Waiting in the Shadows

Another incredible day for the books. I was able to catch some of our previous host kiddos (my little friends!) from this past winter’s program. I’m excited to be bringing home photos and videos even for just a few of these families who wait to bring their child home. A few of our families from last summer’s program recently returned with their kiddos, and it brings full circle the realization that there are always more orphans to help. It’s perfect timing – as some children go home forever, some children are about to arrive for the first time this summer, and I move forward to help the next group toward this opportunity to leave the orphanage and find their family, too.
Our hosts at the orphanage are always so gracious in helping us locate a few of the children whose families will be coming soon to bring them home as well. We were able to take a few photos and videos and can’t wait to share these with their families!
Something people may not know about our interview trips in China – we don’t get to visit every single orphanage. Often, children will be brought to a single interview location to meet with us. The kiddos are usually shy and sometimes a little scared. Today we met children from 3 different orphanages. One by one we played with them, asked them questions, and did our very best to coax them out of their shells to give light to who they are. Although we saw many smiles, laughs, giggles, and happiness, a sense of emptiness always lingers in the room.
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Meet Mr. Smarty Pants!
One handsome little guy stood out today – if you followed our photolisting last program, you know that we give each of the children nicknames since we can’t use their real names. This dude has already earned the name Mr. Smarty Pants! He loves to go to school at the orphanage; there isn’t a class he doesn’t like or a subject he isn’t good at! With quite a few awards under his belt for his school work, he happily showed off his math skills for me. When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, he quickly responded, “A policeman!” He sat with me for a bit while I continued to take notes and played a few games on my computer. This is a kiddo with both the brains AND the heart to thrive, given the chance.
Last trip I played the role of interviewer, but this time I’m recording everything that happens. It means I interact with the children less, so my favorite moments are the times the children come to sit with me as they wait their turn or watch their friends finish up. One little girl even rested her head on my arm, and I could feel that, even though some of the orphanages we visit provide quality care, these children need the loving touch of a family. These sweet moments are the ones I want to hang  on to, knowing for that moment a child felt secure resting next to me for just a few moments. It is humbling and unforgettable, seeing the older children who wait quietly for their turn to be chosen, not just by a family, by their family.
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We finished the day around 3 pm, but no bus for us this time! Adiós unidentifiable meat product! We hopped on a high speed train, which went 100 MPH! Our destination wasn’t too far, so I didn’t get to see the countryside zipping along at 200 MPH, the speed it usually goes. Immediately upon arriving, we noticed the drop in temperature, which was a welcome break from the stifling heat in Guangzhou. You’d think, as a Texas girl, I’d be used to the heat, but air-conditioning is one of those sneaky things you don’t appreciate fully until it’s gone. Many of the orphanages cope with that lack by being open air to allow breezes through the hallway. It means children are often fairly hot in the summer and bundled up in the winter.
Our hotel is a little rough around the edges, but we’re a light-hearted group who can laugh our way through anything. Dongguan is a beautiful coastal city, and I’m excited to “settle in” a little bit for the next four nights. Up until now, it’s been a new bed, new hotel every night since we arrived. I’ll take a little dinginess to get to stay put for a little bit. On the return trip from a walk to the market, we passed the back side of an orphanage we’ll soon visit. Through the gate, I could see some of the caretakers and a few children sitting quietly on the stools outside. In the evening shadows cast by the building, I realized I could recognize one of the little faces waiting there.
The Ones Who Wait
Zane is still waiting for his forever family. Is it you? Contact mallory@gwca.org for more information on the host children left waiting.
After spending months working for these host children, you become familiar with each and every face that you’ve grown to love. When they arrive with a host family, upon return home, and in the lingering, heart-wrenching period as you advocate, knowing that hosting doesn’t work for every child, but why, why can’t it work for this one? I was so excited to see him that I half-called his name, then pulled back, realizing to myself that he will have no idea who I am; the adults watching over him might wonder who the crazy American lady is yelling at one of their orphans like she’s found her own child. As I stood there watching his little face in the darkness, my heart broke to see him like this, without a family, the love and security of a mom and dad, his mom and dad, that I know and believe are out there waiting for him somewhere. The shadows of that orphanage and his face will stay with me until I know his family is found, is coming to take him home.
Until tomorrow.
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Change the World of One

