#CharityWeek: On the job with our charity director

xia-athenan-orphangae-2016_croppedFour time a year, CCAI’s Charity Director Xia Zhong makes her way to China to check in on our Lily Orphan Care Centers (LOCCs), meet new orphanage directors, build relationships with partner orphanage staff, train CCAI’s LOCC managers and our China charity team, coordinate hosting logistics and… whatever else needs her attention.

These visits may feel very busy, but with each orphanage visit, Xia’s heart swells.

“I feel so privileged that I get to meet so many of the children that CCAI eventually goes on to adopt before they meet their families,” Zhong shared. “I get to see how wonderful they are and my heart aches, wishing I could make their adoptions immediate.”

Aside from working with orphanage staff and encouraging directors to report, create/update children’s files with haste to quicken their adoption, Xia also helps train the children participating in our hosting program, who might have a harder time finding a family through their adoption file on paper alone. Hosting greatly increases a child’s chances of being adopted by making them tangible and helping families understand their personalities. The majority of children hosted through CCAI’s China Host Program have gone on to be adopted by their host families or another family that learned about them through their host family’s advocacy.

“Hosting changes these kids’ lives,” Xia said. “One of the boys I met who was hosted last summer was very disruptive before he went to the US. I met him again on my most recent trip and he was so well behaved! The orphanage director told me he comes to her office three times a day, asking when he will be adopted. Now that he has had a taste of what it is like to be a part of a family, he behaves in hopes that someone will hear that he is a good boy and want him as their son.”

This experience wasn’t the only heart-tugging one Xia experienced on her last trip to China in September.

“Three years ago I met a baby with clubbed hands and feet and a mouth so small that his nannies had to feed him milk with an eye dropper,” Xia explained. “The nannies named him what translates to English as “swimmer” because it was likely he would never walk, so they hoped he would one day swim. There was a low chance he would survive infancy. Even with the best-tending nannies, it was difficult to give him enough food. He was very skinny. It broke my heart.

I had not heard about him in the time that followed that trip, so I assumed the worst. It was to my great surprise when I returned to his orphanage this September that he ran to me on his ankles! He gave me a hug and clung to me as if to say ‘Help me find a family.’ I held him and bawled. He is so special to me. His file is being prepared by his orphanage currently and I hope he will find a family.”

Xia’s next trip is scheduled for January 2017.

If you would like to support CCAI’s charity efforts, you may make a tax-deductible donation at http://ccaifamily.org/Charity/Donation.

Charity coordinator extraordinaire: Xia Zhong!

xia-infographic

Xia wears many hats at here at CCAI. Bilingual and possessing much knowledge of Chinese culture, Xia is vital to our staff. She leverages support to CCAI’s China charity offices and is an important resource for orphanages and officials across China. She is the liaison for CCAI’s charity work and oversees the entirety of the Lily Orphan Care Center operations! Here is an abbreviated summary of Xia’s many hats:

China charity staff supervisor

  • Director of charity offices in Beijing and Hangzhou
  • Direct supervisor of 92 staff members in China

Orphanage liaison

  • Builds and maintains relationships with orphanage staff and provincial officials
  • Encourages orphanages to report children’s files so they become eligible for adoption

China charity program director

Hosting program (REGISTRATION NOW OPEN) China liaison

  • Directs orphanages in preparing paperwork for hosting (arranging for passports, etc.)
  • Coordinates training workshops for chaperones and children in preparation for their hosting trip

We are so grateful to Xia for all that she does here and abroad for CCAI and children in need!

Update on Shu

Shu’s guardian that has been hosting him in the prep and recovery periods of his surgery sent us this update. So glad the Lord has placed Mandie in Shu’s life. She writes:

SURGERY:

The surgery was successful. They revised a few things in his right eye, removed stitches, assessed for possible rejection, and gave him an injection in that eye to halt the beginnings of rejection that were showing there. His vision was also assessed and it is recommended that he begin wearing +3 lenses in his glasses asap. I’m waiting for an appointment to get these ordered and in the meantime he is wearing big grownup reading glasses for school. They are cumbersome, but he’s a good sport and is tolerating them. His left eye surgery was successful as well. Currently he has a lot of stitches in that eye (16, I think) and they said his vision may be blurry. We are seeing him show much more interest in smaller details of drawing and building with Legos. He can also see distance with his right eye (for example when we are driving, he calls out “red light…stop!” or “Green light…go!” appropriately.

He will have a follow-up appointment next week where we will discuss his next glasses, therapies, and recheck his right eye for overgrown vessels (a sign of rejection). In the meantime, the very best thing we can do for him is let him be a kid. He spends hours each day just playing with my kids and learning social skills, jumping on the trampoline, playing with the dog. Every outing is a sensory learning experience for him. He watches English and Chinese cartoons on the iPad and plays several games specially designed to enhance visual acuity. Because we’re with him every day, it can be hard to realize how much he has grown and changed since May, but when I took him to the hospital for surgery, the Child Life Specialist who worked with him last time broke down in tears multiple times because she said she hardly recognized him. He was a “completely different child”. The nurses and doctors could not believe how much he was talking, expressing needs, showing willingness to reason and try new things. That was really encouraging for me to hear.

