Wednesday, September 30, 2009

An Essay from China

We always love hearing that young people want to get involved to make a difference in the world. Recently we received the following letter from a wonderful group of school students in Shantou, China, who have formed a club to help orphaned children in their hometown. We wanted to share their words with you today because they truly touched our hearts. What a wonderful world this could be if everyone believed as they did that reaching out to children can show us the true meaning of love.

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.”

I always love reading these poetic words. They are beautiful. They seem to sound right to my ears in a pleasant way. I neither understood the true meaning of it nor gave much thinking of it before my visit to the Shantou orphanage with my teacher.

Two years ago, one day before the New Year, after entering the classroom, our English teacher asked for volunteers to visit a special place to meet some lovely babies. Spontaneously, I raised my hand. On the way to where those babies stayed, I felt nervous and curious. My heart was mixed with a kind of hard-to-explain sadness and excitement. Our teacher told us, “Those babies don’t have parents. We are going there to see whether we can offer some help.”

It was the first time in my life to see so many babies at one time. Two or three babies were sitting in each of their little four-wheel-chairs. Several others were lying in their cribs. One toddler was holding onto the cribs, learning to walk while the other is crawling on the play mats. These babies were NOT cute at all for the mere look at their little faces. One tiny face was covered with tears, saliva and spilled milk. He was a cleft baby. Another tiny face looked BLUE. This baby had a heart disease. One baby was born with deformed legs and it was obviously that he could not walk if he was able to live to an older age. After asking for the permission, I held up a crying baby girl carefully in my arms and started to talk and sing to her. She then stopped crying and suddenly giggled. That was the miraculous moment when something special touched my heart. “I must do something. I want to do something to help these babies.”

“But what can I do?” Together with several other classmates, we joined a charity group in our school. Then we started the “DIAPER” program. Our work was first confined to our school campus, but later we decided to tell our parents, friends and citizens in the community about the babies. On the leaflet, we wrote: “The New Year is approaching. While we are missing our beloved living afar, we hope that we could get a diaper for our babies nearby.”

Not only were we able to raise enough funds for diapers, baby waist-wrappers, winter clothes, portable thermoses and heaters, but found many generous hearts willing to help. Students and teachers at our school surely made the first step. One parent of my classmate heard of news and donated a large box of baby shoes and baby hats from their family-run shop. At the front gate of a kindergarten, parents were urging their children to put a 10-yuan note in our box, saying, “You know? You are helping some little brothers and sisters in Shantou.” Our hearts were warmed by many of these generous people. A tricycle worker, an old doorman, a primary school girl, a grandma on her way to the market, a foreign tourist, all were willing to show their love and care to these vulnerable babies.

In a thank-you letter to Shantou students, (who donated artwork to help heal orphaned children’s hearts,) Amy Eldridge, director from Love Without Boundaries wrote, “We know that one of the greatest gifts in the world is love, and you have shown us how much you care for others, and what it means to help unselfishly.”

Different people may have different understanding of love. For most people, love means being willing to help others unselfishly and the appropriate action of showing it. Love with word, yet without deeds, is meaningless. As a vocational school student, I perhaps cannot do much GREAT deeds, but through this volunteer’s activity, I have gained a deeper understanding of love. I have learned to give off without thinking of rewards; I have learned NOT TO TAKE EVERYTHING FOR GRANTED; I have learned to give thanks; and the most important of all, I have learned to be strong.

In fact, all I have learned should be indebted to those children I visited. It is these children who teach me the true meaning of love.

On a recent visit to the orphanage, in their classroom, I experienced an unforgettable moment. When the teacher announced the time for lunch, several teens stood up, and clearly they are boys with some mental disabilities. But each of them holding a toddler’s hand, together they walked down-stairs to their room. A tiny girl, no more than 18 months, independently toddled off to her room about thirty steps away. A four-year-old girl, who has an incurable eyes disease, gave everyone a most beautiful smile when she waved good-bye.

I see the best character in these children – affectionate and hopeful, caring and strong.

