So here is the lowdown on our first trip of last week, right before the trip to Shanghai. Sorry for being out of sequence, but sometimes that's how my mind works.
The quick background story is that this particular city and program were not even on my radar. I knew of the organization very vaguely but had no idea of an older kid program until meeting a nurse in Thailand at our conference who volunteers with this organization. When I talked about my plans to work with older teens, she filled me in on the program at an orphanage in her city. It sounded like an option worth checking out so I contacted them when I got home. So fast forward several weeks and emails and phone calls back and forth, and we arranged for me to come and visit last week.
We spent four days in this city so we could explore a little bit -- see Part 1B for more on that. But, of course, the main focus of the trip was to visit the orphanage program and find out what the local NGO was doing for older teens and young adults. While I met with them for the day, Kristen visited the local (very small) international school. I can honestly say that of all the programs I have explored this one has a vision which most clearly matches the one I have carried with me for several years now: to actively move youth who have spent their lives in an institution toward independence in the local community. It was really quite inspiring to hear my own vision come from the mouth of the local director, including an acute understanding of the barriers, both within the youth themselves and from the community.
In summary, this program is housed within a state-run care facility and the staff are managed by that entity. However, the idea for the program as well as the structure and the components were created by an NGO that works closely with the facility. The purpose is to give young adults, most with physical disabilities and some with emotional or cognitive impairments, a safe and separate living accommodation from the rest of the institutionalized adult population. The goal is to provide PT, life skills training, vocational opportunities and special education that will lead to most of the participants being able to hold down a job and live independently in the community. Those who are not able to function fully independently would be encouraged to do as much self-care as possible and provided some productive work opportunities inside the facility.
We talked for several hours about the program, their goals, the current situation, the young people in the program, their staff needs and what role I might fill. Then I had the opportunity to very briefly tour the facility where the program is housed. For various reasons I was not able to interact with the teens. I think this was unfortunate because it did leave me with a bit of a disconnect with who they are as people, a connection that I have felt at other places that I visited and which I think is very helpful in making such a big decision. However, seeing the facility and asking more questions gave me an even better perspective on the current situation and some of the needs and challenges. I’ll admit that, on the one hand, these are pretty daunting, but, on the other, I felt that my experience and abilities are an even better match than I may have first thought.
So where do we go from here? At this point there are two programs under serious consideration, and it is really up to the organizations to make the next move and ask us to become a part of their team, or not. I am in discussions with both and hope that either one or both will invite us onboard in the next couple of weeks. Kristen and I would really appreciate your prayers as this process hopefully comes to an exciting conclusion very soon.
About This Blog
Part documentary, part family chronicle and part personal reflection as I try to sort through the ups and downs, the joys, heartaches and surprises of our life and work as we follow the path that God has set for us here in China!
Kristen to continue to adjust to college life and find good friends.
Donna to have wisdom in planning and implementing new programs for the youth and for financial provision to cover our expenses.