How It All Began: Orphanage Assistance and Nutrition
LWB’s Orphanage Assistance Program has evolved over the years and is the parent program to LWB’s Nutrition Program program. Did you know that nutrition was actually the first program we began in China…even before Kang’s heart surgery? When Amy Eldridge first visited an orphanage in 2003, she wrote about how hard it was to see the toddlers eating just a tiny bowl of rice, and how they scraped down the sides to get every grain because they were so hungry. As she left that day, she pressed $300 into the hands of a trusted doctor and told him to buy the kids additional food.
After Amy returned to the US, the wonderful adoptive families from this orphanage rallied together to begin providing fortified rice cereal to the babies there, and the orphanage staff told us soon after that the entire mood of the orphanage had changed once the children felt full. Vitamin fortified rice cereal can make such a huge difference in the health of a baby, and the nutritional benefits were obvious from the children’s improved hair and skin.
Soon after we began providing high quality formula, such as Wyeth or Nestle, to orphanages throughout China. At one orphanage that we now help, the babies were originally only receiving cow’s milk, even as infants, and so were failing to thrive. The changes in their health that occurred once the switch was made to formula were incredible. The reality is that if a child is truly hungry, nothing else we can do for them really matters.
As part of our nutrition program, we also serve children in need of specialized formula, such as soy or preemie, and we help older kids with specialized needs as well. When we learned that the children in one of our orphanage school programs were suffering from anemia, we implemented a nutrition program in the school, because we know that childhood anemia can cause lifelong issues with learning. Our nutrition team works closely with every other program area of LWB. Whether a baby is in our medical program or in one of our healing homes or foster care, we watch closely to make sure their individual nutritional needs are being met. This part of our orphanage assistance program is run by Cindy Wu, based in Beijing.
Our orphanage assistance program also provides safe equipment and supplies to orphanages. Over the years we have bought hundreds of new cribs to replace splintering, broken ones. We’ve dug wells to provide clean drinking water, built playrooms, provided playground equipment, purchased clothing, air conditioners, and other essential supplies. Many of you will remember when we bought a heating system for a rural orphanage that had no heat at all and only plastic on their windows, even in the winter. Your kindness allowed a new coal radiator system to be installed, which resulted in many babies’ lives being saved.
We have bought wheelchairs, incubators, physical therapy equipment, blankets, warm coats, and more. Alexa Tong, based in Guangzhou, helps us to order supplies for this wonderful part of LWB. She is the wife of Richard Zhang, our medical program director.
LWB’s Orphanage Assistance team is run by Suzanne Damstedt and Mari Davidson, with a whole group of WONDERFUL volunteers who work each day to help as many kids as possible. We are continually evaluating this program to make sure that we help orphanages in the best way possible, and we are so very grateful to everyone who has helped this program area to improve the lives of thousands of children over the years.