A great Chinese teacher, Confucius said, “To be fond of learning is akin to knowledge. To practice with vigor is akin to benevolence. To possess the feeling of shame is akin to courage.” One student asked his master, “What is Benevolence?” “Benevolence means to help others in the way you want to be helped. It means to love others as himself.” Confucius answered.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.”

These are not the simple words lying in the text book, waiting to be memorized. They are the lights that shine upon our path of life. If we follow these lights faithfully, then our world will be much brighter and better.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Article on Children from China Seeking Their Roots

We wanted to pass on this article about Chinese adoption and children returning to their homeland in case you haven't read it yet. We agree with the author that the vast majority of children in China's orphanages now have some sort of medical need. In fact, it has been reported that 4 of every 5 babies now abandoned has a medical condition.

I hear again and again from people that China is no longer a country to consider for international adoption. That couldn't be farther from the truth! The waiting child program is still a wonderful way to form a family. Most adoptions can be completed within a year, and so many INCREDIBLE children are waiting right this moment for a loving home....children just like my own son....who brings me more joy than I could ever imagine. For more information on waiting child adoption, watch our video here.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Generations to come

I was listening to the radio in my car the other day, and the newscaster began talking about a 99 year old woman who had recently passed away in Jerusalem. She had 11 children, and each of those children had large families, and it multiplied out to great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. I was amazed when the newscaster said this one woman had over 1000 known descendants.


I got home that same day and found photos in my inbox of a very sick baby girl who has a heart condition. She is almost one, and my first thought when I opened up the photos was of a “smiling blueberry”. What a sweet spirit this little girl obviously has, but my own heart felt heavy as I looked at her blue tinged skin and lips. The orphanage reported that she has become short of breath more and more frequently, and she will need surgery soon to survive.

Having just heard about the woman in Israel, I looked at the photo of baby Natalia and thought again that one single life can have a profound effect on the world. Without surgery, little Natalia will soon pass away as an orphan. With surgery she will get a second chance at life. She will have her paperwork submitted for adoption, and I have no doubt she would be quickly chosen by parents and grow up knowing the blessings of family. I looked at Natalia’s face and imagined her healthy and strong, growing up to someday have children of her own. Can’t you just imagine her grandchildren someday telling their own kids, “Nana’s life began in China.” A piece of the world changes forever if Natalia lives, and I believe it changes in a beautiful way.

I just want to thank everyone again who supports our work with orphaned children. Probably when you donate, you are only thinking of the one single child who needs help right that moment, but it truly goes even further than that. When you bring hope to a child in need and help change their future, it can impact generations to come. Isn’t it a wonderful thought that a single act of kindness can keep moving through the world indefinitely? How many life stories of children can we help write that will begin with the words, “because someone believed in me”?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Photo of the Week - I Love Nutrition

Don't you just love this picture? Seeing this child's happy smile with his bag of nutritious formula made my day. Nutrition is so important to the growth of every child...we just love to see these healthy, happy smiles. How wonderful it is to be a part of his full tummy!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Adoption and Divorce

When we adopt a child, one of the issues that we want them to understand so clearly is that they are now in a PERMANENT family. We know that every child who has been separated from their birth parents has already experienced a significant loss, and so I think most of us try to assure our children that their new family is forever. We want our children to feel the security of our love and to believe that we will always be there for them. I know with my own children, I’ve used the word for family from the movie Lilo and Stitch as a private “promise”. We’ve said over and over to each other that “Ohana means family”, and as I would tuck them in at night I would assure them that family is forever.

But what happens when family isn’t forever? What happens when divorce occurs post-adoption? How does that impact a child who has been told again and again that their family is permanent and secure? Very little professional advice can actually be found on the internet about this topic, but it is definitely an issue that occurs, with the divorce rate in America remaining at 50%. Has this been an issue that’s touched your family? How have you helped your child understand that even though your marriage might have ended, your love for your child is indeed permanent?

Monday, September 21, 2009


This past week, H1N1 hit our house. Both of our girls came down with it on the same day. I was amazed at how quickly it moved through their school, infecting 12 out of 18 kids in the matter of a week.

