Holt Senior Writer Robin Munro is traveling with Waiting Child Manager Jessica Palmer to learn more about a new group of children in Holt’s Journey of Hope program, as well as other Holt-supported programs.

by Robin Munro

At the Jilin City Social Welfare Institute – the third orphanage we’ve visited in China – the beds are empty. Except for one tiny newborn who recently came into care, no children occupy the cribs and beds that line the rooms. It’s a lovely building – a home for the elderly, and orphaned and abandoned children, with a central atrium that lets in abundant natural light. It’s a wonderful sight, all these empty rooms – it means all the children who’ve passed through this orphanage are now in Holt-sponsored foster care, a program that serves 39 children in partnership with the welfare institute.

After a short stay when they come into care, the children occasionally visit the orphanage for physical and developmental exams, and rehabilitation training for those with special needs. But their homes are apartments and houses, where they get to experience family life.

Today, we get to meet five children in Holt sponsorship, a program that funds their clothing, food and other basic needs for 350 Chinese Remnibi, or about $55, per child per month – a cost shared equally by Holt and the Jilin City Social Welfare Institute. We enter a room – the only one emitting any sound – and find four boys in motion, bouncing on giant balls or rolling around in soft tubing, teasing each other and making faces. Two of the boys, dressed in matching striped polos and shorts, look like twins. They are foster brothers, though not related, 8 and 9-years-old – happy, hyper, outgoing boys with telltale scars on their lips from cleft lip surgery. Their foster mom tells us they are both their teachers’ favorites in their 2nd and 3rd grade classes, both very popular with other children.

I can see that right away. The older boy, Shen Ying (name has been changed), has a great sense of humor. He jokingly puts on a scarf and exaggerates his smile for the camera. I bet he’s the class clown – sharp, easily bored, requiring constant stimulation. When he lacks engaging activity, I bet he creates it, entertaining everyone in the room. I like him immediately, and think about how lucky the family is that gets to adopt him. Read More

Holt Senior Writer Robin Munro is traveling with Waiting Child Manager Jessica Palmer to learn more about a new group of children in Holt’s Journey of Hope program.

Robin Munro, Senior Writer—Today, we visited a beautiful orphanage in Northern China – a place full of color and life.  Each room opened onto another group of faces – curious, apprehensive, wide-eyed faces.  Most of these children have special needs, conditions beyond which most birth families have the capacity to provide medical care – conditions like cleft lip and palate, CP, Down’s Syndrome, Spina bifida, feet and hand deformities, as well as a few cases of pneumonia.

In the first room we enter, metal barred cribs line the wall.  In each, a child sits or lays, staring at the ceiling, the wall, or nothing in particular – into middle space.   These children have some of the most severe conditions.  Most don’t seem to notice our presence in the room – don’t jump up, or cry, or reach out to us.  I walk over to one boy, who lifts his head when I touch his back.  His head is swollen from Hydrocephalus, a condition in which water gets onto the brain.  In some cases, this condition is minor and won’t interfere with the child’s life.  But this boy’s condition is serious, says Sue Liu, the Beijing office manager.  As I rub his back, he begins to smile.  When I stop, he stares at me blankly.  I gently touch him again, and his smile returns.   Read More

In July of 2010, Holt’s senior writer visited the Peace House, a haven for sick children who come from all over China to receive medical care in Beijing — many of them suffering from serious medical conditions. After leaving the hospital, the children recuperate at the Peace House. Many go on to join adoptive families. Since this article was written, Holt took over operations from Peace House founder, Teresa Huangwu. In that time, five children have received surgeries, and a sixth will soon come to stay at this nurturing and peaceful sanctuary in the heart of the city.

This holiday season, help more children in Holt’s care receive needed medical procedures. When children receive the care they need, they also have greater hope of finding an adoptive family. Click here to browse Holt’s Gifts of Hope catalog online.

Teresa raised funds for Jhi Lin's heart surgery. He is now recovering in her care at the Peace House.

Robin Munro, Senior WriterAt the Peace House in Beijing, the floor is where the action is.  A ball flies at me from one direction. From another, a baby comes crawling to investigate.  The children seem intrigued by my foreign blue eyes.  My camera.  My notebook.  My purse.  Especially my purse.

While otherwise occupied in a game of catch, I feel a sudden tug on my shoulder straps, and look down to find a sticky-fingered hand first unzipping, then probing the contents of my bag.  Here I find Jhi Lin (name has been changed), who’s discovered a little bottle of hand sanitizer. Clutching it in his hand, he makes for the bedroom and tries to shut the door.  I catch it, and follow him in.  Dismayed, he takes my hand and ushers me back out.  I follow him in.  Back out we go.  The look on his face says, “Silly lady, don’t you see – I want to be alone with this bottle of green goo, my new-found treasure!”

Finally, a caretaker comes to intervene.  Jhi Lin graciously accepts his defeat, and hands the bottle back.  “Xie Xie,” I say. Thank you.  He smiles, and moves on to explore other frontiers.

