Seven of us walked into an orphanage in rural China, a brightly lit, clean and active place which serves as home for 300 kids. It was, like so many buildings in China, only a few years old. We walked into a building with new cribs (17 to a room), a well-equipped tactile stimulation room and a clean cafeteria with seating for over 200. But what we really walked into was not simply a building. We walked into 300 lives. 300 little lives filled with activities and therapies but void of a mother’s love. Void of their father’s kiss good night. And void of the hope that someday someone would give them a new life, a new reality…a new family.
The orphanage director was rightly proud of the facility, but also clear about the needs that remain – and grow every day. With the birth defect rate jumping over 40% in the past three years, it’s a challenge just to keep up, let alone expand.
And that is why we are here. To help. To partner. To preserve families and create new ones. To connect and to learn. To give a child with a cleft pallet a specially designed bottle that provides life giving nourishment. To share our collective passion. And privately shed our tears To share what we know, give what we can and marshal the resources to fill in the gaps. To give a moment’s love to a child who won’t make it to age 5. To build a sustainable garden and advocate for more. To walk into 300 little lives…and never leave.
By the ninth day of our journey in China, Christina and I will have assessed dozens of children, evaluated eight orphanages housing over 1,200 children and strategized with 22 government officials at central, provincial and city levels. But much like entering the orphanage, what we really did was enter many lives and allowed them to enter ours.