Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Fund Drive Kicks Off!

It's quite amazing to look back at the events of this past year. Last year this time, we expressed to you the mission of ZKO and what we hoped to accomplish. You opened your hearts to that mission, and it's truly miraculous to see the good you have effected in one year's time. You already know from reading the newsletter, website, and blog how it has benefited the babies, so we won't go into that again (but if you could just see the grins on their faces...). Please know that it's all because of YOU caring about the ones left behind.

It's time to do it all again, this year with the hopes of reaching even more kids at Zhanjiang: the older ones who may never be adopted, and the kids with special needs who need therapy and specialized attention. We have been given such an opportunity by the Zhanjiang staff, and with your help we hope to take full advantage of that opportunity.

As you are "making your list" this holiday season, please consider adding the kids at Zhanjiang as recipients when you're "checking it twice." It's never been easier to give--we now have PayPal! Or if you prefer, you can fax or mail in your tax-deductible donation (the form can be easily printed off our site). http://zhanjiangkids.org/helping.htm Our fund drive will run through December 31st. Keep checking the website for updates!

Monday, November 5, 2007

ZKO News!

The Chinese symbol you see means "predestined relationship." It can translate to adoption, families, friendships, but it's so appropriate for what has been happening in the Zhanjiang community to which we all belong. We've watched as people all across the world have come together for a common cause: the children at Zhanjiang SWI. It's amazing to experience the common bond of having "SWI sisters and brothers" and how it has caused a wave of compassion and friendship to spill back into the children still living at Zhanjiang SWI.

Landmark events have been happening this month! We've received our official 501(c)(3) status, and your donation will no longer be funneled through FTIA. We are so very grateful for all their assistance until we could become our own non-profit entity. It has now become a cinch to donate directly to ZKO via PayPal on our website!

The newsletter is coming to fruition. Although we've had a few hiccups to delay production, we anticipate it going to the printers shortly and you will find it in your (snail)mailbox by Thanksgiving (for those of you not in the US, that's near the end of November). If you haven't yet signed up, please do so immediately. We can promise you that it's going to be a wonderful, heart-warming issue filled with photographs, interviews, and perspectives from both sides of the ocean. You do NOT want to miss this! The only way you'll be able to see it is if you contact us. If you haven't yet gotten on the mailing list, please contact Kimberley at kimberley@zhanjiangkids.com

We've just gotten our latest batch of quarterly reports, and they are encouraging as well. The babies and toddlers are thriving under their Aunties' care, and it is evident that these Aunties know their children intimately. Some of the following quotes have been taken from the latest reports of several different children:

"When playing alone, she will say "da, da." She prefers the colorful toys, and is curious about the toys which have sound. Whenever there are such toys in front of her, she will watch them for a while before taking them. She is very cute."

"She knows when her name is called. She likes to watch what the Aunties and kids do, and smiles at them. She is active and lovely."

"When the Auntie calls for her from a distance, she turns around at once and smiles. She will clap when Auntie sings to her."

"Whenever Auntie calls her, she waves her hands."

"She is afraid of strangers and wants to play with only her familiar Auntie."

(of an older child) "She is a little naughty. When the Auntie doesn't take her to the playroom on time, she sits on the edge of her crib. When the Auntie comes, she greets her with a hug and points to the playroom. She likes to play games with the Auntie and laughs loudly."

The common theme is that these precious children know their names, and they know their beloved and dedicated Aunties, depending on them for their emotional well-being. It doesn't get much better than that. Thanks for being a part of this incredible work.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Newsletter: Issue I, Volume I

Great news! Our first-ever ZKO newsletter is in the works, and will be printed and mailed in October! It promises to be a fascinating issue, full of news, ZKO info & updates, interviews, and photos you won't see anywhere else! We believe it'll be a terrific item for our children's scrapbooks/files as well, as they will be able to see and read about children from their hometown.

If you would like to sign up to have one sent to you, please send your mailing address to: Kimberley at zhanjiangkids.org

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Visitors to ZJ

A ZJ Family is visiting the SWI at this time: Susan, and her daughter Riki. She has given me permission to post an excerpt of her trip blog for you to enjoy. It sounds as if they are having a wonderful time, and Riki's hope to love on all the babies has come true--many days in a row! I'm sure the little ones love to see Riki coming through the door to play with them. As has come to be the custom for recent visitors, the staff has been so wonderfully welcoming to returning families. Enjoy!

