The city of Huainan was the next stop on our journey. LWB has been helping in Huainan for the last eight years through every program area we offer. The first evening we arrived, we took seven of the older kids from this orphanage out to dinner. I know that one of the things that weighs on a lot of adoptive parents’ hearts is what happens to the kids who “age out” of their orphanages. It is something we are continually thinking of as well, and through our Secondary and Higher Education program, we want a clear plan for every older child in our care.
There are many issues facing kids who have grown up in institutions. Without having parents to encourage them, many kids in orphanages fall far behind their peers in both grades and study habits. They often go to lower quality schools as well. If you are an orphaned child with special needs, public school might not even be an option for you.
Many of you remember Maya, the beautiful young lady who struggled with heart disease her entire life. Maya made the very brave decision a few years ago to undergo a complex heart surgery which normally would have been done when she was quite younger. She had never been enrolled in school before we became involved in her care, and so she is far behind most 18 year olds who grew up in families. This year she was still in middle school, but thanks to the support of her wonderful sponsors, she is going to begin an early childhood education program in the fall so that she can become a preschool teacher.
Kids who grow up in institutional care also struggle with the most basic of life skills, such as cooking, going to the store, and learning to budget money. Like in many orphanages, the kids in Huainan are fed all of their meals in the cafeteria. There is little opportunity for them to learn how to make themselves breakfast or cook even a very simple dinner for themselves.
As more of the kids in our education program here inch closer to the age where they will need to survive on their own, we know there are many challenges in front of us to help them in the best way possible. One of the requests we heard several times on this trip was for psychological assistance for the kids, as children who have spent their entire lives without families come to terms with going out into the world on their own. I am thankful that many more orphanages realize the challenges these children will face, but I also know the obstacles they will face are immense.
~Amy Eldridge, Chief Executive Officer