Maisy, little lady Maisy. Of all the babies, Maisy showed the least improvement. Her emotions tended to be very extreme, from very happy to very distraught in a matter of seconds. She was 1yr old when I arrived and is just a few months older now. She still has jerky neck and spine movements, indicative of a lack of opportunity to stand and walk around, resulting in weak muscles. She is still drinking thick baby food from a bottle, and has a glazed expression most of the time. Please continue to pr*y for Maisy with us.
There are so many success stories about the older children, I could write a book. Maybe I will someday. But today, I'll just highlight a few of my favorites.
From the first day at the orph this summer, I knew 7 year old Avery was going to be a joy and a challenge. He is a very smart boy with no special needs who loves being around people. But, he loves himself more. He has no role models in his life, no ever-present adults or older siblings to teach him how to share, be kind, or put others first. I always had to be careful of what I gave to Avery because I knew that if I looked away for one second, he would disappear with whatever I had given him, to go put it under his bed or in a corner. It's not uncommon for the children to do this, to hoard gifts or toys, because they so rarely have possessions of their own.
All summer, I worked patiently with Avery, ever so repetitively saying things like: "That's not yours, give it back," "You can both use those crayons," "Leave it on the table for everyone to use," etc. Slowly but surely, I noticed small improvements in his behavior. However, I never expected what I witnessed on my very last day at the orphanage. Avery found a doll on the floor, walked right over to me as I was holding Evie, and asked me to put her down on the floor. He sat down across from her, scooted close, and handed her the doll. He was sharing. I was almost in tears. What a moment.
Last but not least, fiery and fiesty little Josiah. This kid is one of a kind. He's got so much attitude for such a tiny little body. When this four year old first came waddling in to the room yelling at the top of his lungs on my first visit this summer, I knew he was going to demand a lot of my attention. And I was willing to give it. From there on out, every moment I spent with Josiah required a major dose of energy... and patience. I swear, this kid asked for things from me simply for the sake of talking to me. He would motion to something and babble (his speech is still not very clear, even at 4) and I would offer him everything in my hands, but he would still say, "No, not that, that!" If I didn't give him what he wanted, it turned into a screaming fit of anger. As cute as he was, Josiah was hard to please.
Halfway through the summer, I tried something new and brought in some Chinese picture books. You know, the kind that has "apple" and a picture of an apple, and "car" with a picture of a car. When I offered one to Josiah, his face lit up like I'd never seen. He read that one book over and over for at least an hour. Finally, I had found something that he loved, that he could attend to for more than 30 seconds at a time. And it was a developmentally helpful activity, at that! By the end of the summer, Josiah's love for books had only increased. I brought new ones, and left a stack for him on my last day. Perhaps Josiah will grow up to be a fiery, fiesty author with big ideas and very important things to share with the world.
SO WHAT'S NEXT-------------->
This is the question everyone has been asking. When will I go back? What will my next trip look like? And when does Hope Station open its doors to foster children?
Right now, I continue to work and live in the U.S. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, I am now working full time for Hope Station. This fall I will focus on fundraising. That is all that's left in this big puzzle we have been piecing together in the last four years. Just think... if all of these kid-successes happened after only 2 days a week for 3 months, imagine the impact that could be made in these kids' lives with 24-hour care. When I return to China, we will begin doing just that. Our goal is to have a sustainable annual income of $85,000 by the end of 2014, made possible by supporters like you who commit to a recurring monthly or annual gift. We are $65,000 away from that reality. If you have not made a commitment to give monthly or annually to Hope Station, you can start today. It's super simple, and super rewarding. Just visit the Hope Station website at www.hsorphans.org/donate to start giving right now.
In January or February of 2015, I will be heading to China once again, this time with all my belongings in tow. I'll be moving.
And that is where I end this post, to leave you wondering what that will all look like...