P143 Inspiration & News
Hosting Winter 2015
Being fresh off a hosting experience, I’d like to chronicle what I noticed. Right off the bat, people were in awe and eager to celebrate us by putting us on a pedestal. This was both good and not good. Good because, for a moment, an orphan was given the stage! No longer is she sitting alone in the darkness, a community finally saw her meager existence among the 143+ million others. She finally existed in the minds of people beyond orphanage walls. For this moment, a curious community could be the means of her chance to escape. So, we’re thankful for the stage for her benefit. Hearts are stirred, God provides an opportunity to love in action. Let’s flip the switch! We shouldn’t be on a pedestal; we are no better than any onlookers. I kept hearing how “wonderful” we were. Let me come clean, we are not, we are humans who want to push the easy button. The only reason we accomplished a month of hosting was because GOD purposed it. I want to be REAL, not celebrated. Supported and encouraged is necessary, but hosting isn’t about being a perfect family. A perfect God enables imperfect people on this journey. He allows us to be stretched, uncomfortable, tired, numb. He allows us to take part even when He knows we won’t do it 100% like He says we should, because we can’t. Why do we fence ourselves into comfort? Why are we happy to splash in puddles when there is an ocean to enjoy? Abraham did not do this. Noah did not do this. We are forfeiting our blessings. The Lord opened our eyes to the stark difference between the manger and our American Christmas. If you are praying for the opportunity to be missional this Christmas, hosting might be purposed for your family.
Hosting is unlike any other form of advocating for orphans. It is letting them into your life, your family, and that fragile place in your heart for just one month. It is beyond risky, and all you can do is pray. Pray that you are doing God’s will. Pray that He will work out everything for good. Pray that God will reveal the truth that may not always be visible on the surface. You step out in faith and commit to a photo. The only way to choose is by praying. God knows exactly who he wants to be in your home and if you ask he will show you who. For my family, it took weeks. There were hundreds of photos and profiles on two different websites and a total of four different countries. My mom finally gave me a few of her favorites and left the final choice up to me. After all, this person was going to be sharing my room and invading my space. It was hard. I had a lot of pressure on me. All I could do is pray. In the end, I found I had one choice: a fourteen year old girl from Latvia. She was the one that I kept coming back to. She had all of our preferences. For example, she was a teenage girl, her profile said she wanted a family with children and that she had experience working with special needs children. Last, but not least she was a Christian. She was the best choice for my family. She is here with me now. Sound asleep on the bottom bunk. Since the first day she has fit into my family perfectly. She is my little sister (although she is not little at all). This has been my best summer ever and it is not even over yet. I only have three more weeks of this joy before she leaves. I have learned so much from this experience. The most surprising discovery for me was that I could survive without down time and equally surprising the lack of desire for time to myself. She has taught me that I could get close to someone even while knowing for a fact that it will end painfully. She has taught me that following God’s will is more than worth it. God has a plan for her and this summer may only be a small piece of that plan, but I am grateful that God allowed us to be a part of that. I do not know how this will all end, and I do not need to because I know it is in God’s hands. This is faith. This is serving God. This is hosting an orphan.
The Lucas Family
Written by teenage daughter Corina
THIS IS HOSTING
THIS IS HOSTING
Journal Notes: 2014
What is hosting? When my family spoke of hosting an orphan I could not imagine the difference it would make in my life. Hosting is an avenue to defend, support and advocate for a child who has no one. It means letting a parentless child into your life, inside your family, and most of all into that fragile place in your heart. It is beyond risky… and with this risk came a humility that left me leaning on God. After all, the road we were beginning to follow, even if for only one short month, was a journey I had no control over. You see, I am not a host parent but the biological daughter, a mere teenager. All I could do was pray.
I prayed that we as a family were doing God’s will. I prayed He would work everything out for good. I prayed that God would reveal the truth that may not always be visible on the surface. And through prayer, my family stepped out in faith committing to a photo. How would we know which orphan to choose? There were hundreds of photos and bios and several countries to choose from. It took weeks for my family to decide.
