onesky/cci 2018 trip official blog
Meet our Adoptee Facilitators Summer 2018
Jenna Kane has put together this wonderful blog and video for her experience on the 2018 OneSky / China’s Children International Adoptee Summer Volunteer Trip.
We have arrived
For nearly all of us this is our first time returning to China since our adoption and for many, a first glimpse into the world of adoption. I didn’t know this until later in the trip but many of the volunteers hadn’t heard about Onesky and this summer trip until quite recently. For many of the girls this was an opportunity to return with a purpose. No amount of video calls, volunteer packets, or FB posts could have prepared us for China or the amazing experiences that lie ahead.
Visa check, tickets purchased, waivers signed, and a whole lot of emails and video calls later we’re on a 13 hour plane to Beijing China. The landscape, people, sky, unfamiliar signs and symbols are all surreal. Nearly everyone including myself had never revisited China which made all our first experiences that much more impressionable. It all sinks in during our forty minute car ride to the hotel. When we arrive at the hotel we are greeted by Karen and Louis, our wonderful Beijing hosts. Soon after everyone’s arrival we walk to our first Chinese restaurant of the trip. Our trip begins with a large sampling of Beijing cuisine displayed on what looks like the world’s largest lazy suzan and short introductions: age, Chinese province you’re from, year in school. For me, the trip began with a careful formality that, as all of the volunteers witnessed, devolved into a friendship and community that will last long after our days in China. And after we finish our welcome feast we head back to the hotel, tired and worn out, but ready for the adventure to come.
One Sky’s adoption volunteer program gives adoptees a very rare opportunity to not only reconnect with our roots but also to truly bond with our community. Many adoptees go into this program to with the purpose to see the land they’ve come from or make a difference and to “return with a purpose.” After our visit to the incredible Tianjin orphanage we made our way back to Queen Suu’s vegetarian restaurant when Louis, one of the Beijing facilitators asked, “what stereotypes do Americans have on Chinese people?” This led to a lengthy debunking discussion about American and Chinese stereotypes. The dialogue reminded me that this trip is unbelievably bigger and more impactful than I had originally imagined. When discussing this with our Beijing hosts, everyone was learning more and more about the politics, culture, people, and misconceptions of one another’s countries. Naturally, this led to such a meaningful conversation about adoption for both facilitators and volunteers. I learned that Sydney, our senior volunteer, had worked with Holt International Adoption Agency and how that’s impacted her relationship with adoption. The conversation then detoured from birthparent inquiries to our future with adoption, and we even touched on struggles concerning adoptee identity. Together we shared ideas and concerns about what it means to be an adopted vs biological child and how the former impacts our trip experience. I am certain that my history with adoption has given tremendous meaning to our trip. One of the highlights made prior to the trip was that this was a journey ‘for adoptees by adoptees.’ Though I‘ve never talked in depth about my adoptee experience with anyone outside of the community before, I am forever grateful Louis and Karen gave us that opportunity. Being able to have that conversation with people who really cared and wanted to listen to our story has meant a great deal.
Thank you Karen and Louis
Leaving blog post
On our 2 hour journey to the Great Wall and only two days left I was left constantly thinking about China’s children. How can we continue to truly make an impact and fight for those kids as well as the kids back home. My experience with college participation and interest has left a deep and concerning impression. During one of our lunch breaks one of the volunteers, Jamey, had told me about a volunteer trip she went on in an impoverished South American country where money was scarce but kindness abundant. We started talking about how there are so many issues in the world, how can we possibly fix them all, how do we make people care. But learning more and more about Onesky, the Care Home, and the people who work and advocate for these children has shown me that if you care so deeply for a cause you can transform an entire system, a whole country, and generations to come.
Our care home experience began quite tentatively. A lot of us had never been around this many infants and young children let alone medically fragile ones. I think for many of us, as Sara had mentioned in the interview, we were slightly “scared to touch them or hurt them.” And many of the children were nervous around our foreign faces and smells. But by the second visit we were all beginning to warm up to one another. We began to use our new vocab phrases that we had learned during day 1 of discussion and asked them things like, what is this and what’s your name, in mandarin. As we gained confidence and comfort we readily held, hugged, made silly noises and faces to appease any upset faces. And then something amazing happened after our third and fourth visits, the kids began recognizing us and both children and volunteers forged special bonds. On our last walk to the Care Home I had asked a few of the volunteers if they felt like this trip made a difference in their lives. Sydney had responded, “they’ll forget us but we’ll never forget them.” Even though
Jillian, Marnie, and Sara played with an older boy, nicknamed Todd, with a physical disability that left him without forearms or hands. He’s one of the smartest, most inquisitive kid I’ve ever met. Colorful blocks and noisy toys didnt interest him much so when they learned he had an interest for the less conventional objects like watches, Jillian bought him one. He was so excited by the new present he would walk around the entire upstairs to show everyone his brand new present. Amy, Catherine and Grace worked with kids in the preschool nicknamed Paul and Catherine (I forget why they nicknamed her after our very own Catherine) would constantly run and visit all the rooms leaving their jiejies (older sisters-volunteers) tired and out of breath. Jamey, Janelle, and I spent most of our time with an energetic group of toddlers. Janelle’s little boy, again nicknamed Felix, was always ready to learn English and loved looking out the window to say hello to the construction workers next door. Every single day (except one), Jamey’s little girl never failed to make us smile with the widest grin and the most wobbly waddle I have ever seen. Izzy and Sydney were brave enough to play with all 7 plus babies on most days while Hannah and Carolina often meandered from room to room getting to know all the different children at the Care Home.
This trip, all of the volunteers, the children, our hosts, everything felt just right (minus the heat). There are some experiences like going to summer culture camp, or running a marathon where afterwardsyou think, ‘I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life.’ This trip was different for me. I had that same feeling during this trip; I didn’t know how it might change my perceptions or identity but I knew it was going to change my life. I’ve sprinkled many thank you notes pre, during, and post trip but I really can’t put into words the gratitude I want to share with everyone who made this trip what it was for us and what it will be for future volunteers. So if I could say something “to the people who helped make this institution (CCCH), Onesky, made china’s welfare institutions better in general” I honestly still don’t know what to say. Thank you on an unimaginable level for nurturing and inspiring children everywhere. And to all my friends from the trip, I’m sorry my handwriting is disgusting. I just wanted to say basically all the wonderful things you guys said in the video interview, our loooong ‘Louis walks’, and many interesting dinners. I enjoyed every minute of our trip (there were a few seconds that I could have done without like the trek up the Great Wall and Gwen puking on me) but I cherished every single moment together.