Fang Lee is interning for LWB this summer in China. This is one of her reports she sent from her visit to the Changzhi orphanage in Shanxi province.
Greetings from Shanxi and LWB’s Changzhi Believe in Me School! For the first few visits while I was here, I observed the teachers and the classroom environment in order to get a better understanding of the place and its children. The three teachers in the orphanage are some of the smartest, most caring teachers I’ve ever met. Last year, I met them at the teacher training camp LWB held in Huainan. We all remembered each other, and our friendship was instantly rekindled when they picked me up from the airport. The three teachers all work together to create a truly nurturing, loving, and clean environment for the kids. Many of the kids struggle with severe disabilities, but the teachers make sure to adapt the curriculum to the children’s needs. I am really blown away by the dedication of the teachers here.
For today’s training, I teach them how to make paper houses, puzzles out of paper, and other “shou gong” things (handmade things). They appreciate the ideas because they are simple and very interactive. When I teach my “paper house” unit, I make sure to tell the teachers that they need to emphasize the difference between a “house” and a “home”. We talk about the differences out loud with each other and finally decide that a house is composed of material things like walls, a roof, windows, and a door, whereas a home is composed of a family, all its members, pets, and the feelings of security & love that can be felt in a home. The teachers say that they believe it’s important to talk about these subjects of home and family with the kids, however confusing or painful, because they want the children to be able to adjust to their potential adoptive families and to society in general. They told me that “just because you don’t have something (a family) doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to understand it”. Agreed.
One of the favorite activities among the teachers were the simple yoga poses I taught them (to teach the kids). They liked the idea of engaging the kids physically in order to calm the children and bring them back into focus! When we tried yoga on the kids, the children all giggled and wobbled their way through our instructions, but seemed to quite enjoy the experience of having to focus, balance, and listen to the teacher all at the same time.
What I was most surprised about during my visit and teacher training in Changzhi was how well equipped the teachers already were. They greatly benefited from previous LWB teacher training camps and really took most of the things they learned during the camps to heart. They kept asking me when the next training camp was!
What I will miss most about Changzhi, other than the teachers and kids, are the meals I had at the orphanage. I have to say, orphanage food has greatly improved since I lived in one! I loved having a simple meal of rice and veggies (and some meat) with the kids everyday at lunch. I will miss their laughter, small food fights (actually, I probably won’t miss that so much), and them trying to figure out which planet I had come from.
Before I left, one of the kids who was sweeping the classroom floors waved to me and said, “We’re always happy to have you here, Teacher Fang! Please come back soon!”. Wow, way to make me cry on my last day. But what a way to kick off my China time!