Richard is using the trip as an opportunity to raise funds for a couple of his favorite charities, one of which is ‘Half the Sky’ and today we visited an orphanage assisted by this wonderful organization.
In brief, H.T.S.’s mission is to ensure that abandoned/orphaned children in China receive the love of a surrogate family to supplement the essentials that are provided by the state and other charities. For more details, visit their website…
Having seen their work firsthand, I encourage you to donate if you can.
Here’s the orphanage we visited…
It houses kids of any age from birth through 18 and provides not just a home, but also medical and remedial treatments where necessary and possible and pre-schooling for the younger children.
Most of the kids are either physically or mentally handicapped; some are both. Tragically, many people n China still consider such handicaps as shameful, and this, combined with the one-child-per-family law, accounts for why many of these children were abandoned.
We were greeted by a representative of Half The Sky and the orphanage’s director and some of her staff, then we toured the rooms where the kids spend most of their weekdays – kindergarten rooms where most kids are prepared for school and therapy rooms for the kids that need special attention for ailments such as cerebral palsy.
Three things stuck us immediately – (1) the good ratio of skilled adults to kids, (2) the positive and constructive atmosphere in all rooms and (3) how well-behaved the kids were despite their challenges.
Half the Sky provides many of the trained helpers who supplement and assist the teachers and therapists, thereby ensuring that the kids get plenty of individual attention.
This kid wanted to go sailing with Simon…
…and for this young guy the walk across the room was a MAJOR challenge that he proudly accomplished thanks to the therapy he has received.
But, for me, the most positive aspect of the orphanage – and the one introduced and financially supported by Half the Sky – is the innovative approach to the kid’s living quarters.
They live in a large, well-maintained apartment building, each floor of which is divided into several apartments and in each apartment is a ‘family’ comprising a husband and wife (recruited for their caring natures) and four or five of the kids. The husband typically goes out to work, while the wife stays home to look after the kids, prepare their evening meals etc. On the wall of each apartment is a ‘family photograph’ of them all grinning happily at the camera.
We visited at lunchtime and, as you can see below, the kids were loving it and interacting just like any other family.
I am sure the system has its own challenges and imperfections, but I am also sure that it is a hell of an improvement over more traditional, dormitory-style, institutions.
We left – impressed and hugely moved by what we’d seen. And I commend Richard for identifying and supporting this charity.
And speaking of Richard, today was his birthday and his Chinese friends (whom you’ve met in the last couple of blog entries) joined us all for a banquet thrown for him by Mr. Sei in a private room at Edelweiss, the restaurant he established. The food included pheasant soup and roasted hare using pheasants and hares shot by Mr. Sei himself (doubtless while dancing through the hills to the sound of music).
Mr. Sei is on the left. (And for those of you who haven’t seen Simon in a while, he’s on the right).
Best wishes to you all and love to my family,