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Monday, December 31, 2012

Sunday, December 30, 2012

First Round of Coats & Christmas 4 Kids Photos!

Check out the first photos from our Coats Campaign! So far, these include photos from Yulin and Desheng, Guangxi, and we look forward to sharing more photos as they come in! Doesn't it look like they are having fun?

Sunday Snapshot: Lily

Meet Lily, from Rongxian. She is eighteen months old, and just recently tasted birthday cake for the first time at a family member's birthday party. Her foster family dotes on her, and people love to give her gifts and play with her. Isn't she just adorable?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday's Follow-Up

Yesterday's Wordless Wednesday post highlighted this sweet boy.

Today, we wanted to share the story behind the photo. The boy in the picture is Peter, from Guangxi, and the photo was taken last April, on the annual board trip. Peter cannot walk, and doesn't have a wheel chair, but he loves to read with a passion. So, Curt, one of the GHC board members, put Peter on his back and carried him through the books store so that he could shop for books. It was a wonderful time for Peter and for the board members traveling in China. Pater is an amazing young man who is a blessing to all those who meet him.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Embodiment of Hope

We are delighted to welcome Erin Raffety as our guest blogger for our Christmas message from Grace & Hope. Erin holds a B.A. in Anthropology from Davidson College, an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, and is certified to receive a call with the Presbyterian Church (USA). She is a Ph.D. Candidate in Anthropology at Princeton University, where her interests include kinship, foster care, and domestic adoption in China, and theology and anthropology. She has worked in Asia, along the US-Mexico border and Puerto Rico, and in Washington, DC on international poverty and hunger with Bread for the World and The ONE Campaign. Erin recently returned from conducting her dissertation fieldwork in Southwest China, and lives in Princeton, New Jersey with her husband, Evan. Erin can be reached via her blog, Little Sacred Space. As someone who has been intimately connected to the work of Grace & Hope, she offers a unique perspective this Christmas season.

Farmers on the outskirts of Nanning’s modern skyscrapers in the Guangxi Autonomous Region. All photos by Evan Schneider.

Nearly three and a half years ago I came to China hoping to do dissertation research with foster families. I remember vividly the first few moments in the Nanning airport, where my halting Mandarin got a pungent taste of Southwest Guangxi’s linguistic plurality and thick Southern accents (yep, there are Southern accents in China, too!). I remember not only this cacophony of languages upon touching down in Nanning, but also the pervasive smell of mildew, the sea of e-bikes stretching across the broad avenues, and my first forays through neighborhood markets searching for foster mothers alongside a friend who swore they could be found.

I met not a single foster mother that first summer. Instead, I met many people, all Chinese, who told me, emphatically, that they did not exist. Our research design is open-ended in anthropology, meaning that we spend a lot of time in the places where we study and live, and we often expect even the topic of our research to change along the way. People who I met in Guangxi apologized obsessively for the “backwardness” of their region, and urged me to go somewhere of real importance in China. Chinese professors of anthropology wondered why I wanted to study foster mothers, rather than the Zhuang minority culture, for which Guangxi is famous.

But oddly, for some reason, it never occurred to me to abandon the project. I had this strange, absurd, yet resilient hope that foster mothers were out there somewhere, and that they were worth studying and worth knowing. So my husband and I moved to Nanning the following summer, on a wing and a prayer. And then finally, in March of 2011 in an unassuming concrete office, buried in the middle of the city, and through a roundabout network of friends and acquaintances, I was introduced to a small NGO staff who told me they supported hundreds of families in Nanning and thousands outside of the province who took orphaned and abandoned children into their homes. Their name was Grace & Hope. That April, in a nearby city orphanage, an elderly woman with a kind smile told me how she’d started foster care projects in Guangxi in the early 1990s out of necessity, poverty, and concern. Guangxi, it turned out, despite the naysayers, and in no small part due to Grace & Hope, was at the center of a disperse, yet expansive foster care movement.

The author with members of the staff of Grace and Hope for Children in China.

When you’re sitting in classrooms and carrels imagining anthropological fieldwork, you can only think in systems and power and theories. It was no different for me, and when it came to contemporary China, I conjured a sophisticated state, modern cities, and rapid social change. But instead what I found is time nearly standing still in the cinder-block homes of foster families, whether they lived in the capital city or off the rice paddies between mountains where people plowed with oxen, a rickety tool, and their own two hands.

I discovered the literature on families and family life in China hardly prepared me for the sudden expressions of emotion I encountered inside foster families’ homes—the their pain, their joy, and how they clung to me briefly and then even physically pushed me away, so taboo were these moments in a typically reserved culture. So powerful and yet fleeting were these displays of emotion that I often wondered whether I imagined them, or if they did occur, what it was that elicited such rawness, such intimacy.

The author with a foster family in Nanning.

I gradually understood that my time with families felt so saturated with emotion, because emotion is the work of foster parents. Their emotion, their love, their care, such precious gifts, are on loan to children who come to live in their homes for often brief periods of time, but who remain in their hearts and their memories. Whenever I would walk into a village or a courtyard, foster parents would crowd around me with photos of foster children they had raised and who had been adopted abroad. They not only inquired about their whereabouts, desperate to know that these children had grown up beautiful and loved, but they relished the opportunity to tell their stories, to speak of each precious child by name, often remarking that those who were the “most difficult,” either because of their disabilities or behavioral problems, were those most cherished in the end.

