2021 May Heartbeat
World Vision has a Field Day
We recently hosted 20 children with disabilities, along with their parents for a World Vision Field Day at Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village (SFCV), giving them some much-needed ‘outdoor therapy.’ The children had fun digging in the dirt, and planting colorful flowers in the raised garden beds outside of the greenhouse. They filled the playground with their laughter and shrieks of glee – climbing everything, chasing each other and just sitting around. Therapy teachers led them in several exciting games, and at noon they all shared a barbecue lunch. It was a perfect day! A special shout-out to World Vision for giving us such an awesome time.
Hector Enjoys a Spring Outing
Hector has grown a lot – he’ll be 14 by the end of the year, and he’s starting to enjoy new things, like music. He has a new teacher who really cares about him, who’s been teaching him how to play the electric piano. Being the little ham that he is, he’s really taken to it – and he already knows how to play three simple tunes!
This weekend, Hector and his friends went out to a local park for their first spring outing. It was a beautiful day, and a welcome break for everyone – they were so happy to just go out somewhere and have fun. I think most of us can relate to how difficult it is to be confined at home during Covid – it’s been hard on everyone’s overall mental health. How much more for these precious kids with their added special needs? On this day, however, the sunshine and fresh air lifted their spirits and gave them hope.
Mental Health Month Brings Awareness
May is Mental Health Month, and hard life experiences (trauma) can be part of lifelong mental health issues. Individual responses to trauma can vary from person to person. For young children, the typical response is feeling too much (overwhelmed) or too little (numbed). Strong emotions like anger, anxiety, sadness and shame are particularly difficult for children to understand and navigate.
Sadly, most orphans in China have had experiences that result in trauma. These include neglect, loss of primary caregivers, instability in living situations, disabilities and loss of security. According to the National Institute of Health, trauma is the response to a deeply distressing event (hard life experience) that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, diminishes their sense of self and their ability to feel a full range of emotions and experiences.
What is Trauma?
Trauma can result in emotional, physical, cognitive and biological changes – but not every child responds the same way. And while we can’t change past experiences, we can teach healthy ways to cope with the aftereffects. One simple way we implemented this at the Philip Hayden Foundation (PHF) was by learning to identify and label emotions. We helped children understand that emotions affect how our bodies feel. In addition, the Bright Stars Therapy Team at PHF has been trained in TBRI – Trust Based Relational Intervention – and has taught the principles to caregivers in other orphanages.
Teaching Emotional Awareness
The term self-regulation is often referred to when describing how to process big emotions. But what is self-regulation? One child describes it like this, “It is the ability to calm yourself by yourself.” Katie Thornton has a short article on regulating emotions on the Texas Christian University blog that is useful for any caregiver and child to increase awareness about emotions. She says there are three simple questions to ask a child: How does your body feel right now? What strategy can I use to calm down (or wake up, refocus)? How will my body feel after I use this strategy? Remember that children will need an adult to help with this process because big emotions can be overwhelming and scary!
And if you have adopted a child or you are interested in more resources, check out Show Hope. The adoption journey doesn’t end on the day a child is welcomed home. It is just the beginning of a beautiful story.
Laughter Fosters Communication
I was privileged to be at Shepherd’s Field Children Village the summer of 2018 for 3 and a half weeks. I remember being both anxious and excited when getting on my 17-hour flight to Beijing. When I stepped off of my flight, I did not know the wonders that SFCV held. One of my favorite parts was going into each home and meeting the family of children and nannies it had inside. Some children had been at SFCV since they were babies together. Their bond was strong and something you wanted to be a part of as soon as you sat down next to them.
I knew from the start that more than one of these wonderful children were going to steal a bit of my heart, and they sure did. Unfortunately, I am a native English speaker and was not able to talk that well with the staff and children. But we figured out ways to get to know each other. Playing and laughing with the kids was the most powerful form of communication, it showed that we were there for them. I miss every single one of those children and know that any family who adopts a child is tremendously blessed. Each child is complex and wonderfully made. I am still so grateful to have gotten to know them during my short stay at SFCV.