My mom finally approached me after select a few children and left the final choice to me. It was a decision I didn’t take lightly and one that left me feeling quite anxious. This person was going to be sharing my room and invading my space. It was hard. When I relied on God, the stress I was feeling was lifted and it became clear to me there was only one child on that photo listing for us. A fourteen year old girl was the one my mind kept returning to day after day. She was a teenage girl, like me, and her bio said she wanted a family with children. Her bio also said she was a Christian and so was I.
Since the first day she arrived, she blended into our family. She became my little sister (although she was not little at all). It was the “best summer ever” because of my new friendship.
The only sadness I experienced was realizing the host period would end. I thanked God for bringing her into our home. I have learned so much from this experience, more than I could have ever dreamed. I was surprised at how well I could survive without the ‘alone time’ I was accustomed to. She taught me that following God’s will is more than worth it. God has a plan for her, this I know, and her summer may only be a small piece of that puzzle. I do not know how this will end but I am certain it is in God’s hands. THIS is faith. THIS is serving God. THIS IS ORPHAN HOSTING.
When Maternal Instinct Kicks In
PROJECT 143 host mom, Daron Northrup, rushes to her host child’s side half way around the world, when she receives the news of his accident. A fall from a thirty foot tree left him with a severely broken leg, three surgeries and despair and desperation in his voice. Dropping everything, her motherly instincts kick in and she is soon on the way to Ukraine. Broken and lost, se finds him in a little room no larger than a closet. He can hardly move due to his injuries. She is devastated at the conditions of the hospital, the tiny room and plywood bed… the ancient contraption used to stabilize his leg… the whole situation seems surreal. No one to care for him, not even a nurse. No one to ask questions on his behalf, not even a mother. Daron is overwhelmed with compassion for this orphan, this child, her host son who was only to arrive in America in a few weeks for his visit with their family for the holidays.
The standard of healthcare in Ukraine is in an extremely poor state. The severe lack of medical facilities and medicines are only half the problem. The standards are incomparable to that of the United States with some of the medical staff having completed only half of the training required. The neglected equipment and facilities are in short supply compared to the high demand. The dirty hospital and the low level of care due to staff shortages is incomprehensible. The war in Ukraine is taking it’s toll; and undeniably the sick, injured and orphaned are affected the most.
A P143 Host Family Rushes to orphan’s side in Ukrainian Hospital.
Daron stays with her host son for over a week. Nursing him, hugging him, reassuring him everything will be okay. The dark circles disappear from under his eyes. She helps him eat, sit up, walk and bathe. His strength returns slowly, little by little. She seeks out a set of old wooden crutches and teaches him how to use them. Stiff from the time spent lying flat on his back – she begins some minor physical therapy exercises to help him improve. The smile returns to his face. He is not lost or forgotten. Someone cares. He is loved!
This story resonates deep within each one of us. We’ve all been there, feeling lost, overwhelmed, helpless, and forgotten at some point in our lives. Daron’s journey to be by his side sheds light on many things of which we already are aware; we just tend to put a label on it and put it in a back closet to be forgotten. The plight of the orphan hasn’t changed. It still remains the same today as it did years ago. EVERY CHILD NEEDS HOPE. Every child needs a family. Every child needs to feel loved.
The need to host an orphan from Ukraine looms larger today than ever before with war scarring children who already have very deep wounds. And the hospitals? We can’t go on with our duties to help the orphan and in the same breath ignore the lack of sanitary conditions and shortage of proper equipment the hospitals in Ukraine so desperately need.
Project 143 hears their pain, and we feel you will to. Can you give your time? Can you donate a grant? Can you open your home? Will you share your family? Reach out to Daron, ask her about orphans, hosting, Project 143 and stepping out on faith. She will be glad to help you. Daron’s Email: [email protected]
God works in such amazing ways. The Waller Family adoption story is both inspiring and encouraging to anyone wrestling with a calling on their heart to help these forgotten children.