DEVELOPMENT:

He seems to be developing in English and social/developmental skills at about a preschool level currently. His interest is mostly in baby toys and colors/counting/parroting everything we say. That being said, he impresses us daily with his intelligence and willingness to learn. Many of the autism-like behaviors he was exhibiting back in May have completely disappeared and he is slowly gaining more and more appropriate social skills. He has a very strong will and gets angry when he doesn’t get his way, but is also reasonable and has learned how to ask forgiveness and “make things right” when he has conflict with his “siblings”. We’ve noticed that he likes predictability and routine, so he has a set schedule that he follows at home, regular chores and responsibilities that he loves to complete, and likes knowing what to expect as far as where we are going and whether or not we will eat when we get there. 😉 

His favorite American foods so far are: bananas, yogurt, bread, and ice cream, but he’s a great eater and never turns down a meal – even when it’s something new. He has shown a great ability to form healthy attachments. So far he has not exhibited good skills at interactively playing with other children, but is good at side-by-side play and every day we’re seeing him desire more and more interaction with peers.

SCHOOL:

Our local public school has been such a gift to our family over the last year. They know us well and when I went to them and explained Shu Wei’s situation and needs, they were thrilled to be able to accommodate him. They have a vision specialist on site who is working with him 4 days/week to give him the skills he will need to function in the vision-impaired world. He will begin learning Braille, which seems very wise. Even though his vision will likely continue to improve over the next several years, the fact that his pupils will never be reactive to light means that his eyes may be at higher risk for vision loss as he ages. Because of these surgeries, he will likely always have more vision than he would have had otherwise, but everyone I’ve consulted (including his prospective adoptive family and their local school for the blind) believes that even highly functioning vision impaired individuals should learn Braille, just as people who can hear/lipread still benefit from learning sign language because it connects them to a community in which they can find like-minded friends with similar experiences. There will also be a mobility specialist coming to the school to help him learn to not only navigate the school functionally, but also to teach him skills such as walking and scanning his environment for obstacles. Right now he only looks down at a 45 degree angle when he walks, so he often bumps into things at eye level, so they’ll work with him on those skills and may even teach him to use a cane – something that could help him navigate very bright outdoor environments where he tends to struggle most, relying on the cane to judge the ground so his eyes can focus on what’s ahead of him at eye level, people’s faces, etc.

He absolutely loves school and drives us crazy all weekend asking to go back to school “tomorrow”. When I asked him what his favorite part of school was, he answered in Chinese, “Teacher and friends.” The school loves him and has really come together to work at record speed to accommodate him quickly. They are excited to see his potential and help him grow and develop while he is here. My hope is that beginning in school while he is here will help even more with his next transition.

Thank you for everything you’re doing for this precious boy. We love him dearly.

 

Hosting testimony; Hosting to give hope

“Hosting for us came soon after we’d returned home with our recently adopted daughter. We were working hard on attachment while trying to maintain balance with our other children. Even in the “crazy chaos” of that period, I still had a strong desire to help another child. Adoption wasn’t an option at that time but I knew there had to be something else we could do. Late one night, I stumbled on the hosting website. It also happened to be on the day the photo listing was released. I called my husband over to show him, knowing in all probability he would veto the idea of hosting. He took one look and, somewhat surprisingly, said, “Let’s host!” After looking through the children, he pointed to our host son and said, “We can get him a new prosthesis, make a difference in his everyday life and I know you can find him a family.” That sealed it for our family and our mission was set, to get our host son a new prosthetic and a forever family.

Gill 1Immediately, I started connecting with the limb difference community to get prepared. I started writing letters to hopefully get a grant for the prosthetic. I found a wonderful prosthesis company about an hour from our home that was willing to make the prosthesis at a lower cost.  Thanks to the First Hand Foundation for their generous grant and to Thomas Lizotte and his team at Washington Orthotics and Prosthesis, we were able to get our host son a brand new prosthesis!

In addition to this wonderful opportunity to replace his crude, outdated and ill-fitting prosthesis, we had a wonderful time with our host son. His favorite thing to do was put together puzzles. Once all my toddlers were in bed, he and I would try conquering a new puzzle together.  When he first arrived, he was happy to complete a 100 piece puzzle. One day he asked if he could try a 300 piece puzzle. By the time he left, he had put together a very difficult 500 piece puzzle and was beaming from ear to ear! I found a 1000 piece puzzle for him with pictures of famous American monuments to take back with him after hosting.

Our final goal for him also came true when a wonderful woman contacted me with interest in our host son’s adoption. She is a sports instructor for kids with varying abilities and her boys are close in age to our host son. We were thrilled to take part in so much life change for our host son. His willingness to open up and attach to us coupled with his courage to accept a brand new type of prosthetic leg was inspiring to all who met him. He has a very bright future ahead of him.”

