Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Old Bengbu orphanage sites

I was able to see some of the old sites of the Bengbu orphanages in the past.


Above is a shopping plaza that now occupies the space where the Bengbu SWI stood prior to 2003. None of the structure remains.


It amazed me that for a children's shop, western faced children are on the billboards. I know I'm jaded, but to me, Chinese children are far more cute!



Ms. Wan posing in one of the mini 3-wheeled "cars" for sale in the shopping plaza.


Ms. Wan worked at the old orphanage which is now a shopping plaza. She told me that the only vestige of the old orphanage is the power transformer which still stands. She looked at it wistfully. I wish I could see her memories!





This is a photo of the site where the orphanage was from 2003 to 2007. I was there. There's absolutely nothing left of it. New buildings (presumably hotels) are being erected on the site. The shore of Dragon Lake is being transformed into a modern pedestrian walking areas.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Thanks and friendship

This post is dedicated to the donors for the children of Bengbu. Families who have children from Bengbu SWI, families from all over the world - Netherlands, America, Spain, Australia, Norway, Canada, New Zealand. Because of the donors, all this is possible. A special thanks to Suzanne Erstad and all of her fundraising efforts this past year for the children!

Thank you all for enabling me to help with Bengbu. I have made some wonderful friendships with the kind people of Bengbu.

Me and our new volunteer Li Rui.

Outside a restaurant "sampling" some fresh lotus root.



The beautiful ladies of Bengbu SWI.
As a surprise, the orphanage presented me hand-stitched artwork which was painstakingly made over months by the orphanage children.





The reason why we are all here together...






Click to see more of life in Bengbu city.

donations to the orphanage

Packages of Hope has been supporting the orphanage since 2005. Many adoptive families that have gone for a visit there have seen our donations there. The orphanage director has given speeches at conferences about how well our relationship works in providing for the children at the orphanage, and how we are able to maintain connection to the orphanage.

This year, we have provided gifts for Chinese New Year, as well as donated 4 cabinets for different rooms in the orphanage.

Have a look at the photos and the video!
Blankets donated. (the beds themselves were also a POH donation from years past!)


Ms. Wan posing on riding toys donated by Packages of Hope




A therapy room in the orphanage, staffed by trained therapists






Beautiful children!




Director Song with a beautiful child!





Jeff Kircik and Li Rui pose with the kids and a cabinet donated by Packages of Hope




Me with the kids!





A desk donated by Packages of Hope






Another cabinet donated by Packages of Hope





Children learning with the nanny!




Click to see a video of the orphanage



Click to see video of the Bengbu orphanage sites prior to 2007.



Below is a video of the Bengbu SWI






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Below is a video of a performance rehearsed just for me! The kids had a blast, and I was so honored!



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Visiting the orphanage


Sidewalk poetry written in water


A flutist playing in the morning in the central part of Bengbu City







The proof of our relationship with Bengbu SWI can be found in orphanage where donations from Packages of Hope provide physical evidence to our devotion to the children and our support of the caregivers there. In return, the orphanage director, in continuing messages to me to the orphanage families, encourages a return to the orphanage and visits to China, in order to strengthen ties in our global community.


My good friend Kay had purchased a ticket for me for the 3.5 hour fast train ride from Shanghai to Bengbu. This was a huge difference from when I had visited in 2005. Back then the train was nearly standing room only, and took 8 hours with several stops. This time, the train was ultramodern, and zipped along at a brisk 140km/hour (around 88mph), and only stopped in Suzhou, Wuxi, Nanjing and Hefei before stopping in Bengbu. Although the train ride had been upgraded, the train station in Bengbu is still as it was, which was a bit older, but still serving its purpose well. The volunteer who usually helps me in translating with the orphanage, Sun Lele was not available to accompany me with Ms. Wan, on account that she is working in Hefei. Sun Lele is a Bengbu native, and will soon be getting married in September! I was instead joined by her student, Mr. Li Rui, a charming 19 year old boy whom I had never met and who had never acted as an intepreter before and who had never visited an orphanage before. I was met by Ms. Wan and Mr. Li at the gate, and we walked away to their parked car which was located about a mile away.

We were on our way to the orphanage, where I met with Director Song, and we presented letters to the director from the families of children who had lived in the Bengbu SWI before being united with their forever families.


From L to R: Li Rui, Jeff Kircik, SWI director Song, and orphanage director Ms. Wan

Bengbu - A look back

A message of good fortune, written in water on a sidewalk in the morning in Bengbu.


The center of town in Bengbu.





The history of Packages of Hope and Bengbu SWI goes back to 2005, when an adoptive family was looking to find information on a finding location for their daughter. A kind volunteer made an initial phone call on our behalf to the orphanage to see what we could do to help out there. What followed next was nothing short of miraculuous, and entirely due to the people involved in this effort. The orphanage director and staff who were so very open and wiling to welcome us into the orphanage and provide transparency and photo access. The volunteers who skillfully coordinated our donations on behalf of Packages of Hope, and last but not least the donors who so generously gave so that that the chidlren of Bengbu SWI could have a better life.