“Orphan” Music Video by John Waller
Inspired by the Waller’s adoption story. The little girl in this video is actually our adopted daughter, Anna playing herself. I had my sister and brother in law step in to portray Josee and I. Please share this video and download “Life is a Gift”, my new album on iTunes which includes this song and many other great songs to encourage you on your life’s journey.
Adoptions of older children and teens are often called “rescues” because kids “age-out” at 16 years-old. They’re usually left homeless on the street and may become addicted to drugs and/or involved in the sex trade. You can make a real difference right now! Learn more at P143.org and please share this video with family and friends! You’ll help spread the word about these forgotten children and maybe even save a life!
Right now, what’s in there?
That thought washed over me, as I talked with a group of teens last week. They live in an orphanage in central Ukraine, and while they are just typical kids at first glance, spending a few days living with them revealed much more.
I’ve been involved in Ukrainian orphan hosting for almost 10 years, have four precious Ukrainian-born daughters, and have lost count of the Uki stamps in my passport. It’s safe to say I felt fairly knowledgeable about how children live in an Internat (orphan boarding school), and what life is like for them. After three days living in their dormitory, I humbly confess, I knew nothing. There were several powerful revelations, but the overwhelming, constant hunger most surprised me.
Shortly after arrival, we took a group of 11 to eat a local café and they were ravenous, which didn’t strike me as odd because they’re teens. Teens eat, often and much. Over the next three and a half days, we visited the local farmer’s market and small grocery seven times, we prepared meals together in a small kitchenette in the dorm, and ate as a group. No one from our group visited the cafeteria building across the courtyard, which didn’t warrant a second thought at the time.
It was a lovely experience living with the children, and they were genuinely happy, adding more to our group with each meal – waking up smiling and making breakfast together, each helping prepare some portion of every meal; it was just simple and nice. Late night card games after dinner, and ice cream treats before the 9pm curfew – I didn’t think any of this was out of the ordinary.
On departure day, we made one last walk to the grocery, and the children filled their bags with loaves of bread, sausages, cheese, fruits, and vegetables (along with much needed personal hygiene and toiletries). We lovingly unpacked everything in the tiny kitchenette, and they began to chatter, discussing how to ensure the caretakers would not take their rations once the Americans left. The cookware we purchased had already led to some items being claimed by rogue caretakers, but protection of the food? The feeling that once these purchases were consumed, the kids would be left hungry filled me with guilt and panic, as my mind scrambled to find possible ways to get more food to them before the group departs for the US June 15th. And what about the ones left behind? There was no doubt a plan would be needed, but at that moment our driver waited and good-byes loomed so we hugged, and smiled and hid the sadness for photos and formalities.
Then, “Y”, a host boy I know fairly well, hugged me with such intent and whispered, “I have not been hungry for these three days; it was the best feeling. Thank you, thank everyone. This was the best time. I love you. God bless.” Tears had to be choked back, my internal scream silenced, the primal need to protect disregarded, as I could not process the enormity of what “Y” felt. It was so wrong, as I was walking away. How could this be the reality for these children, the children we know by name? It was simply too much and I had no idea what to do.
Yes, I have known there is not enough food at many orphanages. Yes, I have fed many children during my adoption trips and orphanage visits. Yes, I have seen firsthand the growth these children experience when they come for summer or Christmas hosting. But this was different.
The kids are often quick to share that the food is no good, or there is not enough at their Internat. But until “Y” whispered his truth, quietly but so powerfully, I never realized these babies felt constant gnawing hunger. That they were painfully in need of food, and there was either not enough or it was inedible, was just too raw and overwhelming.
So now, I’m back home with a full refrigerator and memories that haunt. We will work to find ways to get food to the children P143 knows and sponsors, and try. Try to help some. I ask that you keep these orphans in your prayers; think of them at your next meal. And consider how God wants you to help.
