April 2, 2007

Two Tigers

Today I began a volunteer job at an orphanage. Somehow I just didn’t picture all the babies with disabilities. Cleft lips and palates, Down’s syndrome, preemies, they were all strapped into cribs, tearing my heart out with their bright eyes and big smiles. The orphanage was as clean and cheerful as it could be, and I was happy to hear them playing Mozart’s Twinkle Twinkle variations, but there just aren’t enough arms to hold them, let alone families to love them. The adoption rate from this particular orphanage is abysmally low, and I have yet to determine why. Perhaps because of the high percentage of children with special needs.

One tiny sweetie with a shock of fuzzy hair and the spindliest little legs I ever saw, fell asleep in my arms after cooing along to the tune of Frere Jacque. They have their own words to this song in Mandarin, here is the literal translation:

Two tigers, two tigers

Running fast, running fast

One has no ears, one has no tail

Truly strange, truly strange

There were over fifty little tigers in those two small rooms, and over half of them were there because of their “strangeness.” It it made me feel so helpless when I saw their legs curling up from disuse, their eyes hungry for affection.

All I could do was sing them a song, and tell them they were not strange, but beautiful.


15 thoughts on “Two Tigers”

  1. Oh, Lenora – you’re breaking my heart! Bless you for giving of your time and your spirit to care for those kids. What happens to them, I wonder, if they are not adopted? And cleft palate is such a tragedy – because proper diet can prevent it in so many instances, and surgery can easily correct it when it does occur. When I was in the Philippines, we had a team of American plastic surgeons come through annually to perform cleft palate surgeries, and I would go visit the hospital to bring treats and stories for the kids. But these kids had families, and it was easy to believe that their surgery would be life-changing and successful. Kids strapped into cribs, with so little human interaction … gah. You’re making want to hop the next plane to China and bring a few home.

    I wonder if you could use this experience to write some freelance articles, to raise awareness?

  2. Hi Tessa, I only wish I had found this opportunity three months ago when I first moved here. I asked what happens to them and they said that they spend their whole lives at the orphanage (there is a school for older kids, and even a center for the elderly). The volunteer opportunity is only with the babies and toddlers. I wish I could help get them the cleft palate surgery. Maybe there is something I can do. I’ll do my best to find out. Writing articles is a good idea, but I don’t think I should while I’m volunteering there. The management is very wary of the volunteers as it is, and I don’t want to anger them.

  3. Absolutely heart-wrenching! I can’t imagine what it’s like to try to help those poor babies, knowing how the social policy is so completely stacked against them. I wonder, too, how the parents feel? Do they know what sort of “life” they are abandoning their children to? It’s truly tragic that life in such an enormous country has come to this, that parents would rid themselves of one child in hopes of getting a “better” one next time. And that the policy would be such, but that it would be unsupported by education or medical aid to help prevent/correct these things. Argh! Maybe you can write something when you’re back in the states, to increase awareness. Hang in there! (((Hugs)))

  4. That is so heartbreaking. And you obviously have a big heart and a lot of love to give. You are a wonderful person. And this blog gets the word out. I agree, articles will help. How tragic though.

  5. When I think of the money wasted in the world…even the money I personally waste to support my romance-reading habit…let me know if there is a way to donate something to this place. Bless you for your generous heart. There is nothing worse than seeing a helpless, innocent child and knowing the future is hopeless.

  6. When we adopted our two boys from Guatemala, we’d looked into adopting from China, but at the time we were disqualified because we hadn’t been married long enough.

    It is heartbreaking.. .thanks for holding a few of them in your arms and your heart!

  7. Thanks for the comments.

    Kerry & Shelli: I will definitely be writing some articles.

    Maggie & Tessa: I’m attending a meeting on Friday to find out from the other volunteers whether there is a way to make donations or get surgeons to come for the cleft palate surguries.

    Sara & Ericka: Thanks so much for the support.

  8. Oh that is so sad. I love how you applied the song to the children, so true.

    It breaks my heart, I’m glad you’re trying to do what you can while you’re there.

  9. When I was studying in Kunming in 1994 I went a couple of times with a group of other Americans who had set up a weekly visit in an orphanage, but then there was some major article in the US media about the “killing room” at an orphanage elsewhere in China (Shanghai, I seem to remember) and we weren’t allowed to visit our local orphanage anymore. I suppose the international exposure of conditions at orphanages in China probably did some good (I didn’t really follow human rights reports on the issue), but I was sad that the kids at the one in Kunming were deprived of their weekly dose of extra love and attention because of it. I suppose the same thing must have happened all across China at that time.

  10. Thank you, Tessa! I will contact them, that’s great that they are going to China.

    And Huar, I was doing some research and read about that situation and teh consequent crackdown on volunteering in orphanages. It looks like the restrictions have been relaxed now, although we are not allowed to take any photos of course.

  11. Lenora,

    If you can keep me posted. I know someone who seriously wants to adopt. It would be great if they heard about the place you are giving so much of your heart to.

    I am very proud of you and so heart broken for those little babies.

  12. Awww, that makes me so sad! My fiancé and I have been talking about adopting. Not necessarily from China, but in general. A friend of mine adopted from a local orphanage, and another friend has done foster care for years. That’s great that you’re over there helping!

  13. Hi Laurat and Erica,

    I went to the orphanage again today and I really really wanted to take some babies home with me. If you could see their sweet little smiles when you give them even the tiniest amount of affection…it would really break your heart.

    I will contact you, Laurat, with details if you want.

    Thanks for stopping by!


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