We were able to call the orphanage on Thursday afternoon and made our first visit there the next morning. We brought gifts for Director Su and his wife and little girl, Assistant Director Yi and her daughter, and for Elsa, who runs the office and speaks quite good English. When we arrived, Director Su was in a meeting (according to Elsa, it was a boring meeting) so we had a pleasant visit with Elsa and Ms Yi. We were asked what we would like to do and how often we would like to come to the SWI during our stay in ZJ. We were soon asked if we would like to go to Open Arms and play with the babies. Of course, Riki's face lit up! Mine lit up AFTER I saw the room full of active and alert little people that really seemed to be thriving.

The ZKO team has done some amazing work here. The families that receive these blessings will have little opportunity to understand what has been done for them but it is so huge! All of the Aunties were on the floor and seemed to enjoy the babies. The babies were all active, alert, and seemed happy and healthy. And, although a couple of them did cry when I looked at them, most of them were quite easy to engage and bright. After about an hour, it was time for the babies to rest. Elsa, Ms. Yi and I had an opportunity to discuss the rest of my visit and what I was and was not willing to buy. We agreed that we would take the oldest children shopping and to McDonalds on Monday and do the same with the next group on Tuesday. I was asked if we might buy some shoes (and possibly some clothes) for the children that did not go to school and were "Special Needs" and therefore would not go shopping with us. Also, they wanted shoes for the toddlers who were beginning to walk. Of course, I agreed. I also offered to buy fans for the five or six(?) school kids' rooms and asked about the special needs kids and was told that they did not have fans either. I said I thought we should buy fans for their rooms as well. Since I seemed to be such a fan fan, they mentioned that on in between days they did not like to run the AC in the baby rooms because electric was so expensive.

She continues:
Imagine our surprise when the van arrived Saturday morning with a party of 12! to show us around: Director Su with wife and daughter and the two assistant directors with their families plus Elsa and the driver! We really thought this was pretty special and pretty extraordinary. They took us to see some of the local attractions including the magnificent Volcano Lake and Dong Hai Island with fish farm along the causeway and a totally tropical feeling.

It was wonderful to see how they interacted with one another ... they function like one big family and we agreed that they would all be our Zhanjiang family too!

I couldn't have been more proud of Riki. She bonded with the kids and was amazingly gracious all day. At the end of the afternoon she gave everyone a very eloquent "thank you" for giving up their day off and for showing her the Zhanjiang area. She told them that the day was very special and that she would always remember. They all cheered and applauded! (As her reward I took her to Crowne Plaza for brownies and creme puffs!)

It sounds as if they're being such good ambassadors of adoptive ZJ families, all the while enriching Riki's knowledge of her heritage. Some of you donated to help her buy things for the orphanage, and they've been able to buy fans to make sleeping in the bedrooms more bearable for all the kids. Being in the tropics, it's almost unthinkable to go through a hot summer with no air moving. Several more things were purchased, including shoes and school clothing. This is truly going to be an unforgettable trip for everyone involved--especially Riki, and we hope that more of you will be able to visit with your children as well.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

First quarterly Nanny Reports are in!

And they have done such a terrific job!!! It's so obvious by the reports, that these children have wormed their way into their nannies' hearts...and we're confident the reverse is true as well.

Each report names the child, their birthdate, measurements--similar to the referral reports we all got for our children. Then, in addition to the basics, there are sections for them to record their personalities, activity levels, and if they have self-soothing behaviors. There are sections regarding their development in language, emotional/social behaviors, and gross- and fine-motor skills. But my favorite part of the report is where the nanny records her interaction with her child. Below are some excerpts from different reports--enjoy them, as have we!!

"she will lie quietly in Auntie's arms when Auntie holds her and pats her gently"

"if she fails to grasp toys from other kids, she will cry loudly"

"while taking her to the [Open Arms] room, she stops crying because there are so many toys to attract her. She takes toys to Auntie and asks her to play with her."

"she is quiet and wants to be with people. She always wants hugs from Auntie...sometimes cries loudly when leaving the Auntie."

"she loves looking at the fluttering curtain with the butterflies on it"

Several of the kids in the program have limb differences, and will be referred via the Waiting Child program. Just listen to what this special Auntie writes: "this little girl loves massage. She won't move when we do it. She holds up her arm to watch it. It seems she is thinking, 'Why do I only have one arm?'"

"she often overturns other kids, and then lies on them to play, which makes the other children cry" :o)

"she looks through the box of toys until all the toys are emptied from the box. Sometimes she puckers her mouth and nods her head, which looks very cute"

"if you don't pay attention to her, she will pull your clothes and shout, 'hey, hey!'"