The cost to host an orphan can certainly be a lot to bear, and the program fees per child deter many potential host families away from the program. However, there are a multitude of ways to fundraise those costs, making hosting a more affordable option for families on the fence. Fundraising does not have to be difficult or time-consuming, and while it may require a bit of effort, the rewards from hosting a child are priceless and well worth the investment.
Below you will find 21 fundraising and thrifty ideas to help make hosting child possible!
1) Set up an online donation website through Razoo, P143’s recommended platform. This is by far one of the simplest ways to fundraise. P143 lays it all out for you. Essentially you create your own fundraising site for friends, families, and strangers to make easy (and tax-deductible!) donations to your hosting fees. You create a name for your fundraiser, share your story, post pictures, and set a fundraising goal. Then share the link with everyone you know! It doesn’t get any simpler than that.
2) Hold a yard sale. Okay, this one does require a bit more work, but it isn’t difficult by any means. Go through your house and get rid of your old junk. Ask friends and families to donate items to you to sell. Sort and price your items, choose a date for your sale, and then advertise in the paper, on Craigslist, and via social media. If you don’t want to price your items, consider having a donation only yard sale. Make sure to put out a donation jar at your sale for additional donations and consider selling coffee, soft drinks, water, or lemonade for additional profit. Also create a small display (trifold boards are great for this!) with information about hosting to help educate shoppers about what hosting is all about.
3) This sort of piggy backs on having a yard sale, but take quality items to a consignment or resale shop first. Even though the money might be less immediate, you can often get more money for these items than what you would at a yard sale since most yard sale goers are looking for extremely cheap items. Whatever items don’t sell at the consignment stores can always be thrown in the yard sale pile, or even sold on Craigslist.
4) Host an online auction. This idea is certainly a bit more cumbersome, but the potential to raise a large sum of money is phenomenal! Essentially, the idea is to write letters to businesses, shops, consultants, and more to donate items or services to your auction. I’ve seen many a successful auction with donations from Etsy sellers, Origami Owl designers, 31 consultants, photographers, etc. Once the donations are gathered (or at least pictures of them are), create a Facebook album on your personal page or on a page dedicated specifically to hosting. Post all of the pictures of all of the available items, and then for each item list a short description of the item, the donor’s information, the value of the item, a starting bid amount, and whether or not shipping is included (and if it’s not, set a shipping amount for each item). Then set a start and end date and time for the auction, some general guidelines (easy to find if you just Google “Facebook auctions”), and sit back as the bids roll in! After the auction ends, you just need to bill each winner for their total amount via Paypal, ensure the items are shipped out to the correct people, and that’s all there is to it!
5) Sell something! Have you ever considered becoming an independent consultant before? Now could be the perfect time! There are a multitude of companies you could choose to join – Scentsy, Origami Owl, Advocare, Avon, Jamberry, etc. You may have to pay a fee to start selling, but that can be made back quickly if you designate all of your profit is strictly for orphan hosting fees. If you don’t feel like becoming a consultant yourself, there are many, many consultants for different companies who would be willing to donate part of if not all of their commission to your cause if you just ask!
6) As a spin off to that idea, you could host a small bazaar showcasing different independent consultant companies. Basically, you would find one consultant for each company and arrange for them to donate a portion of their commission to you. Then you would arrange (at your house or perhaps a church or community building) to have a bazaar for friends, family, and community members to stop by and shop from these consultants. Even people who sell homemade goods could sell items. Each consultant would have a table, and you could even have a concession stand style table for additional profit. The key to this type of event is advertising, a good location, and a lot of connections!
