Let me share a bit about the time we spent with the disabled and abandoned kids in China.
The welfare centre consisted of three buildings and a central courtyard built by the government to provide basic care for abandoned and disabled children and adults. International China Concern, was asked by the government to choose a location to partner with them to improve on what they were providing. And they did! The children went from having very minimal necessities to having play areas, toys, physiotherapy, education, a large outdoor play area, very good food and most importantly, adequate care givers. Imagine 1 adult to 20-30 babies, now there are 6 adults to about 30 babies during the day. They have time to actually sit and play with the kids. It is a happy place to be.
It was overwhelming the first day we went to view the different rooms where the kids were. There were so many in the rooms and they were very excited to see us. I mean VERY excited. The big boy room was probably the most overwhelming. They wanted to give hugs and shake your hand, and just be there with you. I really wasn’t sure where I wanted to serve and put the Pearl Room (baby room) as my first option, but didn’t know if that was where God wanted me. I wanted to be in a room where I might see improvement in the kids in the two weeks and wasn’t sure if that would happen there. Turns out God wanted me there, because that is where I went.
It was pretty intense at first. 28 kids from 3 months to 4 years old, who are all really like babies. Only two could walk on their own and about five could feed themselves, some could crawl, but still a lot couldn’t and none could really talk to communicate. These kids needed some one on one time! It bothered me at first that I couldn’t spend time with all of them, or that I had a couple that I really liked and wanted to be with, but then the reality is, I can’t spend quality time with 28 kids in a day and we were four volunteers in the room, so I had to trust that we were all spending quality time with most of them. It was tough though to see them crying or banging their head against the (padded) ground over and over again as they lay on the play matts wanting to feel something.
I connected with some of the boys who were about 2-4 and spent a lot of time holding them by the hands to get them walking. One little boy, Fei Yu, who was four, spent his days laying on his back just looking around. He couldn’t sit up, talk, feed himself or crawl. When I first tried to get him walking in the second week, he smiled from ear to ear and was so proud that he could stand on his own two feet. For all I know, it was he first time. It almost had me crying because I hadn’t seen him smile much at all.
My favourite little girl, Fu Ning, didn’t get payed much attention, and often layed on the ground hitting her head on the matt. She was probably two or three, but it is hard to know. It took a bit to get her smiling, but we went for stroller rides outside and I just sat with her on my lap and cuddled a lot. She had a beautiful smile when it came out. It was really hard to leave her and I almost cry now thinking about her. I don’t know what her future will be, but I keep hoping others will go and volunteer and spent time loving her or that she will get adopted or be in foster care one day. It’s sad to think someone gave her up in the first place, she was so beautiful. I specifically asked Dave to teach me how to say “You are beautiful.” in Chinese so I could tell her all the time.
There were a lot of other kids that were wonderful, Xing Wong, who was skin and bones, but had brown eyes that just bore right into you. He was so curious and smart and loved to walk with a swagger of determination if you helped hold him up. His hands were completely crippled and twisted, but it didn’t stop him from grasping toys between a couple of his fingers. He had an overbite and dimples and this made him really cute. He could also give you a ‘wink’ which was more of a full, quick head bob. Every time that we fed him, we would cry when the bowl emptied, even though it was a huge bowl, he always wanted more.
Despite the number of times I got snotted on or had a diaper leak on me, it was still a wonderful experience.
Dave had a completely different experience working with the big boys (aged 10-35). He arm wrestled, played soccer and went to class to learn about shapes or play on computers. ICC also rented a massive bouncy playground for a couple days for the kids. You should have seen the look on the kids faces when they saw it. It blew them away and they had an amazing time. We even had special time on it for the kids in the wheelchairs to lay on it and ‘bounce’ or go down the slides with our help. Picture two girls who can’t walk sitting on my legs while others bounced around. I never thought I would get up! So tiring but worth it.
Dave and I came away having a much greater understanding of what ICC is doing there, and it is amazing. I hope that their work spreads across that big country, because with 900,000 disabled children being born every year in China, there is great need for places like this. Hopefully Dave and I will get back to the centre in the next 5 years. I want to see the kids again and see how much they have developed, better yet would be that they wouldn’t be there, but adopted or fostered in the community.
If you want to learn more about ICC and the story of how they started, check out their website here. It really is an amazing organization who cares for God’s children when others can’t and really gives them the fulness of life everyone deserves.