It continues to be a brilliant combinaton of factors that makes for a deep and trusted connection betwen adoptive families and the orphange. Each year we've managed to provide something to the orphaange that is needed for the children there, and we've been happy to see each time that we've been there that owning to the vision of the staff and the dedication of the Chinese government that the quality of care for the children continues to increase, and is becoming premiere in China.








The orphanage SWI director Mr. Song is quick to maintain that our participation is key to the process illustrating to the Chinese government that foreign adoption not only provides loving homes for these children, but also represents the beginning of ties to the orphange that last through time and across borders of country and culture. Although some would like to argue that adoption abroad is a loss of face for China. However, this pales in comparison to our ability to transcend that issue, and remain connected in support of those wanting to help the children. It is clear that children thrive in a loving home and it is clear that people with great hearts can make great things happen.


Me and director Ms. Wan at the Bengbu trainstation, which is undergoing a massive facelift.





Construction around the Bengbu train station.

Traveling in China








Traveling in China is much different than it used to be from my first trip to China 14 years ago. It amazes me. I admit that I have learned a lot about the Chinese culture and language since that first time, which has made me more aware of travel in China. But certainly advances in China with the economy has made an incredible difference in the experience.




On my way between destinations, I was able to experience the beauty of Chinese culture. Some of it was shocking to me, but at all times I was smiling, happy to be immersed in a country I have come to love.




The ultramodern huge airport in Pudong Shanghai


Advertisement showing all sorts of different kids!




A friendly taxi driver with some interesting nails



I've met stranger cab drivers in Orlando.Even with only a little Chinese language ability, the train is an easy way to get around. Folks say to be careful for pickpockets, but I've never had any problems.





Ultramodern high speed train.


Standard sight in China.... construction and skyscrapers going in everywhere...



Typical scooter driving in Shanghai. No helmet, and toddler just gripped tightly. I don't think that would ever fly in the USA.

Here's a link to some travel in China.


Here's a link which shows some scenes of life in China.













Saturday, May 7, 2011

Leaving Qianjiang - more work needs to be done!

With a heavy heart we bid our host goodbye and headed to the bus station to take a bus back to ChongQing. At the bus station we were given gifts of food for the journey back. Handshakes and smiles were exchanged, and they looke forward to the time again when we would meet in Qianjiang. The orphanage founder thanked again the families for their donations and hoped that we could continue our work in the future together, for the sake of the children. There was also mention that while there were many children in the orphanage with cleft palates.

The government allots money for the orphans one by one to get this corrected in ChongQing, but we need to help the orphanage director for the travel expenses and incidentals for the trip. They said that they would try to let us know when one of the children was being prepared for this operaton and then I told them I would do what I could try to insure donation funding to assist these children.





Kay and I were exhausted after our journey and looking forward to the trip home. Once again we were greeted with the passion of the Chinese people on the bus. An animated discussion ensued between passenger and driver when one of the bags of the passenger was, in the passenger's opinion, mishandled by the the bus driver. The discussion became more and more heated until eventually some the the passengers intervened and tried to diffuse the situation. Finally one of the other passengers said something and everyone had a good chuckle. This seemed to diffuse the situation and the two arguing men backed down. Kay later told me that the joking passenger had said something along the lines of "hey we have a foreigner on board and you'll make a bad impression, so you two knock it off"...

I wonder if something like that would happen here in the USA???

The rest of the 4 hour bus trip went without incident. (me at a potty stop along the highway. Our bus in the background, and the cloud covered mountains of this beautiful country)


On the bus we had a lot more room than in the taxi ride TO Qianjiang and there was only gentle swaying of the bus as we ambled back through the countryside on the modern superhighway. The rain was steady and we occasionally opened the window to gain a picture vista of the mist covered mountains of this area, their tops covered as if by the shrouds of Olympus, capturing my heart with their mystery, majesty, and beauty.Our time had been brief in QianJiang but was productive. This was due in no small part to our preparation and planning and the coordination of our volunteer in China without whose help none of this would be possible.


We still have more to do. The Qianjiang orphanage staff are doing a fantastic job in caring for these children, and it is clear that they have their hearts devoted to the happiness and well-being, and the bright future of these children. However, the children still need our help. With the help of the donors, our Packages of Hope volunteers, and the gracious, open, and trusting staff at the orphanage, we CAN do more for these children. These ARE our extended family, and although the orphanage staff are doing a great job, they could use our help in providing clothing, medical assistance, toys, mattresses, and help with physical and education. We are making a difference! Let's continue to do more!!




I express my deep gratitude for the orphanage staff and government officials who have so graciously opened their doors to us to gain a rare view into the orphanage. Their objective is the same as mine - a sole purpose to help the orphan children in Qianjiang have a better life. We thank them, as well as the donors for their continued support for the children.



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