It’s when you travel that you’re reminded that a good dinner the night before makes all the difference. The wonderful orphanage director had treated us to a yummy late night dinner, and we were able to get to sleep almost immediately with a good meal on our stomachs and a long day ahead.
I almost can’t believe I was here just six months ago, interviewing the kiddos who are now about to arrive in just a month’s time. It reminds me that there are always more orphans to serve, and I sometimes find myself overwhelmed by thinking how I can help each and every one of these beautiful children. Reality sets in, and I remember that I can’t change the world, but I can change the world of just one. For every one child in hosting that finds his or her forever family, that is one difference I know I can make.
 12 yr old girl - day one
Interview days are exactly like you imagine them – full to the brim. Before we can even get situated with our interview materials, the first kiddo is walking into the room. She is 12 going on 13, and my heart breaks for the children who will hit 14 and age out of the orphanage system here in China. In the moment of seeing her face, I’m reminded of the sense of loss you see in so many of the children’s eyes in the orphanages. There is a sense of waiting, wanting for someone to be their family is never ending. Many of these eyes have a look of desperation and even despair because the wait has been so long.
the brothers
To our surprise, the highlight of our day was meeting “the brothers.” If you’re familiar with adoptions in China, siblings are quite rare in the orphanages, as most children are placed there from birth. Even more rare, these two little guys are healthy, handsome, and smart as can be. At 13 and 9, these two kiddos desperately need a saving grace – the oldest is set to age out in just under a year. We will need to find a family ready to start bringing them home NOW to help them. They are typical boys and brothers, but they told us that they don’t get annoyed with each other. Even more heart-wrenching, the younger brother told us he cares for his brother VERY much. I know when we get back, the team will be ready to do everything we can to make sure they get to stay together and grow up in the forever family that they so deserve.
After a day full of 22 interviews, we hopped back onto the bus for the 5 hour ride back to Guangzhou. We chose to again stay away from the “unidentifiable meat products” and made it back to our hotel pretty late in the evening. Our bodies still haven’t adjusted to the time, so we headed down the street to find dinner that was a little more identifiable. While I tried some chicken on a stick, the rest of the crew was feeling a little less adventurous, opting for Pepsi and Snickers, the dinner of champions. We’re now settling in to rest up and get ready to meet another 30 fresh faces tomorrow, each with their own hopes of finding their forever family.
Until then 干杯! (Cheers!)

– Shannon

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Greetings from Guangzhou!

As we departed on our interview trip, in true Austin style a man sat in the terminal singing “Happy Trails” with his guitar. Well it happened – we made it! We are here in Guangzhou after somewhat of a long journey, but we finally made it! You forget how long the flight can be…7 pm Thursday departure from Austin to Houston, with a five hour layover until a 1 am flight to Beijing (which is a 15 hour trip itself), and then a four hour layover until finally our flight arrived in Guangzhou on Saturday.

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Diedra and I preparing for the long haul

“Happy Trails” couldn’t be a more fitting song to prepare two Texas girls for a two week excursion into China to visit the orphanages and meet the amazing children and staff who live and work there. For the well-traveled, you can probably understand our gratefulness for zero travel issues along the way, with not even one delayed flight despite the crummy weather happening in Texas.

When we arrived, our wonderful adoption guide, Kelly, greeted us in Guangzhou. She took care of me during my last interview trip with Kayley, and I was so pleased to see her again this time with Diedra by my side! We wanted to visit many of the sites that our own adoptive families get to see when they come for their adoption journeys, so it was straight to Shamian Island for lunch. I have to confess, I ordered chicken tenders from the famous Lucy’s – I figured it might be my last opportunity over the next twelve days!

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Instead of taking the car back to Shaiman, Kelly asked if we were up to a 35 minute exploratory walk instead. After 24 hours of being stuck sitting on a plane, our immediate answer was YES! She walked us through a large square, and we ventured down a side-street lined with row upon row of shops and people. Guangzhou is a bustling city of roughly 14 million people, and this experience really opened our eyes to some of the differences between here and back home.

