China Part 2: The Orphanage
First day, walking through the center for the very first time.... I stayed in the back of the group that I was touring with so I could take a little longer to peek into the rooms. The first room I saw was a room with rows and rows of baby cribs. Not your cute American cribs with beautiful craftsmanship and detailed mobiles hanging from above them, but generic, white barred cribs with dozens of little Chinese babies in them. Some had bottles to suck on and some had just their own toes or hands to keep them entertained. My eyes immediately filled with tears. This was a similar reality for my little brother and sister not so many years ago. My family was able to rescue them from a life of being institutionalized and give them a family and a place where they would actually exist and not be just another baby in a white crib in an orphanage in China.
After the tour I was sure that the baby room was the room I was supposed to work in for the next two weeks. My older sister has a 2 and a half year old little girl and a 7 month old baby girl. I spend ample amounts of time with them and know what to do when it comes to babies. I also just love babies in general. So, when they told us to write out our three top room choices in the center I wrote the baby room first, the toddler room second, and a room with young girls as my third choice. I ended up being put in a room that had not been on my list. It was the "Ruby Room." This was an all girls room. The youngest girl was 7 and the oldest was 30. At first I wanted to be upset... This was clearly not what I had wanted, but I had a feeling deep down before I even stepped foot in China that I would end up going into a room that would stretch me. And boy did this group of girls stretch me.
We went into our rooms on the first afternoon to meet and get to know our girls and nannies. When I walked in I saw many in wheelchairs. Some were sitting in straight back chairs and a small few could walk. A pretty little girl wearing a pink and purple shirt burst into a fit of laughter when she saw us and ran to jump on all three of us. Ashton, Anna Mae and I were a little taken aback by this girl. She giggled constantly and loved to pretend to bite you. She had bite marks all up her arms. She was a rough little lady. Her name was Dou Dou. When she wasn't biting or giggling the nannies actually put her to work. They would have her help bring out the food and stack chairs or put bibs on the others. Dou Dou didn't like to see anyone upset. If one of the girls started to act agitated or cry she would do everything in her power to make them happy. Every day when we would walk in she would scream in excitement and usually pick one of the three of us to jump on. I miss her.
Another little lady that I became buddies with was who we decided to call "the laugher." I never could learn her name because it was too long and confusing, but this little girl was another one of the few that could walk. Her only disability was scoliosis. She was absolutely hilarious. She had a deep, throaty laugh that, when she used it, could make a whole room smile. She also helped the nannies out with chores and she loved to push any and every wheelchair. She always wanted to help. I was fine with that because if she wasn't busy helping she and Dou Dou were off doing something mischievous. I would've loved to have gotten a video of her laughing. I think on my hardest of days that laugh could make me start laughing too.
There were many girls (I counted around 8 or 9) in wheelchairs. Some were more coherent than others, but every single one of them loved being taken outside. Every day we would try to take the girls who had not gone to class for walks outside. We would take two or three out for a little while and then bring them back in and switch out for a new batch. The agitated ones, teeth grinders, criers and even the ones that seemed to be chronically sad would immediately perk up and sometimes even smile or giggle when we took them out. It's amazing what getting them out of that room that they saw 24/7 would do. Seeing their eyes light up when we got on the elevator because they knew they were going outside was the best part of the day.
The nannies were an absolute joy to be around. Despite the language barrier, these ladies were kind to us and took our questions that were asked via charades with grace and patience and usually a few good laughs. There were so many girls in the room and only two nannies were on duty at a time. They were spread thin to say the least. That is where we came in. Our jobs were to solely give the girls the love and attention the nannies just didn't have time to show. At feeding time there would be 15 or 16 bowls of food that had to be shoveled into the mouths of the girls at warp speed so it wouldn't take two hours to feed and then already be time for the next meal. We got to help with the feeding and each girl had her own way of being able to eat. Some took 5 to 10 minutes to swallow one bite. Others took only a few minutes to eat the whole bowl and they were still stick thin. These particular girls seemed to be hungry all of the time, but wouldn't gain the adequate weight. Some would have seizures and would flail around while you tried to guide the spoon to their mouths. Feeding time was never easy, but the nannies were so grateful to us for helping them. They always said thank you numerous times. These women are some of the strongest I have ever met. They have to have such a kind and maternal patience to do what they do. I felt nothing but respect for them. God has truly given each one of them a heart for this work because it is far from easy.
Looking back on those two weeks spent with those sweet girls I see why I was put in that room. As much as I loved the baby room, these girls that we worked with will remember us for months to come. They will remember the three girls that didn't look quite like them that came in and loved on them. I hope that for the ones who grow up in the center and stay there for the duration of their lives that they will realize that we came to love on them and care for them because God told us to do so. Those young ladies will grow up living very different lives than most, but they will have the opportunities to help and be leaders in their room. The older girls that were in their 20s-30s would come in from class every day and the girls would be so excited to see them. They were like their older sisters. The younger ones would fight for their attention and would love it when they would play with or help feed them. Just seeing that those girls grew up and have their own places in the Ruby Room to help and teach the younger ones encouraged me greatly. Those girls won't spend their lives pining away for more. They love being a help and almost look at what they do like you would a job. They all have growing room and I know the nannies and staff will work to make each of them feel like they have a place to belong.
I have many stories in my head that I would love to type out and share on here someday. I just wanted this post to be an overview of the work we did. I do have pictures that our team leader was able to take, but I am not allowed to post them on the internet for safety reasons. If you are interested in seeing them please feel free to ask me in person sometime! I would love to share them with you. :)