7) Get a little crafty! The possibilities for this idea are endless! The easiest way to raise money from this is to set up an Etsy shop. The fees are low and you can literally sell your products to people all over the world if you so choose. But you could also sell items on a Facebook page, at craft fairs, at the farmer’s market, or even at your yard sale. Some people might digress that they don’t have a creative bone in their body, but you don’t have to make anything complicated! Some successes I personally have seen include nail and string art, painted canvases, button earrings, sugar scrub, no-sew fleece blankets, shapes cut out of scrapbook paper and mod podged to a canvas, jewelry, bookmarks, tutus, and more. Truly, you can make most anything you please and sell it for a profit. If you’re nervous about getting your craft on, browse Pinterest, Google some tutorials, and watch Youtube videos for step-by-step guides.
8) Start the $5 bill plan. This idea has been floating around the Internet for some time, and honestly, it is a small way to save that works extremely well. The basic concept is that you save every $5 bill that comes your way. If you buy something for $2, pay with a $20, and the cashier gives you three $5 bills back, you save them all. You never ask for change in a different way. If someone gives you $25 for you birthday and there’s a $5 bill in the card, you save it. If you get tip money from work and you’re given $5, you save it. Sometimes it can be challenging, but for the most part saving every $5 you come across is a painless way that adds up quickly. I personally have done this (and I very rarely use cash) and I was still able to save about $250 in 6 months. You could also try to get your family and friends involved in this by donating their $5 bills towards your hosting costs!
9) Save all of your change, and hand out change jars to your family and friends to save up their change too! It doesn’t seem like much at first, but all of that change will add up after awhile! A great idea with this is to save absolutely every penny of change you come across and to also never use change to pay for anything. So if you buy a $1.25 soda from a machine at work, and put in $2, instead of using that extra 75 cents you’ll get back for a candy bar, you save the change. This method allows you to save up more change faster without hurting your wallet too much. I personally was able to save about $150 in 6 months, and again I very rarely use cash. If you pass out jars to others to put change in and set up a time to collect them, you could very easily make several hundred dollars. A final tip on this – don’t take your change to one of those Coinstar machines as they will take a percentage of your money. Stop by your bank and ask for some free change rolls, put on your favorite TV show, and spend an evening rolling. You’ll get to keep every penny made and that is well worth the extra effort.
10) Make money when you shop! Okay, so this one seems sort of ironic, but if you’re into online shopping, it can really pay off! Sign up right now for Ebates. Then, every time you decide to shop online, first head over to the Ebates website, then search your store, and click their “Shop Now!” link. Now your purchase on the website will be linked to your Ebates account, and you’ll receive a certain percentage of cash back for whatever you buy! I shop online all the time, and I always kick myself afterward when I realize I’ve forgotten to use my Ebates account. After all, it’s basically free money! My last check from them was around $30, but probably would have been closer to $75 had I remembered to actually use my account every time I shopped. Right now you have until March 31 to receive your check around May 15, so don’t wait around!
11) Hold a fundraising lunch or dinner. There is so much you can do with this type of event. Have a pancake brunch after church, a spaghetti dinner, or even a baked potato bar! The best thing to do is first find a location to hold it at that will allow you to bring or make your own food. Church halls are great for this, and if you are strategic about the time you hold your event (say after the Sunday service ends), you will get a lot of natural traffic at your event. Choose to set a specific price per person (say $10 per adult and $5 per child), or simply just ask for donations. Consider having entertainment as well, especially if you are holding an evening event. There are many people who would be willing to donate their musical talents. You can even have raffles going on to increase the cash flow. The most important thing to holding this kind of event though is to make sure you have the manpower to execute it, so don’t be afraid to ask for help!
12) Partner with a restaurant for an easier variation of the above idea. There are many restaurants out there who will donate a portion of their sales (usually 10-15%) for diners who bring in a coupon or flyer advertising your event. Generally you just choose 1 or 2 nights and pass out the flyers to everyone you know. They come in and eat, present their flyer, and at the end of the night you’ve earned a good sum of money for very minimal work.