At first, I felt like I was intruding, but the welcoming spirit the nannies and staff had for us was overwhelming. We were there to help them empower and enjoy their children, and they gladly accepted that. I was in awe of the love that the nannies had for all the children. The care for each child ran deeper than just being there for a job. I loved seeing the support that everyone there gave to give the children there a beautiful and full life. People of all giftings and abilities came together to work as a team, as a family to empower and support these resilient children, who have lived through harder things than most people ever will as an adult. Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village is a slice of heaven on earth.
MAA Showcases Two New Stars
Seth is Friendly
Madison Adoption Associates (MAA) want to introduce you to one of our favorites – Seth! He’s a handsome and smart little guy, born in December 2009, with a right inguinal hernia. Independent and well-rounded, Seth likes making friends, playing outdoors with the other children and definitely eating! He’s said to be a real ‘foodie’! Seth also has a lot of hobbies, like running, jumping, riding a bicycle or scooter, doing handcrafts, puzzles and more. He loves to read, and his favorite books right now are the Harry Potter series.
He can speak a small amount of English, and he does very well academically, too. Last year, Seth got a 100 in math and 98 in Chinese on his mid-term exam, and a 100 in math and in Chinese on the final exam! He also has a spirit of exploration, a good sense of humor, loves cultural and artistic performances, and is a great dancer! Seth can’t wait to be adopted, and we are here to help him make that dream come true.
Liviah Spreads Joy
Did we say she’s active? She’s now able to ask for help, express her needs and respond to simple questions.She enjoys going to therapy and learning about facial features, playing a clapping game and imitating sign language. She also likes to ride scooters, explore and take walks, build block towers, listen to Opera music, and match shapes in puzzles. We want to help Liviah find a Forever Family who will play opera music whenever she wants, so we can all see that smile! You can help by contacting [email protected] today.
Next, we have – Liviah! This adorable girl was born in August 2016, and is an active, cheerful, clever little girl who’s loved by everyone around her. Liviah was born with Down syndrome, including some congenital heart defects. In September 2018, she had surgery to repair these defects, and her caretakers say that Liviah’s communication and cognitive development has progressed well since coming into care. They say she’s fallen in love with ‘painting’ and ‘going to the theater,’ and is crazy about dancing. In fact, whenever she sees a cell phone, she gets excited and automatically starts dancing!
If you or someone you know wants to adopt a child mentioned in this newsletter, please contact us at [email protected]. Contact Madison Adoption Associates for more information on adopting Graham, Seth, or Liviah!
Graham Waits to Hear from You
May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, a great time to learn more about coping with hearing and/or speech loss. First, a key part of a person’s well-being is to understand and be understood, which is difficult for people like 9-year-old Graham, one of our PHF kids. He’s a great example of someone who had hearing loss and did not speak. Then your contributions helped change his life at the age of five. Graham was fitted for a hearing aid, and when he received his assistive device and it was turned on, his behavior immediately changed. He became calm, was more attentive, stopped making unintentional sounds, and began to respond to prompts. Thankfully, your donations that made this new device possible for him.
Graham had new opportunities to express himself, including using a picture exchange system. He also learned some sign language with our Bright Stars Therapy Team, although he would rather be on the move. A new world has opened up to this excited little boy!
Graham Gives Sweet Hugs
Word is, he’s also quite the busy body! Graham likes toys, but can be very particular in his choosing. Blocks and puzzles are his favorites at the moment. He’ll often cling onto you and give loads of the sweetest little hugs. He’ll become very attached to certain people, even if it takes a moment before he warms up. Graham has some hearing, and according to his orphanage he can follow simple directions. He also has congenital heart defects.
You can see Graham’s life change again, by helping us find a Forever Family for him, one that can help him grow and communicate. Most importantly, to help him understand that he is loved. Will you help us find sweet Graham a family who can love and support him as he grows?
If you or someone you know wants to adopt a child mentioned in this newsletter, please contact us at [email protected].