On day number two of the virus, my girls were running really high fevers and were so listless. In the front page of our local newspapers, news of H1N1 hitting our community only reflected what we were already seeing. This highly contagious flu caused Minnesota to be put in with 21 other states reporting widespread influenza activity.

When I saw how sick my own girls were, it made me think of what a terrible hardship it would be for any orphanage to have the H1N1 virus spread throughout it. I know the staff could quickly become overwhelmed if so many children got extremely sick in a short period of time. I know that China has been doing a lot to prevent this from happening , including closing orphanages to outside visitors . We have postponed a physical therapy team to China due to the H1N1 virus, and we recently heard another group is postponing their medical mission as well.

Has the H1N1/Swine Flu hit your community? If your child has contracted it, how quickly did they recover? Did you think it was worse than the "regular" flu?

Karen Maunu

Changing the Lives of Orphans in China

Friday, September 18, 2009

Photo of the Week - Beautiful Robyn

What a gorgeous photo of this beautiful little girl who is in our Henan Cleft Healing Home. Robyn has a bilateral cleft lip that will soon have surgery. She is such a happy baby and loves playing with her foster sister Stephanie. The transformation of these tiny cleft babies to these chubby babies is just so wonderful to see. Every baby receives so much love and tender loving care. To learn more about our Henan Cleft Healing Home or to sponsor Robyn's care click here. Just wait until you see Robyn's new smile.....amazing!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Happy Transformation

Any time I need inspiration, all I need to do is think of the children we help in China. Any time I’m having a bad day and thinking that something in life “isn’t fair”, all I have to do is go to my computer and pull up any of the images I have saved of children who truly face a life that isn’t always fair. My attitude changes in the blink of an eye.

We just received some wonderful photos from one of our Believe in Me schools. These schools were originally set up for those children who are unable to attend public school due to having some sort of medical need. They have expanded over the years to include tutoring for orphaned children in public school, as these kids have no parents to push them each night to study harder. We’ve also added preschool classes so that children from age 2 up can have their lives filled with art and music and play, rather than sitting in a crib all day.

When I received the photos today I was flooded with emotions. I remember vividly going to this city’s orphanage two years ago. The director was so kind, but the orphanage had been built over 100 years ago. The rooms were tiny and crowded, with old metal cribs and not two inches of outdoor space for the children since it was right in the middle of the busy city. The children’s lives were completely spent inside the aging walls, and most of their faces that day were somber, as you can see below.

We were all thrilled to learn that the provincial and city government had released funding for a new orphanage to be built. As I toured the facility, I was filled with anticipation for the children, as the rooms were big and airy, and the walls had enormous windows so the sun could come flooding in. I stood in front of the building and looked at all of the land and listened as the director excitedly said that the children could finally play outside.

LWB was offered space inside the Jinjiang orphanage to open a Believe in Me school, and we were thrilled that our friends and supporters made this a reality. Now the children excitedly go to school each day and absolutely love their teachers. Instead of solemn expressions and quiet demeanors, the children are now filled with joy, and the classrooms are filled with laughter. This is a transformation that I want to celebrate today. Everyone in Jinjiang should be so proud of what they have accomplished for the GOOD of these children! Don’t you love when dreams become reality???

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Gifts in Kind

When I joined Twitter earlier this spring, I had no idea what I might be able to use it for. At first, it seemed like many random messages….how might I make sense of this all and actually use this to help children. Slowly, I began to build relationships and with some of the most kind and giving people I have ever met. One of these relationships was with a woman who didn’t live far from me, but her background was in a totally different area…furniture. You might ask….what do helping orphans and furniture have in common…. We found a lot! My friend, Leslie Carothers - @tkpleslie, is a social media consultant for furniture, specifically eco-friendly furniture.

Leslie and I have met in person a few times and always have the most inspiring conversations. The last time we met over pancakes, we talked about our work in our respective areas and then the wheels started churning. How could furniture help orphans? The answer to us both was easy.

Many children in orphanages don’t have their own bed, let alone a desk to study at. We have seen many broken cribs and know that the need for safe furniture for children is huge. Often babies are put two and three to a crib, in worn-out cribs painted with lead paint. Older children also may not have their own bed. We have slowly been working to help the orphanages by buying safe cribs, but the need is so great.

