It happens to all of us – we try so hard not to have a “favorite” of the day…but then one kid sticks in your mind. You think about that kid when you leave the interviews, and you go home and email your coworker and say, “Look how cute he is!!” You are positive, happy, thrilled to have met this child, but your heart also aches on each step of the journey, knowing there is another child waiting around the corner to stick in your brain, keep you up at night, looking for his family.
Before I got to meet him, I woke up to nerves and worry set to the backdrop of the beautiful mountains of Dabu. There was fog this morning, and our cab driver gave us the quickest of history lessons of this “rural” town (500,000 people is rural in China!). We saw family villages and compounds where up to 100 family members live together, some with their own private family schools. Dabu’s Social Welfare Institute (or SWI) is smaller than some other cities we’ve visited and houses four sections of the SWI system – children, the elderly, retired soldiers, and a community of people with no living relatives. There are just 27 children in this particular orphanage, and small orphanages like this get the kind of care we’d like to see all children have. The director clearly deeply cared about the children, what would happen to them in the future, what my intentions were. She was excited about hosting, though, and knew how important it was for these children to find families.
That’s when I met him! Mr. Thoughtful, as I’ve already nicknamed him, was so eager to meet us he was already chattering away in Chinese like we were having a conversation before we even met (and like I knew everything he was saying). He was curious about all of our things, and took time to pick up our cameras and phones, inspect them, and then shyly smile to ask for a selfie together. The power of the selfie, it appears, transcends even orphanage life! What pulled at that bit of my heart reserved for all these children was when he tugged at my shirt out on the playground, staring into my eyes very seriously. I caught the Chinese words for “momma” and “daddy,” and I turned to Veronica, our translator, with a question on my face. She slowly repeated his request, “You will help me find a momma and daddy?” I couldn’t stop myself. I gave him a big thumbs up and a smile, and my chest swelled. Of course I will find you a family!
How can I break that promise now? It happens to us every trip – the hosting staff fall in love with particular children, and then we come home knowing, promising to ourselves: I will find homes for as many children as I can, but I’m not resting until I find a home for this one. He’s my child of today, and tomorrow I will wake up to the same nerves, the same worries. Which child’s eyes will I look into tomorrow, knowing that he or she is the one I can’t leave behind?
A note from the hosting staff at home – if you’re interested in getting matched with a hosting child, you can start your application! Early applications are considered VIP and will get access to the photolisting for a limited time before it is launched publicly. You can also contact us with any questions you may have about the hosting programs.