Below is an update and note of gratitude from AGCI’s National Advancement Officer, Julie Salwasser!
This December, we had a wonderful trip to Xiamen, China! AGCI is so thankful for the partnership that we have with Xiamen Social Welfare Institute and not only are we advocating for many children that live there, we have now completed two project trips there in the last year. In March, we provided bedding for 86 cribs to the home—all of which was all purchased by YOU! Thank you! We also painted 7 playrooms and bedrooms.
This last month, the Director asked us back to continue the painting of a couple of bedrooms and 3 activity rooms. When we arrived, however, the Director of the home had a different idea and asked us to focus on the preschool rooms and a dancing room for the older children. The preschool rooms are where the younger kids go to play, learn, have music and do art.
As soon as we stepped in, however, we saw that the walls were in horrible shape! We had to completely scrape and sand them down, and then do a base coat of paint. The themes for the pre-school rooms were a wrap-around city scene with colorful cars, a light and fun flower room, and then the pirate room (although we did more of a friendly sea creature/sailor theme—not knowing how common pirate themes are in China!) They turned out great and what fun it was to see a group of little boys first take in the city room and cars. The project was not even complete but they were completely drawn in.
One of these boys was James, who we are currently advocating for and I hope to see him placed in a family soon! We later learned how much he loves cars and it explained how mesmerized he was!
The Dancing Room is where the children practice traditional dancing and music and this is on a floor where more of the older children live. My coworker and teammate thought it would be so fun to have a mural of dancing bears and although this sounded like a great challenge we went for it! The best part was hearing that there is a popular Chinese children’s song called “The Dancing Bears”! It turned out to be so cute!
We had one girl, about 12 years old, pop in and immediately start to dance with all of us! It is so amazing to see how simple things like these murals absolutely light up these kids! With the language barrier, we may not be able to communicate their value in words, but when we come and care for their home in this way it communicates all that we need to.
The project went so smoothly that we were asked to do one other bedroom. It was neat because this last bedroom was in the same corridor that we worked in in May, so we saw some of the same children. Many of these children are very young and do not leave their cribs as often due to a special need. This makes these murals even more important and brightens their days.
The theme we chose for this room was “Dinosaur Party.” They were friendly little dinosaurs, with party hats and a banner! I think this one might be my personal favorite for how cheery and bright it is!
We were also able to bring many toys for these kids and that is always special. I love seeing these kids take in the different colors, textures and challenges of these new toys! I will always remember one little guy, probably around the age of 6, trying to do a shapes puzzle. When he first started with this, his fingers fumbled as he twisted the shapes to try to make it work. I loved seeing him persevere to figure it out and within minutes he did. It was fascinating to see his mind work to figure this puzzle out and I was honored to be the one sitting next to him cheering him on.
While we went to Xiamen for the reason to paint, we all know in our hearts and mind that these projects are much more significant than just putting some paint on the walls (although that is fun and needed in its own way). Our goal was to first spend time with these sweet kids.
We were able to spend time with kids we are currently advocating for and Nikki Potter (Director of Education and Post Adoption Services) was able to get some additional information to share with families. Another key goal is to continue to have conversations about the possibility of providing some training and support for the day-to-day care for these children. We were able to talk to the Director about how this might look and I am very excited for the years to come.
Lastly, I left feeling, once again, how thankful I am for the AGCI team and the support that we have. Thank you for your support of our work in China. I can tell you that it is because of our partners and families that we can even think about doing these kinds of projects. AGCI is looking at the practical ways we can make each of these children have the greatest potential! First and foremost, we believe that each child deserves a family—but in the meantime we want to work to elevate their day-to-day care. I am so privileged to be a part of this process and I look forward to helping you, our supporters, feel connected to this as well. We could not do this without you!
National Advancement Officer