Learning Is Possible Each Day and
In All Sorts of Ways
Our first day working at the orphanage was intense and inspiring.
In just one short year, since our
last site visit and the first intensive occupational and physical
therapy training provided by our Pacific University therapists, the
orphanage has developed a new special needs classroom and therapy
program for the children with disabilities!
we did our first walk-through to check on the children, the energy of
the preschoolers and their delight in the special needs
class was magnetic for us. We peeked into their classroom, and the 11
little students waved from their learning table, happy and delighted to
say hello. Their teacher, Ms. Ran, is obviously adored by the
Our first day was all about
observation and planning in collaboration with the orphanage's staff,
doctor and new special education teacher. Three of the orphanage
caregivers who are studying therapy methods spent the week prior to our
visit at a hospital in the larger city of Chongqing attending training
sessions offered by the Pacific University therapists and special
education professor. This week they will expand what they have learned
and put their new skills into practice. Our collective goal is to
help the children grow more independent. In some cases, early
intervention may also make them eligible for adoption.
It is impossible not to dream big for most of these kids, who show such
remarkable progress with the right attention and support.
One example is mealtimes. Last
year many older children were still being spoon fed by staff, while
sitting on the floor, but this year it's another story! Check out this
little lunch crew.
Eating together after a morning's work in the preschool classroom is
another big step toward developing crucial motor and social skills. The
children obviously have fun together too.
As the team moved on to observe
children in other rooms, the tough road ahead for many of the kids
became more apparent. Some have disabilities that are difficult to
identify, while others struggle with a range of challenges like cerebral
palsy and Down
syndrome. More than one will need our help to communicate and
become mobile. Each child is unique in her or his disability as well as
personality, so creativity and skill on the part of their caregivers
will be key to creating a good learning environment for each of them.
Recently 20 new children with
profound disabilities arrived at the orphanage. There are now more than
60 children living there, ranging in age from newborn to about ten years
During the last hour of our first day, we gathered once more around the
orphanage conference table and collectively refined a plan for the week. Each day will begin with training sessions for
First Hugs and orphanage staff on how to best hold, feed and educate
kids with special needs so they can reach their full potential and take part in the world.
the Photo Room
This little guy
(don't be fooled by the shirt) loves the Photo
Room at the orphanage.
This special place features shelf after shelf of photo albums of
children adopted from the orphanage and now living in 15
countries. Proud parents, including FKI board member and parent
Kathlene Postma (left) sends in albums of childen adopted from
Fuling. Orphanage staff are delighted to receive and display
photos of the children they once cared for.
return visits are excited to find pictures of themselves and
their Fuling friends here. It's a lovely bridge between their
first months or years in China and their lives after joining
Our little friend in this photo is a waiting child. He is
clever, quick and interested in everything. His only disability
is scoliosis of the spine. We hope a lucky family chooses him
soon. Then one day he can visit the orphanage and find his
own smiling face among the other adopted kids.
Making Your Way in the World. You
Can Do It!
begins! Today's session with the caregivers and senior orphanage staff
focused on how to lift, position and physically move children with
disabilities so they can grow stronger and more independent.
For the babies, being helped to lie
on their sides and to have proper support at the same time means a
chance for more normal development, and for those with special needs,
such as this little one in the photo, the ability to experience more eye
contact and strengthen muscles.
Babies spending too
much time on their backs in their cribs is a constant problem at
orphanages. While the little ones at the Fuling orphanage get lots
of floor time where they can practice rolling over, sitting up, and
playing with the First Hugs aunties, their sleep and rest
time is also an important part of their day and a precious opportunity
to help them learn.
For older children who have
difficulty walking, such as this little guy (in the photo to the left),
the way in which caregivers assist him in moving and standing can
actually help him build muscles and brain power.
Pacific University’s team of
professionals led group training and one-on-one sessions with staff
focusing on effective ways to position kids' feet, limbs and torso so
they can pull themselves to standing and, in the process, learn to shift
themselves from their beds to walkers or chairs. This is another step
forward in getting where they
want to go.
By giving verbal and facial cues to
the child that indicate, "Let's stand now" and then giving the child
time to begin to move himself, the caregiver is teaching him how to take
part in his day and make his own decisions.