Jhi Lin will turn 3 in August.  Full of life, full of moxie, he is a dark-haired, bright-eyed mischief-maker – a typical toddler.  He came to the Peace House one year ago, where he stayed while Peace House foster mother, Teresa Huangwu, raised funds for his heart surgery.  His condition was severe – a congenital heart defect that causes what’s commonly known as “blue baby syndrome.” This surgery cost over $100,000, which healed him completely – a feat accomplished by love alone.

“Teresa finds the resources to do the surgeries,” says Jian Chen, Holt’s China program director.  “It’s not her work. It’s purely out of love.”

Teresa Huangwu started her unofficial work as a foster mother after inspiration struck, eight years ago, while working as a volunteer caretaker in an orphanage.   While washing a malnourished baby with a cleft lip, she thought how much better a child could be nourished to health in a warm, cozy home environment than in a sterile institution.  A small home, where a sick child could get constant nurture from a loving caregiver.  “I just thought, ‘If we could just take the baby home and nurse him,’” she says.  “And then bring him back.”

In August of 2003, she founded the Peace House – a haven for sick children from all over China who come to Beijing for medical care.  A clean, cozy apartment cluttered with toys, the Peace House is just that: a peaceful place of healing and nurture.  Its location in Beijing is critical – it enables the children to get the best medical care in the country.  After surgery, they stay here until their condition stabilizes – until they are ready for adoption.

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Holt Senior Writer Robin Munro is traveling with Waiting Child Manager Jessica Palmer to learn more about a new group of children in Holt’s Journey of Hope program. On her first day in country, she met 3 of these beautiful children.  The following is her thoughts on this meaningful day.

Robin Munro, Senior Writer

Wuxi, Jiangsu, China—Today, we arrived in a town called Wuxi, in the south China province of Jiangsu. We are here to meet a group of children the Chinese Center of Adoption Affairs, or CCAA, designated Holt to find families for. They are all children in Holt’s Journey of Hope program– a special program for older children, or children with special needs in southern China.

On our first night, we meet three children. Their orphanage is in Zhenjiang, a great distance from Wuxi. But the caregivers know traveling to meet us will heighten the children’s chances to be adopted. Here, Waiting Child Program Manager Jessica Palmer will interview the children, assess their conditions and post their pictures on Holt’s photolisting, in hopes of finding them families.

*Yan Lin is 12. She is tall, in shorts and a T-shirt, a Mickey Mouse button on her yellow Crocs shoes. She seems shy among strangers. When summoned, though, she quickly snuggles up to Sue Liu, the young, sweet-faced manager of the Holt office in Beijing. In care since she was a baby, Yan Lin was born with a minor condition which made it difficult to control her bowels.  She underwent surgery to correct this condition.  Now healed, she is more confident in school. She wants to be a teacher, like her favorite caregivers. She feels discouraged when children find families. And fears for the day she turns 14, when she will no longer be eligible for adoption.

*Yan Bing is almost 5. He likes to pose for pictures – to throw up his hands as though about to summit a roller coaster ride, a big open grin on his face. He climbs on Sue’s lap and makes himself at home there, stealing her bracelets to try on his wrists.He is adorable, and seems perfectly healthy. When Yan Bing came into care – as an infant – his head was swollen from communicating hydrocephalus; he had water on his brain. Now, his symptoms are gone. He has developed into a healthy, high-energy charmer of a child. I can’t imagine he will stay in care much longer, and feel confident about his future. Read More

Jessica Palmer, Holt’s Waiting Program Manager, is currently in China with Holt’s Journey of Hope children—a group of older children, some with special needs, who are in desperate need of families. On her second day in China, Jessica interviewed and interacted with the children and learned more about their specific stories and personality traits. Once Jessica returns, she hopes to use the information she has gathered to help these beautiful children find families of their own.

The following is Jessica’s account of her visit to Wuxi, Jiangsu, the location of Holt’s 2010 Journey of Hope camp and where Jessica first met the Journey of Hope children….

by Jessica Palmer, Waiting Child Program Manager

Wuxi, Jiangsu, China—Although I couldn’t understand the Mandarin being used by the loving caretakers as they described the children in their arms, I looked into their eyes and could still sense the feeling and meaning behind their words….“Please don’t forget about this child. She deserves a loving family too.”

On my second day in China, I traveled to the city of Wuxi, Jiangsu, where I assisted in interviewing and assessing children in Holt’s Journey of Hope program, in hopes of finding them permanent families of their own. Dozens of children and orphanage staff, from all over Jiangsu Province, attended this special camp.

One child, 10-year-old Xing Men, was able to share his touching story with us. In care since birth, Xing Men has leukoma of his left eye. This charming young man explained  his interests – particularly origami – practiced his English for the group and recited ancient poetry for us. He then told us about how he feels when other children go home with their families and  how he doesn’t understand why a family doesn’t come for him. Read More