I’m leaving today to begin another trip to visit LWB programs, heading this time to Cambodia and China. I’m taking huge duffel bags full of supplies and donated school items and have been frantically trying to get all the last minute things organized, which I know so many of you have experienced on international trips.
I’ve printed dozens of Excel “cheat sheets” for each location I’m visiting, with photos of the children and their names, ages, and circumstances. I pore over them at night trying to memorize each face and situation so we can make sure we’re doing all we can for them. I can’t wait to get there and see firsthand the programs you’ve helped build and the children whose lives you’re changing.
Adorable Reggie with his newly fixed leg.
Baby Avery, whose cleft lip will be repaired by our upcoming team.
Little Sabrina in our school program who is sporting a new cast from a recent broken arm.
Hundreds of Cambodian children who’ve worked their way into my heart.
When LWB first began in China, we quickly became known for our work to help kids physically. Through surgeries, nutrition, and healing homes…we still do everything we can to help children with medical needs get the help they deserve. It’s a cornerstone of what we do.
We of course quickly realized in our work with Chinese orphanages, however, that emotional healing is just as critical, which is how our work with foster care began, moving abandoned children from institutional care into supportive, loving foster homes.
When we began our foster care program in Cambodia, it was originally created just for orphaned children, but very quickly we were asked by officials to help children who’d been trafficked and severely abused as well. Along the border region, these issues are tragically very real.
I’m so grateful to everyone who’s supported this Safe Haven program so far, as in just a very short time we’ve already been referred 14 children who have lived through unthinkable things. Their list was the last one I printed last night, because I still haven’t reached a point where reading their stories doesn’t hurt my heart. I know that’s a ridiculous thing to even say as these children are the ones who have LIVED it, and yet here I am as an adult on the other side of the ocean struggling to even hear their reality.
I printed out the photo of a sibling group we have just recently accepted into our Safe Haven program. Their intake photo haunts me. Four brothers and their little sister, exact ages unknown. They’re looking at the camera with a mix of defiance and weariness, and you can see the weight the oldest little boy feels on his shoulders to protect his younger siblings. (We never show the faces of children from our Safe Haven program in order to protect them)
This photo is difficult for me to look at because of course it reminds me of my own children – my youngest daughter from China and her four older brothers. But sadly, I know that the children in the photo I’m holding have experienced what no child ever should. Trauma, starvation, severe abuse. It’s so difficult to even think about, isn’t it? The things that adults can do to harm a child.
In just a few days I’ll get to meet little Evie in person, whose age we have put at four, and her very feisty brothers who understandably have every reason in the world to believe adults can’t be trusted. We’ll be discussing with our local team what steps need to be taken to bring not only physical safety but emotional healing to this group of children who are now fully in our care. So many beautiful and vulnerable children who deserve a chance at finding real hope.
Whenever I leave on one of my LWB trips, I always pray the same prayer before I go: May the children who need us the most somehow cross our path. I can’t thank you all enough for embracing the projects we’ve begun in locations around the world. I know at times it might be a little confusing to keep track of all of them (or even a lot confusing without the help of a printed flow chart!), but with every new local collaboration we take on in new countries, our core value statement remains our guiding principle:
To provide the most loving and compassionate help possible to orphaned and impoverished children, and to show the world that every child, regardless of his or her needs, deserves to experience love and be treated with dignity and care.
We are truly grateful to you for making this vision possible. I can’t wait to share more with you once I return.
~Amy Eldridge, Chief Executive Officer