Children in institutional care
need as many opportunities as possible to make their own choices and to
share in daily activities with the people who care for them. Eventually,
with enough practice and strength building, some of these kids will
learn to move themselves.
Look what Yang Yang can do!
After the morning training session,
the occupational and physical therapy professors from Pacific U observed
the staff at work with the children, stopping to give pointers and hear
their concerns. Every child at the orphanage--from the newborns without
special needs to the "big kids" with a range of challenges--needs to be
seen as an individual with her or his own unique potential.
In the one-on-one consults, the therapists and special education
specialist stressed the need to observe each child and to look for ways
to draw her or him into learning and taking joy in the process. Nancy
Cicirello (on right in photo), Physical Therapist,
provided the training and coached the staff to slow down and learn from
It's impossible not to fall in
love with these wonderful kids. By the end of the second day, the team
is succumbing to their charms.
With just a little time and attention, the kids started to shine for us.
It was a warm summer day in this
orphanage, located in mountains near the Yangtze River. The team
happily sweated it out alongside the orphanage staff in this important,
Mark of Love
Health for the
children has been a priority for the orphanage staff for the past 11 years, or from the very first day the Fuling Social
Welfare Institute started taking in children.
adoptee, Sofie (Fu De Hui), was given a welcome hug by Wu Ping,
an orphanage nurse. She pointed out to Sofie the small
vaccination scar on her upper arm, given to Sofie when she was
an infant living at the orphanage. Wu Ping explained that she
has vaccinated most all the children in their care over the
years. Protecting them from childhood diseases is critical,
especially with so many children living in close proximity.
Wu Ping explained to Sofie that she has always been careful
that the vaccinations not to leave an unattractive scar on
"their own Fuling children."
Eating Well is Fundamental
Today is all about how to best feed the children, especially the more
vulnerable babies. Over one third of the tiny ones in FKI's First Hugs
program have cleft palates.
infants were abandoned largely because the cost for corrective
surgeries, about $2000, is beyond their birth families' means. There is
also a need to help birth families understand how correctable this
condition actually is.
morning the First Hugs aunties and senior staff attended the training
on how to best negotiate all those hungry babies with cleft palates.
Pelham Foster (OT and Feeding Specialist, at left) showed the staff techniques
they can apply and answered their questions.
the baby's lip is open and in most cases the roof of the mouth as
well, feeding these children must be done with skill and patience. If
the child is not held properly, formula can flow into the nose and the
lungs, creating respiratory and other problems.
right bottle and nipple are also important so the child gets the proper
amount of food.
the aunties and most of the team practiced the new techniques during
feeding times. Giving the child time to eat is important. Some of the
babies with cleft palates feed very slowly because they cannot suck.
Fortunately, the orphanage provides the initial surgery to repair each
child’s lip, improving their ability to create suction when they feed.
Most of these babies will be adopted internationally, and their parents
and physicians in their new home countries will help them get subsequent
surgeries. It's vital they have a strong, nutritious start at
the orphanage, were they will live for the first year or two of their
Fuling Kids International has partnered
with the orphanage staff to create loving foster homes.
Our dream for every child at the orphanage is a family they
can call their own. When a child is not adopted by age
two, often because of a disability, the orphanage staff works to
help them find a foster family. FKI currently sponsors 20
children living in foster families. These two cuties were
in our First Hugs program at the orphange and recently joined
their new foster family.
of our therapy team visited them at home in order to consult
with their foster mom on how to enhance their learning.
At another foster home, Sandra Rogers (OT) helped this little
guy work on his sensory integration while his foster brother
looked on. Team members also provided his foster parents
with tips on how to help him build social skills.
For Children Playtime Is Key
for today: How to help children of all ages and abilities use toys and
playtime to best learn on a number of levels.
Sandra Rogers (OT) and Chris Macfarlane (Special Education) sat down
with orphanage staff and a 10- month-old from the baby room to give a
training session on the ways in which kids use their hands and eyes to
build their motor skills as well as their knowledge of their environment.
toys recently donated by Fuling adoptees and those brought especially
for this trip, they taught orphanage caregivers fun and clever ways to
incorporate touch, feel, and reaching into everyday tasks and floor
challenge for the orphanage is to have enough of the right kinds of toys
for every age level. Toys also need to be changed out regularly so kids
get new information and learn new skills. Donations in this area are
always welcome! Toys children can use in a group, like kitchen sets
with plates and cups, are also useful and help the children begin to
hone life skills as they grow older.