13) Have a raffle! If you make the tickets relatively inexpensive at $5-$10 each, you’re sure to make a lot of money. Ideally you would raffle off something donated or relatively inexpensive for you to purchase. I’ve seen everything from a Coach purse to a miniature teacup pig raffled off! Some more common ideas include American Girl dolls, gift baskets, jewelry, a honey baked ham (perfect during the holiday season), homemade crafts, and iPads. If you sell 100 raffle tickets for just $5 each, that’s $500 raised. If you sell the same amount of tickets for $10 each, that’s $1,000 raised. If you raffle off a donated item, that is all pure profit! Even if you put a little bit of money into it to purchase the item, the profit outweighs the investment.
14) Can you bake? Consider selling your baked goods! This is a great fundraiser for the holiday season. If you’re hosting this summer, try making some Easter goodies! Cookies are always a safe bet as is fudge, but you can go all out and makes pies, cakes, and more! As a spin off of this idea, you could also host a “Baking for Orphans” cake walk and have friends and family donate baked goods.
15) Host a babysitting night in your home! Charge a flat rate per child, set the date and the hours, get some activities ready, and babysit while parents head out for a date night. This type of fundraiser is very fun for all involved. The parents get a night off, the kids get to have a giant sleepover, and you get to earn money for hosting! Ask some friends to donate their time and services so you’re not alone and can take on more kiddos.
16) Consider partnering with a fundraising company. Just Love Coffee, Goat Milk Stuff, Yankee Candle, MudLOVE, Popcorn Palace, and many, many more companies are all willing to donate a percentage of sales you make to your cause. Some of them will even donate up to 50%! As a bonus, most of these companies provide catalogs or order forms for you already made up, so there is not much you have to put into it. In fact, several of these companies have even moved to an online fundraising platform so all you have to do is share a link instead of taking and distributing orders.
17) Host an Angel Bins clothing or shoe drive. Angel Bins is a company that merges the worlds of recycling and fundraising together. They offer different opportunities for fundraising depending on where you live in the country, but the general idea is that you collect either certain types of clothing or shoes and they pay you for what you’ve collected. This is a great way to get friends, family, and the community involved in your fundraising efforts, as nearly everyone has some items in their closet they want to part with. Angel Bins is very easy to work with and extremely helpful, making this fundraiser as easy as possible.
18) Design and sell a custom t-shirt! Two great websites for doing this are Bonfire Funds and Booster. Both offer clip art you can easily use in your design, or you can even design your own. Choose your shirt style and color, set the price, and share the link with everyone you know! Who doesn’t love a good t-shirt? Plus, once people receive their shirts and start wearing them around, it’s essentially free advertisement for your hosting fundraising campaign!
19) If you’re hosting, you’ll need to acquire a rolling duffle or suitcase to send back with each kiddo. Have a “Tag the Bag” fundraiser to raise funds and send your host children back with some extra love. Charge a set price ($5-$20 is generally a good amount) and for every donation for that denomination, write the name of the donor on the bag with a Sharpie. If you’re not interested in tagging a bag, try another variation like a blanket, a soccer ball, or a t-shirt for your host child.
20) Have a puzzle piece fundraiser. Similar to the above idea, you pick out a puzzle (or have a custom photo puzzle made) and people “purchase” a piece of the puzzle in the form of a donation for a set amount (again, $5-$20 is most common). Then their name gets written on the back of a piece of the puzzle! When all pieces have been “sold”, the puzzle is complete and then can be given to the host child as a fun gift and memory of everyone who helped to bring them to America.
21) Another great idea is to hold an envelope fundraiser. You create a set number of envelopes (I have seen anywhere from 100-200) and number each one. Then, people select an envelope (or multiple ones) to sponsor and pay the amount on that envelope (so envelope #1 = $1, envelope #24 = $24, envelope #199 = $199). Another easy way to generate a lot of money quickly!
Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.
If only all fairy tales or nursery rhymes were true. Sadly, for so many, reality is not so easy. In fact, it’s harsh to the point of seeming hopeless. If you’ve ever felt unwanted – for even a short period of time – then you might be able to just begin to imagine what life is like as an orphan everyday. Living without the support and love of a mom and dad and family that most of us take for granted.