I have learned that many furniture manufacturers that sell furniture in the US and around the world manufacture their furniture in China. As the year ends furniture manufacturers may have excess inventory. We would love to be able to partner with these furniture companies, who have factories in China, and who would want to help improve the lives of orphans. This would be a win-win for these companies, as they could receive publicity, a gift-in-kind letter, and photos and information on the children who have been impacted. Just imagine how the donation of a new bed or a new desk could impact a child who has never had one.

Think of the impact that could be made if US companies who manufacture in China knew that so many orphanages were in need of essential supplies. From safe cribs to warm coats to life saving room heaters and more……we would love to have you help us brainstorm on even more ways to help those who live as orphans.

Do you have ties to any companies manufacturing in China? We would love to hear from you.

Karen Maunu

Changing the Lives of Orphans in China

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Finding Inspiration

I feel so thrilled to be a guest blogger for Love Without Boundaries. As I read all the wonderful work that LWB is doing in the world, I cannot help but feel inspired.

When it comes to finding inspiration as the summer comes to an end, I find myself excited to welcome autumn, my favorite season. It was the day before Halloween in 2003 that my husband and I took a very long flight to China to be united with our 9 month old daughter, Grace. While the weather those two weeks was warmer in China than we expected, my excitement grew knowing that we would come home to cooler, autumn weather and the changing of the seasons. Just 2 ½ years ago, during this same time of year, my husband was preparing for a business trip to Seoul, South Korea. We worked really hard with our adoption agency to arrange for a day during his trip for him to visit with our soon-to-be adopted son and meet his foster parents. Gratefully arrangements were made, and John got to spend some time with our son prior to his trip home. Dean traveled home 2 months later. Lastly this time last autumn I was busy “nesting” in preparation for our youngest adopted daughter, Gwen, to come home. As I reflect back on those particular moments it is so easy for me to find them wondrous and inspirational.

But it is important to remember the little sparks of inspiration & beauty that touch our lives on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. Sure there are days when I’m clearly exhausted from a hectic day, but usually I am able to find something to be motivated by. As fall quietly saunters in these are some little aspects of my life where I find inspiration. I am inspired by the cooler weather which always compels me to throw on a cozy sweatshirt that is two sizes too big. I am inspired by spending time together as a family as the crisp air finds us cuddling more, eating comfort foods and doing my oldest daughter’s homework. I am inspired by new school supplies, the paper leaf cutouts hanging in my son’s classroom and the smell of a pumpkin spice candle. I am inspired to hum along when I hear my two year old sing his ABC’s at 6:30am, gaze at the full moon, and going to bed early. The great thing about inspiration is that it can be found anywhere and everywhere! It can be found through listening to your children laughing, the rustling of the leaves or a hot cup of tea.

So today, during the busiest part of your day I invite you to stop and look around for something that inspires you. When you find it, take a moment…breath and really soak it in. Once you do that, I guarantee that your day will become a little lighter and brighter.

Kim Rabago is an aspiring writer and advocate for women’s health issues. She earned her Master’s in Social Work from Widener University. She currently works with individuals and families who are experiencing transitional phases in their lives. She and her husband, John are proud parents of three internationally adopted children. When she is not running around with the kids, she enjoys spending time at the beach, reading and yoga.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Photo of the Week - I Just Can't Wait

Two months ago we learned that one of the children, Chelsea, was going to be adopted from our Fuyang Foster Care Program. Wonderful news but we were sad for Finn who has been her best friend since they both entered the program in February of 2007. They share the same foster parents, went for their cleft lip repair surgeries together and recently had their palate surgeries together. They eat together, fight with each other and love each other. A week we learned that Finn was to be adopted, not just adopted but was leaving on Sept 10th. We are so happy for both Finn and Chelsea, who now have their own forever families!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Techno Times

Yesterday I had lunch with two wonderful people that share the same passion that I have for helping children in need. We had a wonderful time, and talked for hours. The interesting part of this is that our lunch date was set up on Twitter. We would never have connected if it wasn’t for that particular social media tool, and now thanks to Twitter, I feel like I have two more friends that I hope to get to know better.