"she shows a smiling face every day upon seeing Auntie. Because she can't express with words, she will step heavily on her bed. She will not calm down until Auntie lifts her"

"she claps her hands with the music, and holds on a chair and shakes her bottom to dance"

"she is an active child--she likes moving around and never stops. She throws herself to her Auntie's bosom to play. She uses her foot to kick the crib and make banging noises. The other children watch her doing this and join her." [in the nanny's words: 'they make the entire house sound like an instrumental ensemble'] I think we have us a rabble-rouser! :o)

It sounds like a wonderful cacophony of happy, healthy children...these reports are like Christmas in July, and will someday be a treasure to their adoptive parents. It's wonderful knowing these children are being loved and showered with affection. This will lay that important foundation of trust, which will help them attach more easily to their forever families. Thank you again for your part in creating this wonderful atmosphere for the babies.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

EXTRA! EXTRA! Look how YOU have affected the babies!!!

After the team left in April, we knew we needed to allow the new nannies and the SWI staff to have some time to implement the program and get into this new schedule, and that it would naturally take some time to get live reports on the progress. We're ecstatic to report that there have been several visits by ZJ families and both times they were invited to visit "Ava's Room" (where the Open Arms program is run). While the ZKO board is in constant contact with the ZJ directors via phone and email, we were so happy to get several live reports from the viewpoints of visitors.

The first visit by a family was on a Saturday in May, and they were invited with open arms ;o) to see the room, even though it was the weekend, and the nannies wouldn't be using it. They rounded the corner to find the room WAS being used, filled with laughing nannies and happy babies enjoying the toys! It's obvious this is more than a 9-5/M-F job. These dear children are LOVING all the attention, thriving under all the physical touch, and soaking up all the new experiences. The visiting family reported music and singing echoing through the halls!

The second visit we want to highlight is a report from a group that visited on a Homeland Tour. Again, they were graciously welcomed by the ZJ staff, and encouraged to see how wonderfully the babies are doing. The visiting group found all the babies being held or toddling around playing with toys. It was described as "pure chaos"--but a wonderful, beautiful, normal chaos of happy babies singing along with the music on the CD players you helped provide. There were babies playing with toys and listening to music in Ava's Room, but ALSO in the regular nursery. It's just wonderful how the program has been spilling into the rest of the orphanage.

It was requested that a message would be relayed to all you wonderful families who have helped make this program a reality: "Please report to your people that the babies are good and happy and directors Su and Yi are very happy with the program. All should feel happy in their hearts for the good thing you have done for the babies in ZJ".

We are so grateful for the opportunity to give back to Zhanjiang SWI, and look forward to many years of helping the ZJ children to live happy, healthy lives until they can join their forever families. We thank each of you for opening your hearts to this wonderful program.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Final Entry from China!

Well today was our last day in Zhanjiang City. We started out the day by returning to the orphanage to check on the Open Arms program. As we entered the 8th floor, you could hear the music playing. The weather changed dramatically overnight with a cold snap coming through, so all of the babies were bundled up with big blankets over them and were snuggled in the Aunties arms. The Aunties were all smiles when they saw us again. What a beautiful sight!!

The posters have now been hung in the room. Although you cannot see from the pictures, they are daily schedules in both English and Chinese for the Aunties to follow so they know what they are to be doing with the babies throughout the day. There are also flow charts that the nurses have hung which show what the babies should be doing developmentally at each month of age. While all of the babies are behind at the onset of this program, this is the goal that each of them have for their babies to achieve.

I took a few more pictures of Ava’s Room. I thought you’d enjoy seeing the curtains hung, as well as the posters.

Well this is our final post from Zhanjiang. Thank you for following along on our journey to being the Open Arms program. As we sat with Director Su today, I expressed to him again, on behalf of all of the families who have adopted children from ZJ, our gratitude to both him and Ms. Yi for allowing us the opportunity to implement this program, as well as being able to give back to our children’s first home. Director Su asked me to pass on to all of the ZJ families that you are always welcome to visit ZJ, as well as visit the Open Arms program. He expressed his gratitude to all those who so generously gave to this project and for the ongoing support that ZKO has given to the ZJ swi over the years.

It was a very touching moment as we said our goodbyes. The staff at ZJ have been so kind and gracious to us, there are not enough words to express out thanks to them for making us feel so welcome.