Our guide, Kelly, and Diedra
We made it back to the island just in time for the rain to start pouring down (much like back in Texas, I hear), so we parted ways with Kelly and returned to our hotel. We ventured out late to a 7-Eleven, which are apparently universal! As we walked to exit, a handful of young university students approached us, overwhelmed with excitement and giggles! They were excited to see Americans and wanted to practice their English with us. How could we refuse? They were so eager because we were, for some of them, the first native English speakers they had ever spoken to. They told us about their families and their studies. Unlike many American students, their studies had been chosen for them, with their futures clearly mapped out. One of the girls was studying social work, and when she discovered that was our work and even what Diedra studied in college, she squealed with delight. We ended with a photo, hugs, and handing over of business cards. It was amazing to see the reality that, despite the cultural differences, children everywhere have similar curiosities, hopes, and dreams.
 
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After losing the battle to stay awake from jet-lag and time change, we woke up early in the morning. With nothing to do until 11, we went for an early walk and stumbled across a park. Families were scattered everywhere, with a small group of mothers and grandmothers doing a traditional dance. Diedra hopped right on in and tried to join! Fathers and grandfathers were doing the same, even using a sword! The kids were playing and music piped in the background, and the magic of China washed over us once again.
For me, I was preparing for a reunion with our amazing staff and volunteers in China. We were meeting with Jeanne, who has been with GWCA from the start. She’s funny, sweet, and caring, and we’re so lucky to have her. Our quirky translator Lynn is going to be serving as our translator for the interview with the kiddos, and she always does an amazing job. Our volunteer Celese is joining us for the 2nd time as our medical expert and doctor. She is an adoptive mother herself and an incredible advocate for orphans, so her knowledge comes from both a medical and a maternal viewpoint!
The reunion is fun, filled with hugs and laughter. We stopped along our ride for a meal, and my oh my was the cafeteria interesting! We were given a meal ticket where we received a tray of rice, cabbage, and “unidentifiable meat products.” We tried a bite of everything, but being full from breakfast, it seemed safer to wait for dinner. We climbed back on the bus and settled in for the rest of our 5 hour trip.
I’m watching now as the sun sets over the mountains and can’t help but pinch myself and think, we are here, we actually here. These trips run deep for us all. As we approach the breath-taking mountains, I know I am about to meet the orphans who wait for this chance to be hosted, to meet a family, maybe even THEIR family. These are the children that have been waiting for someone to show them they are important, waiting to be told they are beautiful, waiting to know that they are worth something. These children are WAITING.
 
– Shannon
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Meet the Hosting Team!

Ever wonder who is on the other end when you call the Children of All Nations office about hosting? Though each person in our office contributes in some way to the amazing task of bringing the children here each summer and winter, this is the group of ladies you are most likely to talk to when you reach out to us about hosting!

Hosting Team

From Left to Right:

Cayce is the Hosting Program Coordinator for each of the current hosting programs! She is also part of the team who will help us launch our Latvia program this Winter 2015-2016! “My favorite part of hosting is watching the host kiddos and families grow together – from beginning to end of the hosting program, you really see the difference a family makes in the lives of these children!”

Amanda is the Hosting Program Coordinator for the Philippines and Ukraine Programs. She is passionate about helping the kiddos find their host family and potential forever family. “Hosting gives kids who normally wouldn’t get a second look their chance at experiencing a family…and maybe even finding their forever family!”

Shannon is the Hosting Director for all Children of All Nations Hosting Programs. She ensures each team member has the resources they need to help as many children as possible and works hard to help each and every one of the host families in all of our programs. “I love hosting because these are the children that are often labeled as hard to place. We are helping the children ‘nobody’ wanted find the family that has always been waiting for them!”

Kayley is the Travel Director for the Hosting Programs and is also a member of the interview teams that meet the children prior to being hosted. She’s part of the team who will help us launch our Latvia program this Winter 2015-2016, and she gets to work with families early on in the process when matching is in full swing. “Working with families to find a hosting kiddo is a great experience – sometimes the child that a family never thought of turns out to be their perfect fit!”

Want to get involved in our Hosting Program? Learn more about one of our host programs, get in touch with us about volunteering, or find out ways you can donate today!

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Interview Team Departs Next Week!

