A Visit to Xinzhou Foster Care
As my flight from Australia descended into Beijing, I looked through my notes that I had written about the more than 50 children I was intending to visit over the next eight days. I wondered if I was being a little overly ambitious: five cities in four provinces.
The schedule that Cindy, our foster care director, had put together was a tight one, and I hoped for good weather. Much of the time would be spent traveling from one city to another, but once there, nearly all our time would be spent visiting the foster families and children in our programs: Xinzhou, Loudi, Tongren, Qiandongnan, and Lanzhou. It was with excitement and optimism that I stepped off my flight, negotiated Beijing International airport and eventually laid my head on a pillow.
Tuesday and my travels continued – six hours on a fast train to Shangrao in Xinzhou, Jiangxi province. It was late afternoon by the time we arrived, and like most of the fast train railway stations, as I was soon to realize, this one was some distance out of the city center.
Dinner that evening was local specialties shared with orphanage staff and our manager. It was a time to listen, learn and get to know those who were there on the ground, making a difference each and every day.
The next morning, the red sun rose above the high-rise landscape from my hotel window. We had eleven children that we wanted to visit, so with no time to waste, we were piled into a car and on our way to visiting the children, all of whom lived in very close proximity. The area where the families live has a variety of dwellings ranging from two-story buildings to some of five stories or more, with small cultivated fields interspersed between. There was a lot of new building happening, and outside many of the homes on either side of the narrow streets were new water pumps and makeshift fireplaces used to cook with a wok or to smoke meats.
It was not long before we visited the first of our families; sweet Jimena.
Rugged up in many layers and looking pretty in orange, Jimena loved the shape sorter we gave her and when we returned later, she was still playing with it.
Handsome Dane and his foster granny had word that we were there and joined us. Dane gurgled and smiled as I lifted him into the air and delighted us all with his wide gummy smile. His little red cap, lovingly made by his foster granny, kept his head warm; he was clearly not impressed when it was taken off.
Not too much further was Dominic’s family. Painfully shy of strangers, Dominic stayed close to his foster granny.
The relationship they share is special, and he sought the security of her arms as we were invited into his home. (Dominic’s adoption file is ready and available!)
We visited Livia and Finn next. Sweet Livia had just woken from her morning nap and closely watched everything that was going on, cocooned warmly in her traditional cradle.
Finn, meanwhile, cheerfully showed us his walking skills holding tightly onto granny, smiling and giggling. We were told how he shoos the chickens out of the house, and we later saw him in action.
We were pleased to see eleven-year-old Ben, and I was surprised to see how strong his arm muscles were. His family are very protective of him and make sure that he doesn’t go outside the courtyard by himself, as the slope of the narrow street is steep and uneven.
Patrick, Stefan, Francisca, Fabian, and their foster families met us in the marketplace – a local gathering place for the families to gossip and play when the weather is fine. Patrick was particularly excited about our visit and delighted in his new harmonica and the play equipment.
Stefan’s musical bunny kept us all entertained, but particularly him. Here too, is where a local medical clinic is located, and where the children go for check-ups, or to get medication for minor ailments. With only Leah to visit, we walked with some of the grannies and the children to her place, noting the many new builds happening between the marketplace and her home.
Like Patrick and Ben, Leah is having physical therapy each month. Because of her self-motivation and determination, she is seeing positive results.
It was with sadness that our time came to a close and we had to say farewell to the foster care children and their families. With joy we also welcomed a new little one to our foster care program, however: Gary: cute as a button and curious. He loved the toy we gave him and tried to multi-task: play with his new toy and follow what was going on.
Our Xinzhou children have not only their foster families but other orphanage staff that clearly care for them. Located in close proximity, they are part of a connected community where the families know each other and socialize, allowing these beautiful children to feel they are a cherished part of their neighborhood. That wonderful feeling of belonging is what we wish for every orphaned child.
~Kirsten Vizjak is LWB’s Director of Foster Care and volunteers from her home in Australia. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing Kirsten’s observations and photos from her recent trip to China. Next up will be her visit to Loudi foster care in Hunan province.