The ZKO Team

Monday, April 2, 2007

Last Day in Zhanjiang

Today was our first free day since we’ve arrived in China almost 2 weeks ago. We decided to spend the day touring Zhanjiang City, as well and finish up the rest of the finding locations that we are doing for our ZJ families.We traveled to an area of Zhanjiang called Taiping, and then on to an island off of ZJ called Donghai Island. Our driver took us to a remote part of the island where only the local people go to. It was obvious that they had never seen foreigners, as we drew a crowd very quickly. There were no restaurants or shops in the area, only the local fishermen working off of their boats. The primary business in this area is shrimp, crab, and oysters.The shore ways were filled with local people kneeling as they cracked open the oysters. The beach front was filled with the left over oyster shells. The life here is so simple and so peaceful. It was the closest thing to heaven that I have ever experienced here on earth.

The driver then took us down the coast a little further and there were little huts where they would cook the fresh seafood for the local fishermen to eat. So we selected our own shrimp and crabs for them to prepare, as well as some other fish which they made a fish soup out of. The shrimp was so tender and so sweet, and the crab literally melted in your mouth. I have never tasted anything like it in all of my travels. I took some pictures of our food selections, as well as after they were prepared. I still cannot believe just how fresh all the food tasted. And of course, like any other meal here in China, it was very cheap. We had two plates full of shrimp, a plate of crab, fried rice, a fresh vegetable, a plate full of oysters, and drinks for 3 people and it was a whopping $15 in US money.

I thought for the pictures with today’s journal that I would share with you some of the beauty of the Chinese people and their everyday lives. They work so hard and lead such simple lives, but they are always so happy and content with what they have. I hope that you enjoy these pictures.

Tomorrow will be our last day here in Zhanjiang City. While it is sad to be leaving this beautiful place, we are missing our families so much and are anxious to get our arms around our children.

Thank you again for following along on our journey, and thank you for all the wonderful emails that you have sent us. They have been a constant source of support for us. Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we wind down this trip and get ready to make the long journey back to the US.

The ZKO Team

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Taking the Older Kids Out!

Today was another day filled with lots of fun!! We took the second group of children out for the day. They ranged in age of 7-14 yrs old. There was a little confusion on our actual meeting time, so they were there waiting on us when we arrived.

Our translator from the orphanage said that all of these children attend the local school. They have 1 primary caregiver during the week, and the orphanage sent her with us today. This particular caregiver grew up in the orphanage herself and is now 35 yrs old, married, and has a 10 yr old son. Everyday she walks the children to and from school, helps them with their clothing and meals, and also helps them with their homework in the evenings. Basically she is a "mom" to these 16 children.

Since these children were older, they were allowed to pick out what they wanted at McDonald's. Our translator said that on National Children's Day in China, their McDonald's brings food for the children to the orphanage, so that is a very special treat for them. But today was the first time that any of them have actually been at a McDonald's restaurant. We had a lot of fun watching them enjoy their meals. All of them ordered these drinks that were like floats, rather than just plain pop.

After we finished eating all of the children lined up in pairs of two's. They had this procedure down to a science. Every older children was assigned to a younger child, with the older child positioned to be on the left and the younger child on the right. I was told this is how they line up to walk to and from school every day.

We headed to a local department store and the children were permitted to pick out one outfit (either a top and bottoms or a dress), as well as a pair of shoes. While we waiting for the children to try on clothes and shoes, the kids would take our hands and point to everything they could think of and want to know how to pronounce it in English. So they had a very good English lesson today. They all could say their ABC's, as well as count in English. Our translator said that all of the schools teach their children some English as part of their curriculum.

After we finished shopping there was an indoor play area, so I asked the nannie if the children could play in it for a while. She was happy to agree to this, so the kids spent about half an hour playing and boy did they have fun!! I video taped this because I knew that pictures could not even begin to capture the fun they were having.

Once they were finished, we bought them all a cold can of Coke or Sprite and then we said our goodbye's. It was incredibly hard to say goodbye to all of them. They were all so sweet and fun to be with, we could have easily packed all of them in our suitcases and taken them home with us. They just kept coming up to us and saying "thank you". They wanted to hold our hands and would hang on our arms. They were just so sweet.

The ZKO Team

Saturday, March 31, 2007

We Are Up and Running!

Once again, I have to apologize for the delay in posting to everyone. Open Arms has been running live for the last two days now. We leave our hotel around 7:30 am and do not get back until late in the evening, at which time we literally drop.

The program is going very well and the Aunties and babies are very happy. It is so wonderful to see the smiles on both the babies’ and the Aunties’ faces. I thought I’d give you a little run down on how that program is running. The aunties work shifts and are assigned 3 babies in the morning and 3 different babies in the afternoon. They are divided up into age groups of 0-6 months in one shift and 7-12 months in the other shift.

