At the end of my last post I asked the question, "What did we save them FOR?" Now read more to learn about what I will be doing to move closer to answering that question for the older orphans in Hengyang.
My role will be working with three groups of teens and young adults, most over 14:
1) High functioning kids in two (soon to be three) group homes in the local community. These young people need to work on life skills, education and vocational training to continue to move toward independence. Two areas we will be exploring and hoping to develop (in time) would be internship options within local businesses, and a potential small business opportunity, such as a drinks stand, cafe, bakery, shop, etc. In the short term Kristen and I will be building relationships with this group through game nights, baking lessons and developing whatever other talents and interests we discover. We are hoping to rent an apartment in the same complex where these teens live, but there are none available at the moment. Please send good thoughts for this.
2) Young people with more physical and some cognitive challenges who live in group home units inside the ICC facility. These kids are currently doing "sheltered workshop" type activities: jewelry making, bead crafts and note cards. My role will be to work with the youth workers to expand those activities, and target ways to develop self-care and life skills with this group, moving everyone to higher levels of independence according to their abilities. Your thoughts are greatly appreciated as I get to know each young person and discover how to tap into their strengths.
3) The third group are much lower functioning young adults; many have physical needs but it is primarily their cognitive/emotional issues which preclude independent living (although I always say never say never). This group needs a more developed, rounded program of activities which can improve their overall functioning and quality of life. I have a big learning curve in this area -- keep me in your thoughts.
I am really excited to get to know these young people -- that is the first goal. I can't help guide them to their highest potential if I don't know each one as an individual. This is not a one-size-fits-all exercise, and that is possibly the greatest challenge. I know I will need to be sensitive to discover the best way to unlock each person's potential and grace to be patient when progress is slow.
The other priority is to get to know the Chinese staff in charge of these programs and learn how to blend into their team. The objective is always empowering the local staff so my role is not to lead or manage, but to mentor, encourage, help with problem solving, perhaps work together on casting vision, planning, or whatever they feel will help them best meet their goals. Please keep me in your thoughts as I seek to be the best team player I can be.
Are there challenges ahead? I think that's pretty clear! Are these kids worth the effort? Absolutely! Each one is fearfully and wonderfully made and deserves all we can do to give him or her a life worth living. If you want to play a part in the answer as well, click on Join The Team at the bottom of any page.