Gill 2

Hosting testimony; Hosting to advocate

garland“Our month of hosting had its ups and downs; steps forwards, steps backward and many eye opening experiences and self-revelations. We learned so many things. While looking at the hosting photos, we noticed this tall boy with a sweet smile who was about to age out. We wanted to help him before that happened. We started advocating for him right away, speaking at churches and getting the word out any way we could. We were sad that no one really seemed too interested in committing to his adoption. We couldn’t understand why, but hoped that eyes were opened and hearts were stirred for orphaned children. Just a few short weeks before he arrived, we were contacted by CCAI telling us a family in another part of the country was interested in meeting him! In the days leading up to his arrival, fear set in. fear of the language barrier, fear that he was a teenager (something we had no experience with). What were we thinking? Then again, I could not imagine what was going through his head! Once our host son came through security, we all quickly learned to use the translator on our iPhones and iPads. We were so proud of how our boys included him in everything. During hosting, our host son was able to Skype with the interested family. It became very clear that this family was perfectly orchestrated. We were at peace. This family, who plans to move forward, has thanked us over and over again for the opportunity to get to know him. That is what hosting is about! Many families host for the reason we did, to advocate and to help get the kids exposure. These kids are wonderful!  Each one brings their own history and brokenness, but each one has a family waiting for them. I believe that! All children are worthy, let’s help put an end to the word ‘orphan.'”

Hosting testimony: Hosting to advocate

“Hosting was never on our radar. We have three biological kids and one adopted with special needs, so our house is plenty full and lively. Most of my concern with hosting centered around the kids who didn’t end up getting adopted. It seemed unfair to bring them, give them the experience of a family only to return to the orphanage without the hope of getting a forever family. When God led us to host, I was shocked and tried to turn my back. One day, I was skimming through a blog about China’s Waiting Children. I had read these child descriptions many times in the past and always thought the same thing: “How sweet. I hope someone adopts that child.”

This time was different. When I read Fu’s story, my heart started beating out of my chest and I felt an instant connection. I was sitting in the living room with my family and I tried to shut the computer, but my husband noticed… then my daughter noticed and suddenly I was reading his short story to my family. I assumed my husband’s response would be: “How sweet, I hope someone adopts that child.” Instead, he smiled and said let’s pray for him and see what happens.

Before I knew it, our daughter came to us with all of her savings saying she felt we were to host him and wanted her money to help bring him here. It turns out we had very little time; the deadline was fast approaching, but God provided every step of the way. That sweet boy we chose for hosting did arrive and captured the heart of our family immediately. My opinion of hosting changed very quickly after I realized what an impact having him in our home would make. Hosting is not just about what we teach them, but about what they teach us. No longer did I doubt the importance of bringing him into our home, even if for only 4 weeks. The hosting experience was a priceless experience. We were so impacted; I now see the value in the host experience for everyone involved. Finding Fu was one of our family’s greatest joys.”gipe 1

Hosting testimony; Deciding to adopt!

“Having adopted five times through CCAI, we believed we were finished adopting. We then began receiving emails regarding CCAI’s hosting program. Realizing that many of these beautiful children were considered to be “unadoptable,” I knew hosting might be their only opportunity to have a “you matter” moment in their lives. Although we had planned to do other things in the upcoming summer, I found it hard to make plans for anything else as long as I knew these children were out there needing our help.  My heart won over and we applied to host a 12-year-old young man. It was all so surreal to greet him at the airport and simply take him home with us! I am so use to greeting these children via adoption, which takes miles of paperwork before you can call them “yours”!  But yet, at this moment of greeting our host child at the airport, Josh made a quick introduction and then said, “You are free to go!”  Such fun!!!!

Hosting was magical!  Here we were, responsible for this little guy who came from nothing. He was polite, helpful, funny, and a pure joy! Food differences and communication were part of the experience, and just giving him love was enough to break those barriers! To watch this little guy experience “firsts” was amazing.  We tried to expose him to many “fun” things as possible, but it was the little things really… like the time I realized taking him through a car wash would be a treat!  The look on his face as the brightly colored soap devoured the car was priceless!

Hosting was a life changer for us and our little guy!  There were times I wondered if he was homesick or even bored with his experience as we spent life as we typically spend it, which was filled with mundane tasks such as getting kids back and forth to summer school, sports activities and doctor appointments.  However, it was when his China chaperone called him to remind him that he would be returning to China soon, that enlightened me beyond words.  His reaction of pure and raw grief verified just how important this hosting program is. Although it was an extremely heartbreaking moment, I knew that our hearts had met and bonded. I knew this little boy would carry this with him forever… that he was adored, loved and that he was special.

Dave and I had absolutely no intention of adopting again. We did not go into the hosting program to adopt, but once again, to let a little one KNOW he/she is special and to send a message for him/her to never EVER forget how beautiful they are. However, this little boy had such a huge impact on us and through much guidance, thought and prayer, we made the decision to bring him home. His grief as we departed and my grief as he left our home sealed his fate. He will be home forever and ever, and it is my hope that one day he can share his story over and over and perhaps be able to help those left behind.

Thank you CCAI for this wonderful, wonderful experience and for helping these most amazing children!”