Later in the day, Chris and Sandra helped Ms Ran, the special education
teacher, build more circle, singing and story time into the kid's daily
story of the "Three Little Pigs" was especially entertaining for the
kids. First Chris would tell a part of the story, then our
translator would whisper it to Ms. Ran, who told it in Chinese while utilizing
fun hand gestures. The children loved it! By copying the gestures,
children learn to anticipate what's coming next and become part of the
also coached the teacher to build more small group work into her instruction. By the end of the day, Ms. Ran had
created several small group learning tasks, and the kids were already
trying them out.
First Hugs aunties were quick to use the blocks and durable stacking
cups in bright colors. These promote hand and eye
coordination and sequential ordering. Of course it was highly
entertaining for the kids to knock them over each time!
from the Kids Early in Their Careers
Five of the
specialists accompanying us on this training are professors at
Pacific University's School of Health Professions and College of
Education. Taking part in this highly collaborative effort are
three of their students, who will soon launch into their own
careers in Occupational and Physical Therapy.
While enhancing their own understanding of children in
institutional care, they also made significant contributions to
improving care for the children, including organizing a year
seminar specifically on the Fuling orphanage, designing a
helpful booklet on raising children with autism for foster
parents in Fuling (Ashley Culver, OT), assisting in creating a
communication booklet for kids with no or limited speech (Mandy
Littlewood, OT), and providing backup of all kinds (Ashleigh
Stroud, PT). They also tended babies and toddlers and changed
baby diapers so orphanage staff could attend the trainings.
Look How Far We've Come
Today, our last day at the orphanage for this training visit, the team
fanned out to check on the progress of staff and
children have been inspiring for all of us in their determination to
thrive and the strides they have made since our visit last year. Ai Ai,
who Nancy Cicirello and Sandra Rogers coached on our last training
visit, has turned into
an active smiling little girl with a range of life skills, all taught to
her by aunties trained by the Pacific U therapists.
Ai Ai is also thriving in the new preschool!
up for her is a wheel chair just her size so she can expand her world by
pushing herself around the orphanage's pretty gardens and
playgrounds. There are a number of places she would like to go. At
least three of the children could use new wheel chairs right this
moment. The team has begun brainstorming ways to help make that
all gathered in the conference room for a final, intense
meeting in which orphanage staff, visiting therapists, and the FKI board
members spoke frankly about what was accomplished this visit (a lot!)
and future goals for the children and the general learning environment
at the orphanage.
wide range of ages, personalities, and delays among the children means
the staff have their work cut out for them. But the copious notes they
took and their willingness to try these new methods speaks volumes.
Their concern for the children is obvious.
Along with providing practical ways to improve the children's lives and
potential, the team also reinforced the need for caregivers to listen
and observe each child in order to figure out how she or he can best be
coached and loved.
the closing ceremony, we awarded the First Hugs caregivers certificates
for attending the training sessions and to honor their great and kind
work with the children. Yang Pei Fen (far left), who keeps records for
FKI and helps coordinate foster care and the nurture programs, holds the
certificates of the aunties who could not attend this final meeting.
(The staff rotates in order to cover longer shifts with the
children at night).
goodbye to the kids is never easy for our visiting team. The more
fragile children can be the most difficult to let go of. They need all
the love they can get. We worry about them, but their will to survive
and the careing staff inspires us to keep working on their behalf.
Julianne Briggs (FKI) kept slipping back to hold this child who
arrived at the orphanage with a heart condition. He loved to keep his
fingers wound in her curly hair
It has been our
privilege to be part of the kids' world and get to know them. We
say thank you again to the Fuling Orphanage staff for their warmth and
numerous joint efforts with Fuling Kids International during the last 10
years. We extend a deep thank you to the faculty and staff
at Pacific University in Oregon (USA) for sharing their resources and
expertise in order to improve the lives of children without families.
The future is brighter for these precious kids because of this caring and