We headed out from Fuzhou and about an hour later we stopped and picked up the director of adoptions of the Feng Zhe Social Welfare Institute. He directed us to the location of the orphanage. He was very eager to share with us all about the orphanage and he said that most all of the kids there had cerebral palsy. We pulled in to what was an older abandoned school that the orphanage had taken over. For those of you who do not know, the difference between a Children’s Welfare Institute (CWI) and Social Welfare Institute (SWI) is that social welfare institutes often also care for the elderly that need help. The Feng Zhe SWI did not have elderly people living there though. The school was situated in what appeared to be a very poor village area. There was a field of tall grass and weeds and a concrete flat with a small Little Tykes play area structure for toddlers. It was very hot outside. We were happily greeted by several men from the orphanage, including the director. They took us in to a small room to have tea and to tell us more about the kids in their care. They said that they have about 100 kids in their care, and about 70 are in foster care around the city, and 30 kids lived at the orphanage. They said they just have 5 nannies there for 24 hour care for these special needs kids. So, they only are able to have a few nannies there during the day for all 30 kids, making it about a 10:1 caretaker ratio during the day.
We asked if we could see the kids so they took us to the first room where we were greeted by a couple of nannies who were sitting with a few of the kids. I saw a little boy with a deformed face and what appeared to be mental delay in a gated off area on a play pad. I asked if I could hold him and they said yes, so I picked him up and he snuggled up to me immediately. They said he was 3 years old, but he appeared to be in size about an 18 month old. I held him close and then said hello to a couple other children as well that also appeared to be mentally delayed. I noticed that the little boy I picked up also had a very flat head. They wanted us to go to the other rooms, and there were several, and they said all the kids in the next few rooms had cerebral palsy. Every child we saw was in their crib, and the beds were made of a hard boards with small holes in the bottom of it which appeared to be for air circulation. There was no padding or pillows on the beds. All of the back of their heads were flat, and they had dry patches of skin and some wounds on their bodies. They were very skinny, and several had big bellies. Some of them were up to 5 years old. Several of them had eye conditions, which I know can also come from staring at a ceiling too long or a wall and not being able to focus on objects or peoples’ faces. It was very hot, and there was no air conditioning and these kids looked very uncomfortable. There were a couple kids with untreated hydrocephalus that was crippling to the children. We were told one little boy there who was missing part of his leg, who was crawling around, about 5 years old I believe, had his family come but then left him there due to speech and some mental delay. I picked up and held as many of them as I could and gave them a hug and a kiss on their head and said a prayer for them. I believe that many of these kids did not have cerebral palsy, but instead were incorrectly diagnosed due to lack of mental and physical stimulation. This was even further justified when we went to the last room, the baby room, where there were about 4 babies and they appeared to be the best off of all the kids, and I believe it is because they were abandoned in the last year, but they also were forming flat heads but were not as bad off as the older kids. They told us there was a baby that was just abandoned yesterday, and they let us see her and hold her, she was just about 5 pounds, and was less than a week old, they also told us that she had cerebral palsy. I picked her up and held her, she was so tiny. We told them we did not think she has cerebral palsy, she had clubbed feet. I think that she is a premature baby with clubbed feet. Again, I think they were quick to diagnose cerebral palsy here. It was very hard to say goodbye to that little baby and I prayed she would survive and find a family. I was not expecting to see this today, and we desire to help this orphanage.
We told them that we would try to help and we would be in touch as we still had a two hour drive to Xiamen and it was getting late and we also did not know the needs of our one to one orphanage yet. They grabbed Gongzhan, Rocky and Jacky by the arm and pulled on them and said please do not go, please stay and talk with us and have dinner with us. They appeared so desperate for any help we could offer. We decided to stay and have dinner with them at a nearby restaurant. They are in need of good orphan care, as I know adoption would be hard for most of these children. I was not able to take pictures due to photo restriction at the orphanage. They expressed an interest in us helping them, mainly with any medical treatment and advice that we can provide. We believe they could really benefit in training to work with and identify and treat needs like cerebral palsy. They said they do not have good funding, and they said that they really would like to purchase some chairs for cerebral palsy kids to help them sit up and get around. They are about $120 each, they said that they need about 15. We told the director that is something we would like to help him with and we would be in touch about that. They were happy and said we are welcome back any time.
So, one of the needs I would like to express to families and donors upon my return is the purchase of these chairs. They also expressed the need for a better computer, and Rocky is going to help them get a new computer in Beijing. There is so much more I think in time we can help with, but again, our first commitment is to Xiamen and their needs since this is who we have the contract with. I would like to do this for this orphanage though and come back and visit with a medical team this year as well. They also expressed a need for more staff, so in time we also may try to help with the hiring of new staff. Ideally, I would love to see them have an air conditioned facility so they can also have mattresses on their beds. Our staff said many orphanages do boards or mats due to how hot it is as mattresses can make the children even hotter. I also think bumbos for the babies would be helpful and educational toys to stimulate them, things like musical instruments would be helpful too. We told them with delay, especially with speech, reading to the kids would also be very helpful, and singing to them. They said that the staff do not have the ability to read well. So, I am also thinking about a CD player with audio books in Chinese for some of the kids. The need at this orphanage is great. I was told by our team that they knew there were conditions like this 10-15 years ago but did not realize there were orphanages still like this. It was very hard to see. I have to tell you it was very hard for me to fall asleep in my comfortable, air conditioned hotel room last night thinking about those children. I hope that we can get these cerebral palsy chairs for them and return soon to help with more. As I walked into the orphanage and saw these needs, the Lord brought to mind the verse that states that he is able to do exceedingly more than we can ask or imagine. I know that God has a plan and loves these children even more than I could. I look forward to seeing what we can do to help these precious children. We made it to Xiamen late and were greeted by Jack’s wife and 12 year old daughter. We checked in and then went for a walk to unwind. Xiamen is a tourist town that many people come to in China, it is very close to Taiwan, and you can take a ferry right across from the hotel to a famous island called Gu Lang Yu. Tomorrow morning we will have about a 20 minute drive to the Xiamen orphanage. Thank you for your prayers!