When I would thank these parents, whose backs had grown curved, their hands withered over the many years of rearing children who are not their own, they would shoo me away with flippant gestures, downcast eyes, and polite words. But while their concrete highrises or country homes are not much to look at, I’ve come to believe that they are the embodiment of hope. Most obviously for abandoned and disabled children, they provide love, care, and bright hope of a future that includes all of these. But for the surrounding communities, for all those who doubt the value of disabled kids, who see only their limitations, they bring good news. While others say these children can’t walk, talk, or learn, the foster moms, intimately attuned to the rhythm of the kids’ daily lives, excitedly point to the milestones only a doting parent could see. Perhaps the greatest hope they bring, not only to the kids, or their neighbors, but to China, is the gift of open eyes, open ears, and open hearts.

Foster parents encourage foster kids at Grace and Hope picnic in Nanning, April 2011.

This season, as we consider the birth of the Christ child, of Mary and Joseph’s willingness to accept their fate in humility, I can’t help but think of these parents and children in China. I will think of how my own journey is now inexplicably tied to theirs, my own eyes, ears, and heart have been opened because of the ways that they serve. I will think of how, much as God fills all of us with heightened expectation and hope and joy this season, how their gifts of love and care, and the work of Grace and Hope in China, have brought hope and joy to so many. I will pray for the staff of Grace and Hope in China, that their long days and fervent efforts on behalf of these children and these families, will be received with open eyes, ears, and hearts. I will pray for the moms who have just let a child go to be adopted to a new home, for their faith, their sacrifice, and their pain. I will pray for the moms who welcome a new child into their homes, though they know not what to expect, or even how to care for children with disabilities and special needs.

A foster mom in Guangxi.

But mostly, I will praise God for hope, in the most unlikely places. I will praise God for the awe that each of us feels when we hold a child, a child who God has fearfully and wonderfully made, and for the savior that came to us in such a humble state. This Christmas, for these mothers in a faraway land who hold children with loving arms and who in so doing share this good news, please join with me in giving God honor and praise.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Coats & Christmas 4 Kids - We Did It!

This sweet little man is Will from Pingdingshan. His coat, seen here, is our 'first coat of Christmas!' We are SO very happy to announce that as of this morning, we have met our goal for the Coats & Christmas 4 Kids Campaign, which means that the 385 children in a GHC program will all have a new coat and a Christmas party this winter. If you notice- the number is higher than our original goal, because we found out just this week, as our staff is in Henan province, that we are now able to partner with Sanmenxia to expand the number of children they are able to place into foster care. As a result, we now have five more kids in our program!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all who have donated and helped us spread the word about this project. We are so happy that our kids will be warm and have a bit of extra love this Christmas. Be on the lookout for photos as the coats and parties begin to happen!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Program Spotlight: Qinzhou

Since Grace & Hope started its work with the Guangxi SWI of Qinzhou in November of 2005, over 186 children have been a part of our foster care program there. Currently, 33 children are being served by this program.

We would love to add Scott to our Qinzhou program. Could you be his sponsor?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday Snapshot: Kathryn

Meet Kathryn, from Huangmei in Hubei Province.

Nine year old Kathryn has just started attending a local specialized school from Monday through Friday, with the goal of helping her improve her independent living skills.

At her last visit with the Grace & Hope staff person, she introduced herself and smiled when she was told she had a beautiful name. She is excited about all that she is learning in school.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Program Spotlight Fuyang

Fuyang, in the Anhui provice, has 28 children in our program. The vast majority of the children served by the program here have special needs. The orphanage deputy director and foster parents have said that since the Grace & Hope program started at Fuyang, they have seen huge changes in the children, who have become very attached to their foster families, and have learned to play with others, eat, walk, talk, and generally live the kind of life that a child should expect within a family. The Fuyang SWI truly wants to place more children in foster care, so we are working with them to encourage the finding and training of more foster families.

Sweet Amity from Fuyang is waiting for a sponsor in Fuyang. Click here for more information on how to help her join the other children in our program there.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

New Project: Coats & Christmas 4 Kids

We are very excited to announce a new special project, just in time for Christmas!

At this time, we have 380 children being served by Grace & Hope programs. Especially this time of year, we would like to do something special for each of them. To that end, we are working to raise money to purchase a new coat and provide a Christmas party for each child in our programs, at a cost of $15 per child.

If you would like to participate in this venture by purchasing "Coats & Christmas" for one (or more!) of our precious children, please click the link below to contribute.

If you prefer to mail a check, send us your email address, and please indicate Coats & Christmas 4 Kids on the memo line, and mail to:

465 N.E. 181st #210
Portland, OR 97230

Within 48 hours of your donation, you will receive a holiday card via email (suitable for printing or email) that you may keep for yourself or give as a gift this holiday season, in honor of the children we serve. Our deadline for participation is December 21, so please act soon!

Thank you for supporting the work of Grace & Hope!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday Snapshot

Meet Susan, a talkative three year old from Hepu SWI in Guangxi. When our GHC staff person visited her recently, Susan opened the door to greet her, and stood close by her foster mother for the whole visit. According to her foster mother, Susan is a good little helper, following her foster mom everywhere. She enjoys 'reading' books by babbling. This little one is obviously thriving in the care of a devoted foster mom!