The trip from Kaili to Weng’An took approximately 2.5 hours. Weng’An is part of the Qiannan Buyi and Miao prefecture, and has a population of just 400,000 which is of course quite small for China. This mountainous region is the source of the Wuyang River, which has carved out beautiful canyons throughout Eastern Guizhou. Farmers here grow corn and rice, and the industry of the town is coal and phosphate mining. We were told that all of the children in the orphanage are “true orphans,” meaning their parents had died. In fact, just days before our arrival a coal mine had flooded, trapping 41 miners underground. Two sisters had come into the orphanage just weeks before, when their parents had passed away.
The Weng’An County orphanage is home to just 21 children – twenty who are school age and one adorable toddler. The orphanage has only been in existence since 2008, and since that time they have done four adoptions of babies to Spain.
When we arrived, the children had just come home from school and had prepared a wonderful lunch for us. They quickly loaded the tables with dishes and pulled out plastic stools for us to sit on.
Our van driver sat at a table with the boys, and I loved watching them talk to him animatedly. He told us later that they had continually refilled his plate to make sure he got enough to eat. As soon as lunch was finished, the kids quickly cleared the dishes and wiped down the tables. The orphanage director, a truly lovely woman, told us that her goal was to make sure that the kids who age out in a few years will be completely ready to live on their own. As many of you might know, many children in social welfare institutions never learn the life skills they need to transition to society. From the time they are little, they eat in cafeterias and never learn to cook, and they rarely venture outside to learn the important life skills of shopping and money management. Director Chen explained that she wants to make sure each of the children in her care becomes self-sufficient, so the kids learn to cook their meals and do their own laundry. On the weekends when school is out, they shop at the markets for ingredients so they learn how to budget and bargain.
The orphanage setting was truly lovely, right next to a small river.
The kids sleep two to a room, and the older kids have a small room with a microwave and hot pot to make their own breakfast before heading to school.
Because of our visit, the school had agreed that the kids could return to classes later in the afternoon so that we could take them to town to buy them their very own bicycles.
I want to thank everyone who made this project possible, as the kids were so very excited to receive this special gift. When we arrived at the bicycle store, the owners began bringing every bike they had out onto the sidewalk, and it didn’t take long for a huge crowd to form, with everyone wondering what in the world was going on.
Each bike was unique, and I watched with a smile as a beautiful little girl watched them bring out a purple one. She quickly ran over and put her hand on the seat, and stood there the entire time to make sure no one else claimed it.
The boys were so cute to watch. One little boy walked up and down the row of bikes examining each one before finally choosing the biggest one. The orphanage director quickly walked over to explain that he wasn’t quite ready for that adult sized one yet!
The funniest moment came when we watched the shop owner carry out a bright red battery operated car. He placed it on the sidewalk next to the bikes, and our director Cindy of course asked what he was doing. The orphanage director came over and said, “Didn’t you say every child could have a bike?” And when we said that was correct, she said the two year old needed something as well. We were all laughing, but we were also touched that the shop owner didn’t want anyone left out.
After the bikes were purchased it was time for the kids to get back to school. We then went with the orphanage director and staff to a clothing store, as thanks to Hope’s Heart, a donation was made for every child to get two new outfits. The staff made sure to pick out something special for each and every child, and again….I loved seeing how well they knew every child in their care. Since only the toddler girl from the orphanage was able to go shopping, we might have bought her just a few extra things. : )
All too soon it was time to say goodbye and head to our next destination. As we left, I just kept thinking that Weng’An is the perfect example that it isn’t a fancy building that children need the most. Kids need to feel loved and secure, and it was quite obvious to us all that this orphanage is doing a very good job at making the kids feel like they belong.
~Amy Eldridge, Chief Executive Officer