It's all about the people
I like this quote that I found recently on the internet and it made me think about our wonderful staff here at Eagles Wings and in our school Xi Wang Le Yuan. An organisation really is only as good as the people that work within it ... our staff really make a difference.
Over the years, we have had lots of long term 'foreign' volunteers stay with us as house parents and directors. These wonderful volunteers gave up their comforts, their familiar life, their friends and their family and moved to JiaoZuo to work for various lengths of time. They gave much and helped to build up Eagles Wings in the formation years and we are forever grateful for their contribution. In the last few years though, we have come to the realisation that the best managers for our homes and our school are our Chinese staff. Our staff already know the culture, they know the language, they know the 'ins and outs' of all that is Chinese. Many of our staff have been with us for a long time - years and years. They have much wisdom and experience between them. Their job is difficult, but they do it well - with integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage and the like.
Our Eagles Wings Homes cater for between six and nine children of various ages and disabilities, ranging from babies to intellectually impaired and totally dependent young adults. They live in family groups and have two consistent ayis (carers) with them in their homes. As all of our children attend school, the ayis work evenings during the week (they are there in time to help bring them home from school in the afternoons and stay to take the children to school the next morning). They are also there all weekend and over the holiday periods. It is their responsibility to be primary caregivers to our Eaglets in their home environment. They used to be responsible for the cooking (which was fabulous!) in their homes but now the orphanage covers all of our meals, they are more free to be able to spend time with the children at home. They clean, help children to bathe, assist with homework, take them on outings and provide loving care as stand in parents. They love deeply and as Prager says in the quote, "more than anything else, it is about how we treat other people". Our twelve wonderful 'homes' ayis really make a difference.
In our school, we have 19 staff (principal, deputy principal, teachers and teacher aides). They also have a difficult job. Students at Xi Wang Le Yuan come from our Eagles Wings Homes, from local foster families, orphanage children (from 1st - 3rd floors), from New Hope Foster Home (4th Floor) and from local families. The nature of each class is very changeable with fluctuations in numbers occurring often due to illness, adoption, the arrival of new children or movement of children for therapy or treatment in other cities. Our class sizes currently range from 5 - 10 and most classes have a teacher and a teacher aide. Our Deputy Principal Chen Xiao Zhen also teaches a class and our Principal Zhang Ying often steps in to teach if staff are absent. Not all of our teachers have teaching qualifications, in fact some of them have only attended to primary or middle school level themselves, but they have the heart for their job and that is what is most important. They work hard, they love the children in their care and they are amazing when it comes to training time during my visits. During my visits, they are slogged with a regime of daily training after school each evening. These women travel by scooter or bus to work early in the mornings - in time to collect children from the orphanage or their homes by 8am each day. They work all day and return the children to their homes at 5pm. They then go back to their classrooms and clean the floors, the tables and chairs, they prepare for the next day and then come to me for training. My Chinese is not good (hen bu hao) but it is improving. I can understand if the language is clear and slow and I can speak a little more each visit (enough to communicate comfortably with the children, but less confidently with the adults). Most of our staff have little or no English language skills. Training must be tough for them as they listen to me speak in a foreign language and have it translated. The concepts and ideas are foreign, but they jump on board and try them out. They have moved from the traditional rote style teaching method to small group instruction, individualised programs and play based / activity based learning. They have learnt to use equipment that they have never seen before, they have learnt to read books for fun and enjoyment, they have learnt the importance of play and communication, they have learnt about correct positioning, responding to needs, they have learnt about different teaching methods and learning styles ... and they have learnt that their role is vital and we are very very grateful to them. We also have a wonderful lady who works in our Vocational Training area.
One of my favourite ever training photos is this one below of a teacher using a magnifying glass for the very first time ...
Our office staff consist of our directors Xiao Guang and Lou Huan (who the children affectionately call GeGe and JieJie or big brother and big sister), Tai Yu (affectionately known as ShuShu or uncle), Yong Qiang (our logistics officer), Fang Fang (our accountant) and QiuLan (our cashier). They are assisted by BeiBei and JinQiu (two of our eldest Eaglets). These people are responsible for the overall running of Eagles Wings China (within China). They do it "with integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage and the like". They do it with love and with compassion and the world is a better place because of who they are and what they do.
If an organisation is only as good as the people that work within it, then we are very blessed.