They start out with doing massage therapy on the babies. From their heads down to their toes, they are given a complete body massage. This helps with their muscles, as well as giving the babies the physical touch that they need. They talk and sing to the babies while they are doing this. It is so touching to see the babies just lay there and look into their Aunties eyes while they are rubbing on them—very sweet.

They then have some music time where they sing as a group various children’s songs. The itsy bitsy spider is the Aunties favorite. After they’re done with each song, the Aunties clap and the babies just smile!! They have reading time where they not only read to the babies, but the babies are encouraged to touch and feel the books. It is wonderful to see the babies point to the pictures and interact with their Aunties. They also have free play time where they can interact with each other. This is fun to watch, especially with the older group of babies. They normally cannot get to each other in the nursery, other than reaching through their cribs. It is so much fun to watch them play together and interact. They explore touching each other’s hair, hands, etc. I think the free play time is my favorite.

They LOVE all the new toys. I think that the Aunties are enjoying the toys as much as the children are. They have never seen any of the toys before (other than the balls), so everything is new for them as well. The RN’s showed them how to work each of the toys and what the benefit each of them had for the children in their development.

I have to apologize that there are no pictures with this post, but the orphanage staff has requested that we not post pictures of the children to the internet and we have to respect this request. Director Su and Ms. Yi have been so cooperative and so helpful, and they are so excited about this program and really want it to be successful. We (ZKO) has given our word that we would abide by their wishes with this request and we cannot do anything to jeopardize this very precious relationship that we have been able to establish during this trip. We thank you for your understanding in this particular matter.

Hopefully these next few days we will be able to relax and enjoy our free time working on finding locations and maybe even squeeze in a little shopping.

Thank you for following along with us on this journey and again I am sorry that the posts have been so slow in coming.

The ZKO Team

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Great Day!

Today was another good day filled with lots of progress. The new flooring for Ava’s Room was delivered and installed, as well as the curtain rods. The Aunties uniforms were delivered as well and we unpacked the toys that all safely made it to China through the US Postal service. We have purchased lots of nice wooden toys made by Melissa & Doug through Gummy Lump. Gummy Lump was very helpful in getting these toys shipped and passed through customs without a hitch, and for that we are so grateful! Thank you Gummy Lump!!

The room is just about complete, and I am happy to report that Open Arms will be officially running live tomorrow!! We took a few of the babies into Ava’s Room and the first thing they did was look up at the butterflies. The orphanage staff loves the theme that we have selected and they really love the beauty of the butterflies that we have hanging from the ceilings. We had a few extra left over, so Ms. Yi asked if we could hang them in the nurseries since the babies seem to love them so much. Of course, I was thrilled to be able to do this for them.

I cannot say enough how excited the Aunties and the Directors are about the Open Arms program. They have been so helpful with every little detail. The staff is always coming in to the room asking if we need help, and it has been much appreciated!

I also wanted to comment on the music that is in the nurseries. Of course they always have it playing very loudly, but the babies absolutely LOVE it! They are always standing up in their cribs swaying back and forth to it. They always have lots of smiles on their faces and I think that the music does a lot for setting the mood for the nannies as well. They seem to really enjoy the music and are always singing and laughing. What a huge difference such a small item has made in the everyday life of ZJ. Thank you again to those of you who donated to this project last fall!

Well that is all I have for today, wish us well for tomorrow and please continue to keep us in your prayers.

The ZKO Team

Monday, March 26, 2007

Progress is Made!

Hello from Zhanjiang City !!

We are sorry for the delay in this post. We have been busy from the moment we touched down in ZJ.

We finally made it to ZJ on Sunday afternoon. We were greeted by Director Su and Asst. Director Ms. Yi. The Directors of ZJ took us for a late lunch at an amazing seafood restaurant. I owed Julie (FTIA) a large favor and had agreed to eat worms with her. So….bon appetite…actually they were not bad at all. They were seasoned with garlic and that was all you could really taste. The food in ZJ is really good and they are known for their seafood due to being next to the ocean. We had shrimp that had been marinated in a type of tea and it was delicious.

After lunch, we all checked into the hotel and unpacked. The RN’s and Julie went to visit some of the foster families to check on the girls. There are now 14 foster families. 3 of the girls were adopted in the past month and there have been new children moved into these homes. I am happy to report that all of the children looked great. They were on target developmentally, and the babies and foster families were all very happy. Thank you again FTIA for providing this much needed foster program for the ZJ orphanage.

On Monday morning, we arrived to the orphanage very early. We were able to meet all of the foster mothers, as well as the new Aunties that ZKO has hired for the Open Arms program. All of these ladies spent both the morning and afternoon in training with the RN’s.

