Sunday, November 13, 2011

Shining Stars, Day Five

The last day at Zhanjiang included art activities and building things out of Legos. And then...the children dressed in costumes, complete with makeup (emphasizing colors), and they had a grand parade making lots of music and happy noise.

This is all we have for right now--but I'm so anxious for Vickie and the team to update us with the many wonderful details that will come when the jetlag fades.
Val, for ZKO

Six months ago, this is a scene that played out only in our imaginations. We are so very grateful for the wonderful people who have made these children's dreams come true. They are receiving the attention and fun that all children deserve.

Lovely Cassie leads the parade

King George, a most enthusiastic, and energetic student

Our wonderful teacher, Ms. Li, proudly wears a necklace one of the children made and gave to her.

The lovely and talented Anna (and Ms. Suzanne, who is completely smitten)

How wonderful that she has the opportunity to be a beautiful princess.

Exercises with Ms. Li

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Shining Stars, Day Four

No post today, as everyone is exhausted from an extra long day. But Vickie said everything is going well, and the kids are loving this new program in their lives. Enjoy the photos!
Val, for ZKO

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Shining Stars, Day Three

In the adoption world, it has been said that day 3 is a turning point. I’m not sure if that is true or not, but for the Shining Stars Preschool day 3 was a great day!

The classroom was very organization and structured, with Ms. Li was running through her lesson plans like she had been teaching this class for months. The children are really doing a great job learning to sit in their seats. This is no small task for a group of toddlers who are used to running around all day long wild and free ;o)

Today’s theme was the color red. The children learned to speak the word in Chinese, sign the word in Chinese Sign Language and identify the color of red. Towards the end of the lesson if the child could do at least one of the three lessons they were rewarded with some red lipstick on their lips. Of course they were all winners and received their prize, because all of our children are truly Shining Stars!

In addition to their lesson on red, their day was filled with art, music and of course the day would not be complete without some time to play. To this included learning a new game--London Bridge.

It was another successful day and we cannot say enough wonderful things about our teachers, Ms. Li and Ms. Linda. They are doing a beautiful job with our preschoolers!!

After school was over we went out to dinner with the directors. Much to our surprise the top civil affairs official in Zhanjiang joined us for dinner. This is an extreme honor! I was seated to her left, sandwiched between her and Director Su. This was considered a sign of their respect to ZKO. The local government is extremely appreciative of the support which the ZJ families continue to give to the children who remain in the orphanage.

I hope you enjoy the pictures and that they will be able to convey all of the fun the children are having! Don’t forget to drop us a line…we love hearing from everyone!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Shining Stars Team

Front, left to right: Patti Kelly, RN-ZKO Shining Stars Program Coordinator, Brooke Wehrman, CNP-ZKO Preschool Team, Linda, RN- Shining Stars Assistant Teacher

Back, left to right: Suzanne Young, Intervention Specialist-ZKO Preschool Team, Ms. Li-Shining Stars Teacher, Vickie Bennett-ZKO Board Member, Susan Doshier- ZKO Board Member, Huang Ying-ZKO Board Member

Shining Stars, Day Two

Before I begin the details for this day, I want to acknowledge some additional team members who played a huge role in getting the Shining Stars program off the ground. Missing from our team on this trip is Ms. Ellen Dietrick, who was our physical therapist and Ms. Bethany Moore, who was our nursing assistant. Both of these ladies traveled with ZKO in May to perform assessments on our preschool children. Also missing from this trip is ZKO Board Member Valerie Martin. Val traveled with us in May as well and she is missed by the entire preschool team. While we were not able to have these ladies with us for this trip, we know they are with us in spirit. We want to thank them for all the work they put into the May trip and helping to make this program become a reality. Thank you ladies!

Over the weekend the team did some training with the preschool staff on Saturday then we spent Sunday resting and visiting with some of our local friends here in Zhanjiang.

Today was our first official day at the orphanage. We were supposed to spend the morning unpacking toys and supplies, and doing our best to assist Ms. Li in getting her classroom setup. Much to our surprise when we entered the room Ms. Li had our younger group of preschoolers sitting on floor teaching them their daily lesson.

After months of preparation and literally hundreds of volunteer hours by our team members, to actually see this programming running live was so amazing. There were tears by some of the team members and I had goose bumps as I was shooting the pictures. We could hardly believe our eyes!

The day was filled with lots of fun and the children did very well as they began to adjust to their new environment and teacher. After Ms. Li was finished with her lessons we allowed the children to spend time playing while the team got busy putting the classroom together and unpacking all of the supplies.

Of course, there were times this task became challenging as we would unpack something only to turn away for a moment and find it had been snatched up by one of the little ones. Then there were some who had pockets filled with little pieces of packing or glues sticks. Needless to say, they are very smart and very quick! They sure did keep us on our toes!

Then there were some of the children who decided to join in with the work. We had two little boys whom we have lovingly named “The Tool Time Boys”. They took a piece of equipment and used the tools that were included in the packaging and put it together from start to finish. There is no doubt these boys have a future ahead of them!

It has been so amazing to watch the children slowly begin to come out of their shells. This trip has been very different from the one in May when it took several days for the children to warm up to us and get used to our presence. They clearly remembered our team members and so the fear and shyness have not been an issue this time. This shyness has turned into smiles and eventually into hugs. These children are literally blossoming before our very eyes and they are all very special to us.

I hope you enjoy all the pictures. Our team has sat and looked through them several times this evening reminiscing about the day and laughing about the kids and how much fun they had. While there is a lot more I could say about our first day in the Shining Stars Preschool, I think I’d rather let the pictures speak for themselves.