Most orphans are testaments to the pain of feeling unloved by the very people the whole world tells you should love you — your parents and extended family.
All anyone wants is to be loved and belong. Can you imagine longing, wanting, and needing one thing – simply to be loved?
These orphan children – like anyone – want to belong. They WISH and HOPE and DREAM that they could do something to BELONG and be LOVED like everyone else.
Some people aren’t born to the right family. But that doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a plan for these children. The Creator’s wielding hand is constantly at work and through other means a child can find a family. There is always HOPE.
Will you invest a little time to get to know one these great kids this summer? These children need the wisdom and support they never received from their own parents. Adoption is great, and some of these relationships can evolve into a permanent family relationship. But make no mistake, to host an orphan child is to give them life; to give back the HOPE and DREAMS that were lost so early. And this can develop into lifelong relationships. Relationships that sculpt and change the UNWANTED and FORGOTTEN into a beautiful, LOVED and CHERISHED child of the King. Every child needs to hear that he is loved. And above all that God loves them. This gift of giving your family to a child for 5 weeks this summer – CHANGES THEIR LIFE…and yours too!
“There is never too much love in the world that reaching out is a bad idea.” -Adopted child.
Hugs and Waffle Fries
By Tracy Scoggins
Since the moment 7 year old Jia spotted us at the airport in Chicago, we’ve been absolutely amazed at how happy, trusting and adaptable he seems to be. He waved goodbye to his friends and chaperones, grabbed host dad’s hand, and off they went! We still had 2 more flights to get to our home in Richmond, VA, and he just rolled with it, despite his exhaustion and jet lag. Amazing!
He shares a room with our 11 year old son, and that seems to give him a lot of comfort at bedtime. When we tuck them in and shut the door, we hear a loud, “Gut night, COLE!” followed by a much softer, “Good night, Jia Qing.”
Each morning is the same. He gets up with the other kids to watch TV or play, eats a huge breakfast, and then takes a bubble bath. He LOVES bubble baths! Although he is quite independent, he has let me wash his hair, clip his nails, clean his ears, etc. without so much as a fuss.
Our family loves Chickfila, and we didn’t wait long to introduced him to the new love of his life: WAFFLE FRIES. When we pull into the parking lot he smiles and claps his hands! The other thing that apparently is very new to him is HUGS. When he first arrived, although he was very happy and compliant, he didn’t seem to have a clue about giving or receiving hugs. He would either go stiff as a board or just push us away altogether. Slowly, as he started seeing his host siblings getting hugs or sitting on mom or dad’s lap, he started moving in that direction, too. Now? Oh my- he’s a hugging machine! He loves piggy back rides (also new to him) and even gives and receives kisses. It’s been such an incredible transformation!
God’s hand has been evident from the very beginning, when we first saw Jia’s photo on the Project 143 page. Not only were we able to raise the entire 3K in hosting fees, but we then raised another 2K, needed to fly him and us to and from Chicago (twice!). We’ve enjoyed him so much, and we are just humbled and thankful to be the family to make a difference in this little guy’s life. I’ve been blogging about our experience with him, and spreading the word as much as I’m able, about orphan hosting. It’s not an easy road all the time, but it is SO worth it. When he runs into the kitchen to HUG me and say, “HI MOMMY!” it is all worth it!