Last night I was thinking about how cool it is that people can now meet and connect online, but then I remembered a conversation I had overhead one day when getting my hair cut. The mom in the chair next to me was saying that she thought it was horrible that kids today text all day long. She was threatening to take her son’s cell phone away because she said he preferred texting to talking. And then she said, “that’s why our world is going downhill in a hurry.”

As a mom to teens, I certainly understood her frustration. I remember wondering that day, however, what technology and life will look like for my kids in even twenty years, since twenty years ago I didn’t even own a computer, and now so much of my life revolves around it. I wondered how many parents said the same thing about their teens being on the computer 20 years ago as they do about texting now. Are our kids simply adapting more quickly to a world that is getting more and more technologically advanced? Are they communicating in a way that is becoming more and more the norm…in short bits of information that are transmitted instantly across the globe?

How do you feel about social media? Are you embracing it in every way, shape, and form, or does it make you uncomfortable? I think my biggest question is how one keeps up with all the different types now available. I love Facebook as a way to keep in touch with my friends, but we now also Twitter for LWB, and I’ve been told that Linked In is the place to be. Are you even familiar with all the social media buttons posted above? Between emails and blogging and Facebooking and Twittering….. how does one keep up? Entire days can easily be spent communicating online. But it is still amazing to me to think that through the internet, we are able to unite people around the world with the common goal of helping children. So while I don’t doubt for a minute that the vast majority of my friends were made in cyberspace, when we do meet in person there is this wonderful, instant connection of feeling like, “yes….we are in this together to help those in need.”

How much of your life is now based on cyberspace? Are you concerned about how much your children utilize it? My kids have already joked with me that when I pass away, if they want anyone at the funeral… it probably needs to be held online.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Photo of the Week - Facebook Winner!

Last year, when LWB won the Facebook Giving Challenge Sponsored by the Case Foundation, we won $50,000. Our slogan during the contest was $10 for 10. For a $10 donation to help us win the contest, it could save the lives of 10 children with heart disease. When we won, we kept our promise and used all $50,000 of the winning to help 10 precious children. One of these 10 children is little Yang. Yang had a severe heart defect and was able to receive his surgery July 2008. Since then, he has been in a LWB foster program getting lots of love and attention. He has just blossomed! Just look at the photo of him running to greet his "uncle".

Yang has been officially been matched with a family and will soon be coming home! Thank you to all who helped....just look at the joy in this child's face! Yang was one of the the true winners of this contest.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sports and Special Needs

I've mentioned on this blog before that my son TJ was born missing the lower part of his right arm. He just turned five, and so my mind has been turning to the issue of organized sports. I have five sons, and so for most of my adult life, I have been sitting in bleachers cheering them on. TJ hasn't started a sport yet, but I feel he is now ready to be part of a team. the question comes up of "which way do we go"?

When I say that, what I mean I enroll him in a group specifically for kids with special needs, or do I try to get him started on the "regular" city league? I see pros and cons to both. Just today I was forwarded this amazing video of an eight year old boy with one leg who plays catcher for his baseball team. It is definitely an inspiring two minutes that you can watch by clicking here:

I watched Adam play and thought, "truly an example that a person can do anything they desire if they work hard enough at it." But then I have to admit I wondered if his parents were heavily involved in the sporting part of his life. I am not athletic in any way, shape, or form. I'm the reason people use that horrible line of "you throw like a girl." My kids have always been at a bit of a disadvantage as far as having a mom out there coaching them or giving them pointers. That's the main reason why I am leaning towards the Endeavor Games, especially since our local college is one of the national training centers. These leagues are specifically set up for kids with special needs, and I am hoping I can find a coach who would help TJ come to love sports and who would help him build his self-confidence.

However, this idea has met some resistance from some of my friends, as they feel I shouldn't limit TJ by putting him into a "special" program. They feel he should play in the regular city league so that he could see that he could accomplish anything he puts his mind to.

So my question for the day you have a child with special needs who is involved with sports? How do you approach the issue of inclusion? I would love to know what has worked or not worked for your family.