Volunteering at the China Care Home - Stephanie DeClue- Day 7

July 22, 2011

 My experience thus far at the China Care Home here in Beijing can only be described as incredible. Before coming, I read about the home and all of the work that China Care and Half the Sky do for the children and I thought that I had a good idea of what I would be doing while here. However, actually being in the Home with the children and watching them grow has been more remarkable than I could have ever imagined.

The day we arrived, we eagerly rushed to the Home to meet the children. Some were just as excited to see us as we were to see them, running and throwing their arms in the air so we’d lift them up. One little boy named Xin, or “Carlos” as we’ve grown to call him, hugged all of us and happily invited us into his playroom. Others were clearly not used to the tall, blonde strangers and cried the minute they saw us.

Through the time we’ve spent here getting to know each child, though, they have gradually warmed up to us. The nannies or “mamas” as the children call them, have welcomed us into the children’s environments and showed us how to take care of them. For example, there is a tiny baby boy who, because of his heart defect, has to be held a certain way. The nannies patiently showed us how to rock him in our arms and make him smile.

Walking by a room, we are all greeted by excited “Ni haos” and an invitation to join in the group game or lullaby. The entire team of nannies, doctors, teachers, and coordinators at the home have selflessly opened up to us and let us be a part of the amazing work that they do.

Every morning when I first arrive at the Home, I go to see two little girls I’ve become very close with. One, Li, has a nose hemangioma on her face that covers her nose entirely. Her smile is so big, though, that it always catches my attention far more than her nose.

She sits on my lap and cuddles with me when I sing to her. The other baby girl, Hua, has a cleft lip & palate. She is also recovering from getting the chicken pox. She is a very little girl whose entire hand is only about the size of my thumb. She has to be the happiest baby I’ve ever seen. She loves to play clapping games and to be tickled. She always smiles when someone comes into the room and will wave her tiny hand to you from across the room when she wants you to play with her. Despite their conditions, both children are just happy, slobbery, smiley, perfect babies.

Volunteering at the Home has to be the most rewarding thing I have ever done. The image of a happy toddler running to greet you, or the serene silence after you successfully rock a crying infant to sleep, are the most terrific things in the world. Yesterday, I was playing hide and seek with a little girl with a big round tummy. She would duck behind an arm chair or a nanny and then shriek with giggles when I found her. It wasn’t until we were hugging goodbye that I realized she was one of the babies who on the first day wailed with sadness at just the sight of us. In only a week, she had completely opened her heart to us and let us be her friends.

The attachment I feel to the children here and my gratitude for being able to experience this is something I won’t ever forget. China Care offers love and support to the kids here who need it most and help them to live better lives. I’m positive that the constant attention and care they receive is not matched anywhere else. China Care also offers the opportunity for youth like me to experience something completely out of our ordinary life and get involved in something we’re passionate about. The hands-on help we’ve been able to give the entire trip has left me awestruck. Being a China Care volunteer has truly been remarkable. Thank you China Care!

Stephanie started a China Care Club at her high school in New Canaan, CT, and has a little sister adopted from China as well.

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