LWB Community Blog

Journey to Guizhou – Reflections

All of the wonderful people who volunteer for LWB know that I have a few rules about going on an official trip.  One of them is that you can’t cry when you are in an orphanage, even though I know all too well that it is absolutely overwhelming at times to walk in and see crib after crib, filled with babies living without a mom or dad.   The reason for this rule is that I never want any orphanage caregiver to misunderstand our tears.   I would never want them to feel that we are crying out of judgment.

Well—I broke my own rule on this trip—thankfully in the back seat of a van and after we had already left the orphanage.  Sometimes the need is just so immense.  It is a sobering experience to hold a tiny baby and know she needs immediate medical help, and then have to put her down and walk away.  I visited five orphanages in five days, and our list of children needing medical assistance grew and grew.

Many times I have thought that if any of us ever opened our front door to find a baby lying there – blue and struggling to breathe or severely malnourished, we would move heaven and earth to help her right that moment.  We would take her to the emergency room, call the local newspaper to get the story out, do anything necessary to make sure that baby had a second chance.  None of us would walk away from that one single baby in our path.

But when you are in an ORPHANAGE, surrounded by kids, and you look around realizing that every child needs some sort of assistance……where do you begin?  How do you decide?   I have learned there is no good way – and so you begin with ONE.  One life at a time.  And you pray for the others to stay strong until it is their turn and ask God to forgive you for getting on a jet plane and going back to your full pantry and warm home and so often needless spending on things you honestly don’t even need.   All the while knowing in your heart that children are lying in orphanage cribs right this very moment going hungry and struggling with medical needs.

I think we are all guilty of forgetting what we have.  I rarely think to give thanks for central heat.  Running water?  Glass windows?  How many of us stand in front of 4-5 pairs of shoes each day (or more) deciding which pair to wear, never thinking of how many kids don’t own a single pair.  How many of us eat more than a meager bowl of rice each day and yet forget our blessings?  I would definitely have to raise my hand many times, and I am ashamed that it takes returning to rural China to bring me back to the reality of how many kids are orphaned.  Of how many kids are alone.  Of how many kids are waiting for just one person to fully believe in them.

On this trip, as wide eyed children froze and held their breaths when they saw the crackers in our bag, too scared to even hope that perhaps one would be for them, my mind went to my own kids coming home from school in the afternoon and thinking nothing of making a whole frozen pizza or a hot can of soup for a snack.   I thought of the bowl of fruit on my counter they can always choose from.  And how we can have an entire freezer full of food and yet they can innocently look at me and say, “mom, there’s nothing to eat in this house.”

And then I suddenly came back to the moment and realized that a nanny was placing a tiny baby with frostbite in my hands, and explaining that she was found in the mountains and the tops of her ears could not be saved.  And my heart broke yet again by the immense needs of so many children in this world.

Today I ask you to pause for a moment and ask if you have also become complacent at times about the urgent situations facing so many orphaned children.   It is so easy to put it out of our minds when that baby is not right outside our doorstep, and yet I can assure you that tiny baby is very real and very much in need right this moment for someone to care about her life.

So for the little girl we met with heart disease or the baby boy with a facial tumor or the tiny baby with clubfoot and cleft –  can you make a $5 or $10 gift to help them find healing?   I promise you won’t regret it.  When we count our own blessings and then pay it forward – we really can change the lives of children in need.

Amy Eldridge, Executive Director







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  • bonnieb says:

    Amy, your post made me cry. I think about those left behind, those still waiting, and hug my NiNi a little tighter. The poverty we witnessed in China is unlike anything I’ve seen here in the US. Supporting charities in China feels completely normal now, something I never thought about before. LWB does wonderful work! Wish I could bring home more of those little sweeties!

  • dbirge says:

    Amy, reading this article goes right along with what I have been saying. I am a 52 year old woman who just brought home her 8th child (5 adopted – 3 special needs). People have asked me over and over…WHY? I had the usual answers to explain why I do this..as if to explain MY craziness. However, I NOW say…”WHY NOT??” We have a crisis out there folks…millions of children live in orphanages without the love of a parent and are in desperate need of medical care, etc. WHY AREN’T WE ALL HELPING? Why is this crisis ignored when others are not? If we are able and have money to waste away on luxuries, why not turn our hearts around and provide a child…a precious child…a chance at life. Trust me…you will be rewarded over and over and over.

  • chinalwb says:

    My heart has gone out to all of the families waiting in the NSN path for a child – as none of us could have imagined 7-8 years ago that the wait would be so long. The reality, however, is that there are very few “healthy” infants in Chinese orphanages any longer. When I first began working in China, the cribs were all filled with predominantly non special needs baby girls. Now, almost every child brought to an orphanage has a medical need. When I speak with orphanage directors, they give me statistics of between 85-98% of the children in their care being “special needs” (meaning any medical need).

    I have spoken about this topic in the past, and here are some of my notes in case it helps (although I know every day that goes by waiting seems so very long!)

    The first factor in the changing orphanage population is the more open attitudes of the younger generation of adults towards having daughters. Before – traditional thinking was passed down for generations, and we know that traditional thinking meant “we need a boy”. But now with cell phones and the internet connecting people to the world and the younger generation of women who are educated feeling more empowered – so many couples now do not care if the child is a boy or a girl. Those “age old” beliefs that girls are worthless are changing rapidly, which is a great thing.

    The second reason for the big shift is that domestic adoption is increasing substantially in China. Following the Sichuan earthquake, there was a huge surge as it became very public knowledge that orphaned children could be adopted. The CCAA now has a section just for domestic adoption – although most aren’t done at the national level but instead still are done at the city and county level. But there are long waiting lists at many big city orphanages for non special needs infants. Chinese families in major cities like Shenzhen and Guangzhou actually travel far distances to rural orphanages in the hopes of adopting a child. So if a non special needs infant is taken to an orphanage, there is a good chance the baby will find a home within China.

    The other important factor to consider is that infertility is increasing rapidly in China. A new study estimates that 40 MILLION Chinese couples in child bearing age are infertile. 40 million. You can google this and read the reasoning behind this, but one statistic I will quickly include is that in 2001, there were only 5 infertility clinics in all of China. FIVE. Now there are over 200 and more open every month. So for many families, domestic adoption is the only way to build a family.

    I know it doesn’t help with the wait, but I hope it will at least help you know that China isn’t in any way purposely slowing down the referral process. There are just very few non special needs infants available for international adoption now. I am not saying there aren’t ANY – as when we visit orphanages we will see 2-3 per orphanage, but now it is very interesting at how the orphanage staff will say it as if they are surprised, such as “can you believe this healthy baby was left?” The reality is that most babies being abandoned today are babies who need medical care, and many who need medical care to survive.

  • Charity says:

    Nope, holding up adoptions and making more restrictive laws makes no sense….. You either want to find homes quickly for each child or complain about how many children are in the system. Hopefully, these countries will work on their problem areas so the children stop paying for it.


  • chinalwb says:

    Yes, with every orphanage we work with, we encourage them to submit the adoption files on all the children in our programs. Our goal is for every child to be given a chance at a permanent family. For the orphanages in Guizhou – we are hoping to help them medically so that even more kids can find families. For the province on a whole, only 140 adoptions took place last year, but the officials there want to see that number increase.