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We can’t believe it’s already here! Next week, our hosting team will depart for China to visit with the children for our Winter 2015-2016 China Hosting Program.Interview trips are so vital to hosting, allowing our staff to assess if children wish to be hosted and are healthy enough for travel. It’s also a great opportunity for us to gather information we know our host families want to know about the children they will soon meet!

As an added bonus, we have brought together staff from numerous orphanages to come to a training conference hosted by Children of All Nations. We hope to provide training that will assist orphanage staff in better placing the children in need with forever families here in the United States.

 

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Our Hosting Interview Team will blog their journey from China and, as in their previous trips, will be able to highlight the conditions and needs of children overseas. This past trip taught us so many ways we can begin improving the process of hosting and adoption.

Stay tuned for blog posts about this interview trip, and follow us on future journeys to Latvia and Ukraine! If you are interested in donating to support our interview trips to help children in need, please visit our donation page to find out about how you can make a difference today!

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Hosting Yu Yu

“Hon, I know you are going to think I’m crazy, but I want to host an orphan from China this summer…” This is how I greeted my husband the day that I dared to take a peek at the photo listing of children who needed placements for the summer hosting program. After adopting my daughter as an infant (I was single at the time), I felt in my heart the pull towards adopting an older child. But after marrying and settling in to the joys and challenges of a blended family, I figured that dream was behind me. Well, what a surprise when my husband said “I don’t think you are crazy!”, and we quickly moved ahead to meet the looming deadline to be matched with the child we felt drawn to host.

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While we were open from the start to the idea of adopting if things went well, we were very nervous about all the ways that things might NOT go well. Hosting seemed like the perfect way to see what it might be like to add to our family in this way, and to see if this particular child was a good fit. And he was. After weeks of nervous preparation, our lives were forever changed by the adorable 6 year old boy who greeted us at the airport with a huge smile on his face. He was small for his age, and acted much younger than 6, but he drew us in with his humor and the sheer delight that he expressed with each new thing that he tried and experienced with us. I spent about a day feeling a bit worried about his immaturity, nervous about how the summer would go, but it didn’t last! I had worried so much about communication with a boy who knew no English, but really that was not a very big deal. He surprised us by singing some songs in English that he had learned in school in China (BINGO, Twinkle Twinkle, ABC Song) . He very quickly learned some words and phrases in English, and we learned a few essentials in Mandarin. What we didn’t know got communicated through gestures and pantomime. Yu Yu fell in love with ice cream at the first, unexpectedly cold lick. Every time we went out in the car after that, he would say “Mama!” to get my attention, then pantomime holding and licking an ice cream cone, as his way of asking to go get some ice cream! (I could hardly ever say no!)

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The best part of hosting was falling in love with this amazing little boy. Experiencing him learning to love hugs and being held, snuggling in close and giving kisses – all things that seemed new to him. Watching him play and bond with our girls. Seeing the utter joy on his face as he experienced not only the big fun stuff, but the everyday things like a bath, being tucked in, and eating a picnic lunch in the yard. Seeing him go from fear of the water to actually swimming! Seeing how well he compensated for his right arm disability. Was every moment fun and easy? Well, no. He did his share of testing the limits, and laughing when reprimanded. He turned out to be a sensitive boy, crying easily at small things and sometimes just shutting down. Those were the times when the lack of common language was the hardest. But as the weeks went by, I feel like we were starting to see wonderful progress with his trust of us, his bonding with us, and learning to live with the limits. Those sparks of progress gave us hope that this was a good fit, and that he was meant to be with our family.

Mama-and-Yu-Yu

To be honest, the hardest part of hosting is right now, afterwards. Watching him leave us at the airport was one of the hardest moments in our lives. He already felt like our son, and we were losing him. Now, to be separated so many months as we go through the adoption process, it is really hard. At times it feels cruel to both him and us. But I also know that we would NOT be adopting right now if we hadn’t hosted. I know that we wouldn’t have been brave enough to take on the unknowns of an older child without meeting him and feeling him melt into our family. What a gift he was to us. What joy we have in looking forward to the day when we will finally be reunited with him, this time forever!

Baba-and-Yu-Yu

Thank you to Yu Yu’s Host Family for allowing us to share their beautiful story.

Visit www.orphanhosting.com to learn how you can be a part of our Hosting Program.

