Saturday, July 6, 2013

Orphanage Visit

 “Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names.  They are easier to ignore before you see their faces.  It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms.  

But once you do, everything changes.” 
-David Platt

It is Friday morning here in Nanning and I am just sitting down to try and put into words what we saw and felt yesterday.  Honestly I would have to write a book to be able to express all the things we would love to tell you about yesterday, and to show you all the 300 pictures we took, but I can't do that so I will try my best to give you the Cliff note version.

Vivian woke up very sad again and we knew we were in for a long day.  Our guide picked us up and we headed out for the 3 hour drive to Vivian's hometown of Beiliu City (pronounced "Bay-lee-o").

no car seats for kids in China, you just hold them on your lap

Before I started writing this post, Rob and I discussed our thoughts on what I should say.  I asked him how he would describe Beiliu, and I think he summed it up perfectly.  He said, "desperate" and "poor".  Then added, "shockingly poor".  Here are just a few of the sights we saw driving in towards the Social Welfare Institute (SWI).

street leading to the Social Welfare Institute
turning into the SWI

Main entrance to the Institute (this is where the elderly people live)

When we arrived, the  director met us out front and we began to unload our orphanage donations.  I apologize to everyone that I never got a picture of them ... but we brought bags and bags of toys.  They included:  soccer/basketballs, remote control cars, Barbies, play animals, card games, board games, dominoes, Rubix cubes, dress up accessories, etc.  This older girl had wandered out and immediately took a few things she saw

soccer ball in one hand, Barbie in the other

We were told the kids were napping and we would not be allowed  into the orphanage.  We requested to see one little boy.  I have made contact with his mother through the internet and his family is coming to adopt him soon.  We really wanted to take a picture of him for them.  They allowed us to see him.  One of the nanny's brought him out and immediately came over and took Vivian from me.  Within moments of being in the nanny's arms she begin giggling and smiling.  I think that nanny would've held her all day so I finally went over and took her back.

  This is what happened when she came back to me

One thing I am sure of:  Vivian was loved while she was here.  I believe these nanny's are doing the best job they can.  She may not have been taught to talk or eat solid food, she may not have been held everytime she was upset, but she was clearly loved.

While I tried to calm her back down Rob was given permission to take pictures directly in front of the orphanage section of the SWI.  The pink building is the oprhanage and is where Vivian has spent the past 33 months of her life

I made this picture larger b/c if you look closely you can see a child's face peering out through the window on our right

You can barely see but there is also a child in this picture in the middle on the 2nd row.  You can see the little head if you look very closely right next to the tree branch in the middle.

It is a very sad place and I could not help but cry at the fact that my daughter's first 2 years were spent here and that, for others, they have grown up here.  Knowing there are many older kids inside is devastating.

We were then directed to Vivian's finding spot.  Here we are standing at the gates of the SWI in the spot where she was found.

How do I describe what it was like to hold my daughter in my arms and know that one night, almost 2 1/2 years ago, she was left here?  I tried to imagine what it was like for her and I just can't even get there.  So many questions in our heads as we stood here and looked around.  Questions that she will one day ask, questions she needs and deserves answers to, and sadly, questions we will never be able to answer for her.  I have read so many books over the past year trying so hard to understand what is going on in China and all I can gather is that it is complicated.   There is a one-child policy.  There is still, in some areas, a cultural preference (and in many cases need) for boys.  It is against the law to abandon a child.  It is complicated.  Yes, sometimes girls are left because they are girls; but sometimes children are left because they can't be held on to.  Sometimes, many times, they are left because their family just can't begin to provide for them.  As we drove around Beiliu it was not hard to imagine this could've been the case for Vivian's parents.  But, we will never know.  As we stood there, I kept thinking about the words used by Vivian's nanny's to describe her in her file:

"She is strong in heart"

Oh yes, she is.

I originally did not intend to write about this in this post.  I wasn't sure (I'm still not) if it was fair to Vivian for me to share this information about her past.  Maybe one day I will take this down.  But, I did decide to write about it and here is why:  Rob and I have been overwhelmed since we arrived in China with emails, text messages and Facebook messages from our friends and family offering support and encouragement to us.  People are saying things like, "you are amazing".  And I just want to say, "NO, we are NOT".  Many of the reasons Rob and I are here in China today are selfish reasons.  We are not amazing.

But Vivian is.

