A Day In the Life of Three Orphanage Assistance Volunteers!
In our continuing series, “A Day In the Life,” we are featuring three volunteers who were inspired to work with our Orphanage Assistance (OA) program. We hope you enjoy learning more about these dedicated volunteers and what they do for LWB!
MaryHelen Donnelly, Orphanage Assistance Coordinator: I am a single mother who works full time, so after I put my daughter to bed I usually log onto the computer to check my email and then 2-3 times a week do some of my LWB volunteer work. I wear two hats in the Orphanage Assistance program. In my role as the OA Child Coordinator, I archive all the pictures, stories and sponsor updates that are produced by the OA team. Parents who have adopted from China can request any information that LWB has on their child from their days living in the orphanage. When I receive one of these requests, I look through the archives and send the parents what information I have on their child and/or the SWI in which their child resided.
My second volunteer hat is as an OA Coordinator. Three orphanages where LWB is currently running a Nutrition program are assigned to me. Quarterly, the China Nutrition program managers send pictures and updates on the children in LWB’s Nutrition programs. Using this information, I create an update that is sent to the sponsors of that SWI’s Nutrition program to let them see how the children are benefiting from their donations.
I started my volunteer work with LWB by sponsoring a little girl’s education. I was on the LWB website and her little face just spoke to me – she was the same age as my daughter, and all I could think was that she could be my daughter, still in an orphanage, waiting for a family.
Yet I still wanted to do more. When I adopted my daughter from China, I visited her orphanage and looked at all the babies still there and, I wanted to take them all home! Since I couldn’t do that, I decided that I should help those children in some way. Since I work full time and am a single Mom, I don’t have the luxury of being able to attend meetings and do my charitable work on-site. LWB allows me to give back to my daughter’s country and to her fellow orphans but allows me to do it in the comfort of my own home so it takes no time away from my precious daughter. It makes me so happy to hear that a little one is getting the nutrition they so deserve, the surgery they so desperately need as well as all the other great work LWB does. It’s also so thrilling to share pictures and information about their chidren’s early life with adopted parents. That information is so precious to the parents and will be to their children as well. I’m very proud to be a part of this organization!
Andrew Gurthet, the Associate Director of the Orphanage Assistance program: My wife and I adopted our daughter, Anna, from Qianjiang orphanage in Chongqing Municipality in 2006. The very second she was put in my arms, I knew that I was the luckiest dad in the world! Anna is now 4 1/2 and the absolute love of my life. I first learned about Love Without Boundaries in 2007 while attending the annual Families With Children from China – Northern California Chinese New Year event. There was a booth there staffed by a young man representing LWB. I was extremely impressed with the work that the staff of LWB were doing to help children in Chinese orphanages. In an attempt to give back a little of the luck I have received as a dad, I volunteered for LWB in 2009. My luck continued… I was “hired” by Suzanne, the wonderful and amazing director of the Orphanage Assistance Program. I absolutely love working for this organization. It’s what gets me out of bed and going each morning! (Well, actually, it’s my daughter jumping on the bed at 6am saying “Is the sun up yet, Dad?”) But, once we get past that point and a cup of coffee, I’m then on my way excited to see what the day holds for LWB.
In my capacity as the associate director of the OA program, I track all incoming donations and therefore spend a lot of time on email and Excel. I also coordinate all the orphanage projects. I really enjoy this as it involves a lot of direct contact with donors to ensure that their donations are being used the way that they wish. It also involves a lot of contact with our amazing China facilitator, Alexa. She does all the hard work of purchasing and shipping items to orphanages across China.
By far, the most enjoyable part of the job for me is receiving photos both from donors as well as from the orphanages. Often donors will send me photos of their children. We use these photos to create certificates that we send on to the orphanages so that the orphanages know who made the donation and how the child is doing now. And the orphanages send back photos of the donor’s final donation materials. Often the orphanages will include photos of the children presently in the orphanages. I love seeing these photos as it really puts faces behind all the hard work! It makes what I do “human.” I can see that what I am doing is impacting people in a positive way!
Suzanne Damstedt, Orphanage Assistance Director (shown with some of her family in the top photo): When we were preparing to adopt our first Chinese daughter and my husband and I were considering a special needs eight-year old at Shantou Orphanage, I was put in touch with Amy Eldridge because she had met my daughter. It turned out that my daughter also had a sponsor in the Shantou Education program, and that’s how I became involved with LWB!
As the OA Director, I “direct” the programs that are under this area of LWB. I delegate a lot of work to the great volunteers who help me in this program but have my own areas of responsibility also. I correspond with our Nutrition Director in China to make sure that the formula gets ordered for our nutrition programs, and when we get pictures and updates back I forward these to the coordinators who prepare the reports for sponsors. I preview new pictures that come in for our projects and post them. I answer questions from potential donors who want to do projects, often in the orphanages of their adopted children and send them to the appropriate volunteer to proceed. I prepare a monthly OA update with pictures and information about recent projects at different orphanages. Since I am a busy mom (I have 9 children) and have other responsibilities as well, I tend to do my “work” several times a day. I often have time to work in the morning and again in the evening before going to bed to get things caught up after being away from the computer for a few hours. Some days I have more time than others..and some days I have more work than other days. But, I love having the opportunity and the time to do this volunteer job.
I love knowing I am making a difference in other people’s lives. I know I can’t help every child who needs it, but I can help some of them. I love that the work OA does provides comfort items like formula and clothing to many children in the orphanages, many of whom may not have a chance to be adopted, but who still benefit from the projects that are done in their orphanages.