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Get ready to welcome the kids from our China, Philippines, and Ukraine programs!

Way to go Hosting Team! Matching is complete! We look forward to welcoming 30 children from China, 10 children from Ukraine, and 7 children from the Philippines. Thank you so much to everyone that has helped support us in our matching journey.
If you still want to be a part of hosting, read on about ways you can get involved!

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Philippines Hosting: A “Stay-cation” with a twist!

Philippines Hosting: A “Stay-cation” with a twist!

Did you know that your own home is a prime vacation destination? To an orphan in the Philippines, your home is an oasis where a child can find out what the love of a family is outside of the orphanage. Last winter, an amazing group of children had the opportunity to spend a “stay-cation” in a home with a family – we want to provide that same opportunity this summer for a new group of children. Make memories like the one in the photo with a host child and be an Orphan Warrior for one amazing kid!

Bring one of the amazing children in our Philippines program to spend a 4-5 week long vacation with your family this summer! All proceeds go toward the children’s hosting costs. The kiddos in our Philippines program are healthy, know some English, and are excited to spend time with you and your family! Whether you want to host to adopt or host to advocate, WE NEED YOU! Hosting Grants ARE AVAILABLE NOW! Ask us today! Tentative dates are mid-July through mid-August, so if you’re ready to be an #OrphanWarrior, contact lacee@childrenofallnations.com or amanda@childrenofallnations.com for more details. Or apply today!

View the Hosting Photolisting

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Host to Advocate and Why it Works

In the fall of 2014 we heard last-minute about the Great Wall Winter Hosting Program. Our family felt compelled to move forward with the program and host a boy during the holidays. We entered the program with the possibility that we might adopt, but it could be that we were to advocate for the child.

We chose to host a six-year-old boy who turned seven a few days after his arrival in the US. Our family welcomed him into our home and he settled in quickly into our busy holiday schedule. We celebrated his birthday, attended a family wedding, enjoyed several Christmas gatherings, had numerous play dates, and stayed at my parents’ farm for a few days. It was a delightful time and he added a lot of fun boy-energy to our home with three daughters!

 

About halfway through our hosting, we knew we had to make a decision about whether to move forward to adopt or to advocate for his adoption. Our prayer had been that we would know whether to adopt or advocate. He fit into our family so well and we love him so, but for reasons we couldn’t really understand, our family felt we were to advocate for his adoption. That was December 31st. Our family prayed that God would lead us to the family who was to be his adoptive family.

That night at the New Year’s Eve Service at our church, a lady I knew casually came over to ask a few questions about the hosting program. As we talked and I shared about adoption (our three daughters are adopted), it became evident that this family would probably be his forever family. They had talked about adopting at some point and recently had discussed that with the ages of their biological children, it might be a good time to move forward with adoption. On January 2, they made the phone call to Great Wall to start the adoption process.

We could not have selected a better family for him! He will join a family of loving parents with a sister and brother close in age to him. The boy is three years older and the girl is about a year older, so they will be in the same school and participate in a lot of the same activities.

What we couldn’t understand quickly became evident and the beautiful journey continues to unfold. The rest of the time he was in our home, we made more memories with him that we will always cherish! The last two weeks, we spent many hours with the adoptive family, though he did not know they would be his forever family (in keeping with hosting guidelines).

Our family is so blessed to know this family even better and have our host boy grow up in our community. Of course, the first few months, we will keep our distance as he bonds with his forever family, but we look forward to being part of his life and watching him grow! What an amazing journey for us, the host boy, and the adoptive family as several lives are changed forever through this hosting experience!

 

 

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TEAM T-Shirts Now Available

Join our TEAM and contribute to our upcoming host programs. All proceeds acquired from these t-shirts will go toward hosting grants for the Summer 2015 program. These shirts will be worn by all of our hosting kids as they arrive to meet their host families for the 2014 Holiday Program. We ask that all family members and friends that will be meeting these children at the airport purchase a shirt. The shirts will be available to order until November 5th. They are $20, which includes shipping. T-shirts will be shipped after November 20th. Send this link to your friends and families and make a difference in a child’s life by joining our TEAM today!

Do you know what TEAM stands for?
Tell
Everyone
Adoption
Matters

 

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