Twice in her short life, this sweet and beautiful child has lost everything she has ever known.  Twice, she has lost everyone she has ever loved.  She has every reason in the world not to trust Rob or I.  She has every reason in the world to stay shut down.  But, she isn't.  She is so brave and she is starting to open her little heart to us and it is the most beautiful and amazing thing to see and be a part of.

Rob and I will not soon forget all that we saw today.  It was hard to be there.  At one point Rob finally turned to me and said, "Get me the h*ll out of here".  It was hard to drive away knowing that, back in that building, were rooms full of children like Vivian.  Precious children who deserve the chance to be all that they are meant to be, and who can't do that from behind the bars of that orphanage.  Children who deserve a family.  Our hearts are very burdened for these children.  We definitely plan to stay in touch with the SWI and try to help in any way we can in the future.  Please keep these children in your prayers.

We are off to Guangzhou today and I will post again from there.


  1. My husband and I are just beginning the process to adopt from China and I want to thank you for how honestly you have written in your blog. I have read every word. Your stories will stay with me as my husband and I begin our own journey.

    Vivian is clearly precious! So much of your post about visiting the orphanage was heart-breaking, but I do believe your blog will help her answer some of her questions some day, even if you will never be able to answer them all.

    With love from a stranger in Minnesota,


  2. Blessings....Vivian is beautiful, love she is opening up.

  3. I have no words! Just tears and tears!!!
    We just recd LSC for our lil girl!
    How I long to hold her ...
    Thank you for sharing this experience here - I know I'm a stranger
    I'm so thankful to have insights from others there, even as it is so heartbreaking
    Your sweet V is such a brave girl!!!
    God bless your family and her transition
    Safe travels and prayers to you all!!!

  4. Thank you for getting it. Thank you. I often tell people, once you step inside an orphange, you just don't see the world the same way again. You can't help but live your life a bit differently in light of "the least of these" that imprinted themselves on your soul.
    Thank you for getting it,

  5. I can so relate to your post. So many similarities. We too have a Vivian from Guangxi. She is from Beihai. We also adopted her at 2.5 yrs old and had almost an identical orphanage visit. We were only allowed in the gate, and around the grounds, but were also told the children were napping and not allowed inside. Also, asked to see a little girl of a friend who traveled a week after us, and they brought her out. Our daughter's nanny came running out to meet us, and our very shut down little girl started talking animatedly with her. She didn't want to come back to me. When we left the Nanny spoke sternly to her, and our guide told us, she told Vivian that they were good friends, but we were Mama and Daddy, and she needed to be with us. Vivian burst into tears and cried for a good 30 minutes after we left, but it did seem to be a turning point for her. She was also left at the gate, and like you I stood there overwhelmed. I will never, never forget the feeling of holding my daughter, in my arms and turning and walking out of that place. Wondering about the other children, the guilt. We have never been the same. Our second adoption, in Henan, the orphanage allowed us inside, and even more heartbreaking. It\s been 2 years since our Vivian came home, and she is amazing too. So full of life and love. Praying for you as you walk through this valley. Together you will climb out to the other side. It's a beautiful thing.

  6. Wow tears tears tears! When we were in China to adopt our sweet love in 2009 we were not allowed to visit orphange due to swine flue scare. I have to say I was ok with that decision being made for me. Very hard very very hard. I agree people often say to us how amazing we are that we adopted in 2009 and will again in 2013 but no no we are not amazing it is these children that are amazing and we are blessed to have them to love! Thank you for sharing this personal stuff. Praying for you all! Kelly

  7. Thank you for your honesty! Yes it is very complicated and the realities are harsh to say the least. I was able to visit my youngest daughters orphanage and a few more on my visit with Pearl River this past spring and I will never be the same. Devastating heartbreak that none any of us can truly let go of....

    I have to say that I laugh out loud at the whole "amazing" comments! Once you see the realities our sweet children come from that word can ONLY be used for them, not us. Oh what their sweet little hearts have endured!

    Your Vivian is so very precious, you are in for a remarkable ride so hold on:). The joys and blessings are more than you can ever imagine God would give you!! I'm praying for healing for your little one's heart.....hoping you see bunches of smiles and giggles soon!!

  8. Oh Maureen...I am crying reading this. It is so sad to me what these children have endured. I totally know what you mean about the comments from other people...we got them too. I tried to explain that Kate is THE BIGGEST blessing to us and it is easy to love her. But I think people are just really in awe of your selfless love and it is a selfless love. Yes, Vivian is brave and strong but you are too.


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