While they were training, Martha and I went up to the nurture room to access what we would need to get the painting started. We then headed out to the local market to purchase some the paint and the supplies. That in itself was an adventure. We went to a little market which at first glance seemed to be a store that sold your basic paint supplies. Once we were finally able to communicate what we meant by “light yellow” the fun began. The man opened the large tin of white paint and then pulled out little syringes of bright yellow paint. He added two of them to the large container and then got out a big wooden stick and started to hand stir. No Home Depot shaking machine used there—ha!! We thought you would enjoy seeing a picture of this, it was really something. We then moved on to painting supplies and the brushes looked like the ones that you would use to smooth out wallpaper. And then we were told that they did not sell paint pans….hmmm…we were not sure how we would get past that dilemma, but what can you do? So we had all of our supplies and off we went. We had a lot of fun painting, but it was really hard work. The weather here in ZJ is already very hot and humid. Thank goodness for the breeze.

The nurture room, which we have named Ava’s Room, is a wonderful room! It has two large windows facing to the south and then two more large windows facing to the north. So the lighting and ventilation is wonderful for the babies—very light and bright. The room itself is very large, about 22’X22’, and the orphanage has also provided us an office which sits directly beside Ava’s Room.

The staff at ZJ have been incredible. They have been very accommodating to every single request that we have made. They have even offered us some of their staff to help with the painting. Directors Su and Yi are so excited about this program and have been nothing but smiles since the time that we have arrived. There are not enough words to express our appreciation to this staff for allowing ZKO to do this program for the children.

As for the children at ZJ, there are approximately 90 babies under the age of 12months and they are located directly beside the Open Arms office on the 8th floor. There are additional children from the ages of toddlers on up, but I have yet to visit that part of the orphanage.

Many things have changed since I was there last March. The babies are now on the 8th floor. When I entered the nursery it was like music to my ears—literally. The music that some of our ZJ families purchased, along with CD players were being used in every room. The babies’ cribs all had soft mattresses on them, the little ones had their heads propped up. They have just recently stopped using the little pillows that the ZJ families purchased since the weather is so hot. Once it turns colder this fall, they will use them again. The babies were being rotated from belly to back. It was as if I had walked into a different orphanage. There is no doubt in my mind that the training that the RN’s provided last May, along with the changes in leadership, has made all the difference in the world. The nannies were laughing and singing along with all of the music, it was a very, very happy place.

We were able to spend time with all of the babies, holding them and talking with them as much as we pleased. As Martha and I were working in Ava’s Room throughout the day, we were free to move about the floor and visit the nursery whenever we wanted.

The RN’s were able to physically examine all of the babies. Physically, there were some colds and some babies with heat rash, but all in all, they were in very good condition. Developmentally, we were still looking at the same delays that we had before. This will now all change with the Open Arms program. We will be enrolling 100% of the babies from the ages of 3 days old (a little boy that was brought in while we were there) up to 9 months. The 10-12 mo babies are all scheduled to be adopted out, but we still selected a few who were really behind to be in the program with the hopes that we can give them a jump start to getting caught up before they leave to go with their forever families.

I am also thrilled to say that we were able to enroll 4 special needs children in the Open Arms program. We have one with a heart condition, two who are missing an arm, and one who is missing her right hand. It is not always likely that an orphanage would allow a special needs child to be enrolled in a special program, but when we asked Ms. Yi she did not even hesitate!

So at the end of the day, the aunties received two full sessions of training, the babies have been selected for the program, and Ava’s Room is now painted. Needless to say, the ZKO team was exhausted, but we were all smiling from ear to ear as we were driving back to our hotel!! What a wonderful day, with lots of progress, and we are so thankful for everything that the ZJ staff has done for us and for this program.

The ZKO Team

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A Bad Day!

We got to Beijing airport, and with all of the toys our luggage was waaaaay over the in-country limits. Total.... $400 US!! So Julie (FTIA) started to bargain. China South Airlines would not budge. So she gets on the phone and calls who else but, well I can't tell you who she called but let's just say that when she was finished, we were able to get the bill cut in half. So while I didn't expect this extra cost, I paid it and on we went. It was still pretty darn good for having 5 pieces of luggage way over the weight limit.

At this point, we had waited so long that we were almost late for our flight so we were scrambling through security and literally running through the airport. We finally get to the gate only to find that the flight was delayed. (Murphy's Law). It wasn't too bad, only about a half hour. So after the delay, off we went.

