Wednesday, July 17, 2013

China Day Ten - Visiting the Orphanage

"Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It's easier to pretend they're not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes." Author David Platt, Radical

The only thing on our agenda for this day was to visit the orphanage where Davis spent the first two years of his life and the last six weeks before we came to pick him up. This is something that many families debate about doing - depending on how their child is with grieving or attachment. Since Davis seemed to be doing well, we really wanted the opportunity to a glimpse into part of his history and wanted the boys to be able to see where he came from as well. We were fortunate that Davis' orphanage was in Guangzhou and only required a 30 minute drive - the other two Lifeline families who were traveling with us had daughters from other cities in the Guangdong province. They faced one-way drives of several hours and steep transportation costs so they ended up not being able to visit where their children were from. 

The Guangzhou Social Welfare Institute is on the edge of the city and is quite large. There are about 1,000 children ranging from infants to 13 years of age who live there, and another 1,000 children from the institute who are living in nearby foster homes. Those are some staggering numbers and with more sober explanations. There are no children older than 13 there because children age out on their 14th birthday and then have to find a job and someplace place else to live. And in relation to the 2,000 children associated with the orphanage, only a small percentage are actually paper ready for adoption.

When we pulled up out front, we found a couple of officials outside. One was Wendy, the social worker who had brought Davis to us just a few days before. She was there to lead a homeland tour for a young teenager who had been adopted from the SWI as a baby and her mother. The other official was there to give us our tour. I wore Davis in the sling for the first part of our visit in order to help reassure him that he was there with us and also to prevent any of the officials or teachers from holding him and carrying him around (which happens fairly frequently on these kinds of visits).

We did not go inside the main office building pictured above, but rather took a walk up the hill and around the corner towards the building where Davis had lived. On the way we saw a large group of the older children leaving their school building and headed to their dormitory on the back of the property for lunch. They were curious about us and several smiled and waved. 

Along our walk, to the left was all orphanage buildings and property; to the right was farmland. We incorrectly assumed that this was being grown for the orphanage; our guide corrected us that this was private property belonging to local farmers. 

In front of the sign leading up the complex of buildings 
where Davis spent most of his time here. 

At the fountain just inside the gate. 

One of the playgrounds we saw on the property. 

Walking into the building.  We walked around the outside corridors on the second floor for a bit and were shown the classroom where Davis spent some of his time. 

From here, we headed down an interior hallway, to the wing where the lunch room and sleeping rooms were. We got a few feet in the door and Davis was clearly upset and did not want to go any further. So Grandmommy took him and sat outside in the stairwell with snacks and toys while the rest of us wandered around. There were a couple of different sleeping rooms on this hallway. This was Davis' room and it had ten beds. Daryl is standing by Davis' bed, near the window.

We were not allowed to take any pictures in any of the other rooms down this hallway because there were children in them. But none of us probably need pictures anyway. There are some images from that visit which will always be burned into our memories. Like the kids eating their lunch in matching aluminum bowls - big scoop of rice, a little bit of vegetables and a few pieces of shredded meat. Or the fact that twenty little kids could eat lunch in a cafeteria with no sound other than chewing and their spoons scraping the bowls. Then there was the little boy with progeria and the little guy with microcephaly who were sitting at the lunch table.... and the room full of the extremely mentally challenged children all sitting in a row in highchairs. It was difficult to see and to realize that many of those children would never know anything different. 

After walking out of this corridor, we were led into a couple of the classrooms with teachers and children and our family handed out the Snickers bars that we brought for the children. They were so sweet and shyly excited for the candy. We gave the other donations of socks and underwear to our guide. Finally on our way out of the building, we were greeted by two of Davis' teachers from the Half the Sky preschool. He smiled at them - and they said he had already gotten "chubby" in the few days he spent with us. 

This was the last thing we visited before we left - another playground area. We have an update picture from summer 2012 of Davis sitting with another little girl on one of these swings. Davis did not want to get down and do anything until he saw his brothers go out and play on some of the equipment; and then he was content to stand and take it all in. 

As we drove away, I was so thankful that we were leaving with our Davis. The Guangzhou SWI is considered a good orphanage. The people there seem to care about the children and want to help them. It was very clean, but all in all pretty sterile and basic. It is not a home. It is not a family. I was so thankful that we had followed God's leading and that Davis was no longer an orphan but part of our family. 

On our way back to The Garden Hotel, we also stopped by Davis' finding spot. Davis was most likely abandoned on the day of his birth, left in a hallway inside this hospital. While we will never know the reasoning of his birth family, we would like to think that they brought him to the hospital hoping someone there would be able to take care of his cleft lip and palate. This is the outside of the front of the hospital where he was found.

After such an emotional day, when we got back we needed comfort food. We ended up at Paddy Field, the Irish pub a couple of blocks away from our hotel. It was wonderful and for Daryl and I the food (we ordered bangers and mash with baked beans) brought back great memories of our time in England. 

Naps were next on the schedule and Davis took an especially long one. Our laundry came back in the afternoon too. For all of us it was about $60 USD for a week's worth of clothes; we had only packed for about half of our trip in order to make weight in all our suitcases. Everything came back freshly washed, dried and folded. And for some odd reason, all of the boys' clothes had these little white tags stapled into them (including their undies!). 

When it came time for dinner, none of the adults were very hungry. We made a stop at Trust Mart's pharmacy in search of some Tylenol cold medicine. All of the workers in the pharmacy wore old style nurses uniforms, complete with the hat. We did manage to find a package of Tylenol cold medicine - one side of the box in Chinese and one side in English! 

We finished off our night with dinner at Burger King - ice cream for the grownups and burgers + ice cream for the kids. And then we headed back to The Garden to call it an early night. 

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