fun and child-centred joy found here in Jiaozhou town.
We had come to visit our youngest daughter's early home and to see if there was anything we could do to help the children still living there.

Instead I think the director and staff there may be able to help us in our work in Guangxi   - we hope to take our H4C staff to Qingdao to see their therapy in action...
and maybe even partner with Ms Zhang Rhonghua training in Guangxi SWI?
Everything happens for a reason........

I will close our 2009 Trip Blog with her words when asked what we could do to help.

"Please help our Qingdao children find their families!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"