We had to stop and deboard the plane in Changsha as a layover and that's when the fun began. It was suppose to be only 15 minutes. An hour later they announce that the flight has been cancelled due to the fog both there and in ZJ. So they're going to put us up at the airport hotel.......

Round 1, there is an angry mob of Chinese businessmen. They are storming the counter yelling at the poor girls working the airline's desk. In their faces demanding that the plane WILL take off and they want to talk to the airport's director (remember, it's about 9 pm, yum.....I think he's at home relaxing with his family at the moment). Had we been in America, these people would have been taken away in handcuffs it was that bad.

Round 2, they finally allow us to board the plane to get our personal belongings. We take inventory between the 5 of us. We have a travel size thing of toothpaste, lip gloss, 1/2 a bottle of warm Coke, Advil, and 2 squares of sponge cake left over from the flight we were just on. Of course we hadn't had dinner on the plane because, well you know, the main course was unrecognizable and then there were the Aviation Pickles for dessert...you get the picture.

Round 3, we were told that we would be put up at the airport hotel and would be given dinner as well as breakfast the next morning. Of course the angry mob was not happy about that because they were still demanding that the plane take off even thought you couldn't see the runway because of the fog. So they cram us all up into the shuttle bus. We literally drove 200 feet and then we stopped. Just from the looks of the outside I knew we were in BIG trouble. So we unload and let the angry mob go in front of us. The front desk informs everyone that we all had to share 3 people to a room--strangers getting to know one another. Julie finally negotiates 3 rooms for the 5 of us, having to pay $ for the third room, but at least we didn't need to share a room with a stranger.

Round 4, We're waiting to go to our room when they inform us that it's too late for them to prepare food and so we were going to get a bottle of water--yum, yum!! So now we're tired, dirty, AND hungry. So they finally give us our room numbers and we're on our way. We get to our rooms and I looked at Julie and said...um, how are we suppose to get in, they had not given us a room key. She said we had to use the phone mounted on the wall in the hallway. So she calls for someone to let us in our rooms. We wait...and wait...and finally someone arrives. Of course then they tell us that we can't go out of our rooms because the door will lock behind us and we wouldn't be given a key. And of course we couldn't use the hall phone because they don't speak English. Nice..........So we enter and rooms and there are no words to describe what we saw and smelled--think Goldie Hawn, Bird on a Wire, and the BIG cock roach that landed on her head in the shower---THAT hotel was the Hilton compared to where they took us. I have never in all my life seen and smelled such filth in all my life. There was a HUGE black bug on the floor in one of our rooms, the bathrooms looked and smelled like...well, and you just don't want to know.

Round 5, At this point we were ready to throw up the white flag. We turned around and went back downstairs. It looked like we were going to have to sleep in the hotel lobby. Of course Julie is on her cell phone trying to fix the whole situation. Finally she was able to get a hold of FTIA's local guide. She arranged for a driver to pick us up and take us to the Dalton in Changsha which is where many families stay when they travel to Changsha to adopt. So while we were waiting on the driver, Julie was scrambling making even more phone calls. Canceling our hotel reservations in ZJ. She had to call the director in ZJ and tell her that we would have to cancel the first round of Auntie training that was supposed to start the next morning at 9am. She then had to call of the Aunties.

The driver finally showed up, we were able to take a nice hot shower and get maybe 6 hours of sleep. We are now waiting for the breakfast buffet to open and hopefully after a nice hot breakfast we'll be able to have a better day. Our new flight is supposed to leave at 9am for ZJ. Please keep us in your prayers. We've lost a day of training and our already tight schedule has now become even tighter.

Thanks again for following along on our journey, we covet everyone's prayers. Hopefully next time we write, it will be from ZJ City!!

The ZKO Team

Friday, March 23, 2007

Report from NewDay

Hello again from Beijing. Today we spent the day at New Day Creations Foster Home. Like I said yesterday, this is one of my favorite charities in China. There are approximately 30 children at New Day, of which 2/3 are in private foster homes. The children who remain at New Day are given wonderful care by their Aunties.

There is a 3/1 ratio of children to Aunties. They have a daily schedule of activities that includes lots of play time, interacting with the other children, and of course lots of one-on-one attention and love from their Aunties. The bedrooms are divided to only allow 3 cribs in each one. There is a window for every room. The children’s names, pictures, and daily schedules are attached to each of their bedroom doorways. The hallways are filled with poster size pictures of their children. The playrooms are filled with wonderful educational toys, and the pre-school classroom looks like it could have been from a school here in America. Lots of crafts, puzzles, musical instruments, etc. Just very, very impressive!!