Thank you for following along on our journey.
Vickie, for ZKO

Friday, November 4, 2011

Shining Stars, Day One

Hello everyone from Zhanjiang!!

The ZKO team arrived into Zhanjiang mid noon. With the travel part behind us, we are ready to hit the ground running. It is always good to be back in Zhanjiang and I think I can speak for the whole team when I say that we feel like we’re amongst friends with the orphanage staff.

The team had lunch and then we went over to the orphanage to see the new classrooms. The classroom has been freshly painted with beautiful pastel colors. The room is filled with lots of tables, chairs, bookshelves, toys, art equipment, etc. You name it, they have it! We let the children spend the afternoon exploring the classroom and all the toys and starting to get used to their new environment. To say they were excited is an understatement!

Our new teacher, Ms. Li, is simply perfect in every way. Every time I looked at her she was smiling. You can feel the love that she has for these children. They were extremely rambunctious and she didn’t seem to mind one bit. It was a day we have all waited for and it is even better than what I expected.

Although tomorrow is Saturday here, the team is using every bit of free time we have. We will have the preschool teachers and aides coming to our hotel and the team will begin their training. They have put together binders full of training for this new set of staff, including Chinese Sign Language, which all of the children will be taught so they can communicate with the children in their group who are deaf.

We hope you enjoy the pictures. We are so thankful to the orphanage staff for allowing us the
opportunity to share these with our ZJ friends and families. Director Su came up to the classroom this afternoon and said, “The children are all so happy, this new program is going to make such a difference in their lives. Thank you for doing this for our children.”

I know this is a short post, but I think I would rather use up the rest of the post sharing pictures of our wonderful new program. Enjoy and thank you for following along on our journey to implement the Shining Stars Preschool!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Shining Stars Launch!

Hey everyone, this is Vickie with ZKO. Fall is my favorite time of the year. The beauty of the colors on the trees, the cool crisp air and most of all it serves as a reminder to me that the holidays are quickly approaching! This means lots of time with friends and family.

But this year fall has a different meaning for me. Since 2007 when ZKO implemented our amazing Open Arms infant nurture program, I dreamed of the day we could go to the next level and start a pre-school program. For those children coming out of our Open Arms program, and whose special needs have not allowed them to be adopted, there wasn’t a next step after OA.

That dream will soon become a reality and the needs of our little Open Arms graduates will soon be met. ZKO is excited to announce its newest program in the Zhanjiang orphanage…..Shining Stars Preschool!! We will be traveling with a team of professionals to Zhanjiang leaving November 2nd. This team has poured countless hours into the planning of this program. For months now equipment, furniture, toys and supplies have been delivered to the orphanage.

Our team will arrive in the orphanage this Friday and begin the task of setting up the classroom and getting the staff trained. Our new teacher for Shining Stars is Ms. Li. She comes to us with several years of teaching experience, all with special needs children. This is a rare find in China and we feel so blessed that she has agreed to take the lead in this new program.

Please follow along on our journey as we travel to Zhanjiang to implement this much awaited program. If you can, please take the time to drop us a line to let us know that you are following along. Your words may be brief, but just knowing we have ZJ friends and families out there with us in spirit and support means so much to us.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support of ZKO and the children who remain in the
orphanage. Our annual newsletter will be hitting the post office soon. If you are not on our snail-mailing list, or you have moved in the last year or two, please be sure to contact Kimberley Simms at Kimberley @

Thanks everyone!!
Vickie Bennett, Director
Zhanjiang Kids Organization

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Day 8, Coming to a Close

Sunday was our last full day here in Zhanjiang. We spent it by going about an hour away to the finding place of one of the team's children, and we spent the morning there walking the streets. It was fascinating to see small-town life. It was on an island, so the market was full of seafood as well as other tropical fruits and vegetables. The market was crowded, and we didn't exactly blend in, so that was interesting. :o)

After lunch we met our friend, Ruth, who took us to two local churches. The first one was the Catholic church, built by the French in the late 1800's. It's gone through several transformations, including being closed for several decades. The Father willingly opened the church for us, and answered our questions. He told us the Sunday morning attendance is several hundred. They had to install CCTV monitors so everyone could see, because they are packed into the corners.

Next, we visited a little Protestant church built in early 1900's by Baptist missionaries. Again, one of the preachers graciously opened it for us and took our questions. This church is also bursting at the seams for worship, and they open the doors and set up tents outside so everyone can hear the preaching. It was wonderful for us to see the spiritual side of Zhanjiang, and on a Sunday, too.

In the evening we begged Ruth to take us to the Macau restaurant again. We were so hungry for the dumplings and several other selections we'd had a few days earlier. We had a great last dinner together, which is sad considering we've finally become pretty efficient with our chopsticks. :o)

Photos of our experiences from this eigth day are here.

Monday morning we will go to the orphanage for a short visit with the children, then return to the hotel and pack up and say goodbye to our wonderful friends here. It's been a terrific, successful trip, and we thank you for following us here, and for your encouraging comments.

Val, for ZKO

Photos from Day 8

Catholic church, built by the French during occupation, ca. 1800's

In the church courtyard

Beautiful gothic-style architecture

Father Phillip told us the history of the church, including it being closed and also used as a factory for a period of time.

The gathering storm created a stunning backdrop

A five-minute walk away took us to the little church built in the early 1900's. Upon entering, we felt like we were in a little country church, but with distinctive Chinese details. We later found out it was built by Baptist missionaries...mystery solved.

Cupboard of hymnals and Bibles

Fascinating architecture

Our last dinner out--Macau Restaurant, AGAIN!

We turned around while choosing our food, and there were the cooks watching US. So I whipped out my camera....GOTCHA! It cracked us up, on both sides of the glass. What a great restaurant!