My husband and I hosted a 5.5 year old boy this summer from China listed as having developmental delays. We were under the impression he could walk, had some communication skills and although behind would be only a year or two behind. When he was wheeled out at the airport in a wheelchair with one of the other host kids, we were almost in shock. My husband took an involuntary step backwards. Most of the other kids we saw had some form of expression on their face, but our little guy looked completely blank. Not afraid, not happy, not sad… nothing. One hundred things went through my mind for which I hadn’t prepared. The little boy next to our host son in the wheelchair bounced out of the seat after seeing the balloon his host family held with a HUGE smile on his face. I still remember the look of pure joy that little boy had as he moved quickly towards them. Our little guy stood up next to the wheelchair and stared at the ground. When I went to say hello, he didn’t acknowledge me. When I tried to get him to hold my hand, he didn’t hold it back. I tried to get eye contact with no response. We tried to get him to walk and he seemed like he could barely walk so I had to pick him up. I think we expected him to be afraid, crying, running, a million things but not indifferent. A few days into hosting, he finally started moving from the spot where we placed him in our house. He started to explore. New light up sneakers and lots of practice and he was just beginning to walk like an experienced toddler. We took him to the playground multiple times and the little boy who could barely walk began climbing everything. Smiles, giggles and reaching up to hold our hand soon followed. He even refused to be carried because he wanted to walk! Another week or so and he’d learned to jump and catch a large ball. He was smiling, laughing and starting to make great eye contact. Each week brought more development. He did lack some language skills, but we learned to negotiate nonverbally. He blossomed into the most expressive kid with the funniest faces and even started hugging us back very tightly. This all happened in four weeks! Peering into the backseat while driving to the airport, I see him talking on his make-believe cell phone, smiling, giggling and kicking. There will never be a photo or description that could do his amazing transformation justice.
A tiny, shy little girl walked in. She was one of the last interviews in her orphanage, but did not speak a single word the entire time. Our interview team discussed her needs and delays with social workers. However, what wasn’t spoken of specifically — but was clearly at least one factor in her mounting delays — were her profoundly crossed eyes. She would move her head from one side to another, as if that would help her focus. With each photo I took, her eyes moved drastically and, sometimes, one eye would all but disappear as she tried to focus. It wasn’t a question of if she needed eye surgery, but when — and how.
Hoping against all hope that I could secure permission for the eye surgery, as well as the means to fund it, my husband and I committed to hosting this little silent one in the summer of 2014. Our primary goal was to provide life-changing surgery for her during the four weeks of hosting with a sincere hope that it would advance her opportunities once back in China, particularly to begin getting an education. In the initial weeks that followed our hosting commitment, it appeared surgery would be out of the question because permission just wasn’t coming through from her orphanage in China. Knowing there was no point in planning a surgery for which permission had not been granted, we all but assumed surgery to be a lost cause.
Suddenly, a mere 14 days prior to her arrival, we receive a power of attorney from the orphanage allowing surgery to be performed. I only had 14 days to try and secure surgery for this little girl.
Well, social media to the rescue. I wrote my plea, begging for anyone connected to an eye surgeon to please share our China host daughter’s need. Literally hundreds of people shared that post and, eventually, one doctor reached out and requested that we contact him directly. By this time, there was only seven days until her arrival from China.
One phone call revealed an eye surgeon with the desire to perform the surgery pro bono. The only glitch? We still needed a surgery center and anesthesiologist willing to do the same. The surgeon’s office took the lead, calling their contacts at the local surgery center, who then had to take it before their board of directors. Finally, it was official and everyone was committed to performing the surgery for this little girl pro bono!
At this point, her arrival was only two days away and surgery was scheduled for just after her arrival. The rally of supporters, advocates and medical personnel was positively amazing to watch. I could actually call the process seamless. After a preliminary appointment to confirm her needs and a pre-op, she was scheduled for her life-changing eye surgery.
When I checked us in on the day of surgery, I began to realize the magnitude of what was happening. In seven years of working there, the attendant had never seen a pro bono case. The tiny, silent girl from China was the first.
Surgery went well and, with one week of eye drops, rest and several more follow-up appointments, our host daughter was seeing in focus for the first time in her life. The transformation was incredible. She was able to look at us directly, without so much tilt in her head. She picked up books and toys as if seeing them for the first time. Without a doubt, hosting was a life-changing experience and a major medical need was met through the generosity of a medical community in Atlanta, as well as the many supporters of our family’s decision to host — and heal — a little girl from China.
Thank you Michelle Vernon – Project One Forty Three, New Development and Communications Coordinator