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 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, 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,
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 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