If you’ve not had a chance to visit their website, I would encourage you to do so. I decided not to post any pictures, because New Day has done a wonderful job photographing their facility, children, and some of their daily activities which is all on their website. Here is the link again, http://www.newdaycreations.com/foster/
On the homepage, if you click on “Tour” you will see pictures of everything that I just spoke about. You will also find the children’s daily schedules there. If you want to see all the children, click on “babies” and there will be pictures of every child, as well as information on them, including what their special need is.

New Day is a privately owned organization run by American families who volunteer their time there. These people have left their homes and families in America to serve these children. I have nothing but respect and admiration for them—thank you New Day for the difference that you are making in all of these children’s lives!

As for the ZKO team, the nurses trained in both the morning and afternoon, and again, the training was given to the foster parents. The families all seemed to enjoy what they learned and as with Taiyuan, they were full of questions.

While this trip to China is about Zhanjiang and the Open Arms program, we felt that since we were traveling with 2 nurses that we needed to give back to just a few of the programs that are working so hard here in China to care for the orphans. There is so much work to be done here, and the ZKO team wanted to try and do our part in helping to support them in their work.

Tomorrow we are off to Zhanjiang!! We will actually be able to sleep in a little and possibly take in a few of the shops around us before heading out to the airport after lunch. We will be arriving in ZJ around 9:30 pm, which will be Saturday morning for all of you. It is still hard to believe that we are finally here and that the dream of an infant nurture program in ZJ is finally becoming a reality!

Please continue to keep us in your prayers. They mean so much to us. Please email us, we love to hear from everyone back home.

Thanks again for following along on our journey.

The ZKO Team

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Hello from Beijing!

Hello from Beijing!!

The ZKO team has arrived to China safe and sound! Our flights were perfect, no delays, and thank goodness our entire luggage made it safely!We are truly sorry for the delay in getting this first post off to all of you. We know you have been anxiously waiting. We arrived at our hotel very late Wednesday night and were able to get about 4 hours of sleep before we had to be back up and running. We traveled back to the Beijing airport to travel down to a little town called Taiyuan.

We were greeted by our translators and then off we went for the ride of our lives. The Taiyuan orphanage is far outside the city limits and so the taxi drivers decided that they wanted to take some short cuts to help make the cab fare a little more profitable for them. I have traveled in many different cities and villages in China, but I have never had the experience of driving down back alleys and going through unpaved roads that looked like dirt bike paths. Needless to say, we could have used a monster truck for the ride and has given new meaning to the word adventure!

Upon our arrival, the RN’s set up to do some training for some of the 300 orphanage foster families. There are very few children in the orphanage itself as most are placed into foster care. We were given a tour of the orphanage and were able to visit with some of the babies and a few of the toddler/sn children. The older non-special needs children were all in school which was encouraging as well. While Taiyuan does not have a lot of money, they have done a very good job with what little they do have. The children, including the special needs children, are sent to foster families so they can have the opportunity of receiving the love of a family. What was even more impressive is that their foster program is not funded by any outside source. They use the money that they receive from the govt. to pay these families, which isn’t much. So the families who sign up to foster these children are doing so simply as a labor of love.

The RN’s trained all morning and then we broke for lunch. The director took us back into the city, taking the paved roads of course, and we had a wonderful lunch with a wide variety of Chinese dishes. It was all very good. We then went back to the orphanage where the RN’s did training for a few more hours. The afternoon proved to be a lot of fun, as the foster moms were introduced to CPR for the very first time. Unlike here in America, the concept of CPR is a foreign concept. Only a few medical professionals in China even know what it is. The expressions on their faces were priceless! They were so excited to try their newly learned skills on the dolls that the RN’s brought. As you can see from the pictures, they had a lot of fun learning. It was very rewarding to know that even though we were far out in a remote little village in China, there are now people there who could save a life if someone were choking or needed CPR. I will never complain about the CPR class that I had to take for our adoption ever again.

Tomorrow we will be traveling to New Day Creations. They are located about 45 minutes outside of Beijing. We will be touring their facility, as well as doing training for their foster mothers. If you are not aware of this organization, I would encourage you to check out their website. They are one of my favorite charities in China. They are a privately run foster care facility. They go out into the various orphanages in China and offer to take in special needs children who require some type of corrective surgery. Their website is http://www.newdaycreations.com/foster/ After they have received their surgeries, they are placed for international adoption. 100% of their children are adopted into forever families.

Thanks again for following along on our journey, please keep the prayers going for our team. The trip has certainly been a smooth one so far and we know that those prayers are what makes the difference.

The ZKO Team