Meet our six newest Eaglets - HuDong, ZiQi, LanLan, XiangLi, XiaoRui and HaoYu. They are all known to us as they have all been attending school with us at XiWangLeYuan. Now they are home.
Last night was their first night at Eagles Wings. They live with us now on the 10th floor and they don't have to go back to the orphanage after school each day. They are family. Four of the five youngest children were all in our first Little Learner's Class that opened in September last year. HuDong (from fourth floor) was already in our beginners class but moved into our Little Learner's class once that opened. I was with them as they started school and I remember that day well ... five shell shocked little buttons. They had spent their lives until then in a cot on the orphanage floors ... 24/7. Then one day, they came upstairs - they were able to interact with others, move around, crawl, play, laugh, love. They must have been terrified - they came up to a vibrant room full of toys and colours, two wonderful teachers ... it showed on their faces!
Until yesterday, these five children would be collected from the orphanage floors just before school started. They would stay with us from 8 - 11 am each morning and then go back downstairs for lunch and rest time. They would return to us from 2 - 5 pm each afternoon. We have seen an amazing change in these children in those twelve months. Despite a slow start, they have blossomed in the care of our wonderful teachers and are all walking and meeting many developmental milestones. ZiQi is quiet and reserved but loves to have her arms and legs rubbed with moisturiser. She will look up at you with those big eyes and peer into your soul. XiangLi has the most contagious giggle ... she is a little socialite and loves to be part of the action. LanLan is also quiet but has come out of her shell so much in the last twelve months. She loves school and takes everything in. XiaoRui is deaf but just so amazingly clever. She watches everything intently and then demonstrates what she can do. She has a beautiful smile. HuDong is Mr Social. He adores people, he loves cuddles and will happily wrap you up in a hug and expect one back. He spent most of his early life in the care of New Hope Foster Home on fourth floor but was returned to the orphanage earlier this year as his medical condition improved. He was well loved there. This is HuDong when he started school last year.
This is them in their classroom 12 months on ...
Now, they are home.
It will take them time to settle into their new lives as loved family members. All of these children have been chosen for adoption and will eventually go home with their families. Living with us in Eagles Wings will make their transition to daughter / son much easier. They will learn to share with foster siblings and how to be part of a family. They will develop attachments to caregivers and learn how it feels to be loved and wanted. If we can make contact with their families, we can set up Skype sessions for them before they meet their forever families (two of them are already in contact with us) ... this makes "Adoption Day" easier as they have already seen the faces and heard the voices of those who love them.
HaoYu was in our beginner class before he was sent to Beijing earlier this year. He also used to live on fourth floor but was returned to the orphanage when his condition improved. Often when they go to Beijing, we don't see them again. They might go there for therapy or medical assistance. We often don't know the reason. When I visited in September, I saw him on first floor and knew that I recognised him. On asking who he was, I discovered that he had recently returned from Beijing and our school staff hadn't been advised. I'm not sure why he was on the first floor as he is too young to be there ... but that doesn't matter now. We found him again. This is him that day, clutching the legs of my sixteen year old son. He started back in kindergarten the next day.
Now he is an Eaglet ... he doesn't have to go back to the first floor. I'm not sure of his adoption status ... I don't even know if he has paperwork done.
This happy story is bittersweet though ... A hello in Eagles Wings also means a goodbye. Usually the goodbye is through adoption and we farewell an Eaglet and wish them well as they transition into a loving family.
This time we have had to say farewell to four of our loved Eaglets as they return to the orphanage. The decision was not made lightly and has broken us all a little. We still love them (they are Eaglets after all), but they won't live with us anymore. These four precious children have recently made the move to a wonderful new school for the blind called Bethel. Bethel school operates on the third floor and operates different hours to our school. This made it very difficult for us as we don't generally have staff in our homes during our school hours. Unfortunately, we don't have the funds to hire additional ayis to be home for the hour or so each day that they are not at their school. We also don't have the room in our classrooms for the children to join in existing classes after Bethel each day. At Bethel, they receive specific education for visually impaired children. Their teacher/child ratio is excellent and we have seen amazing things happen for our four Eaglets while they have been attending Bethel school. Their worlds have opened up and we are excited for their future with Bethel. After much discussion with all parties, it was decided that the best place for our four visually impaired Eaglets to live is on the third floor. They will still attend Bethel school each day and continue to grow and develop. One of them has adoption paperwork done and is waiting for a family to choose her and take her home. We have been advised that we can still include them in some of our Eagles Wings excursions and events and we are still able to see them and interact with them as much as possible. We are sad to say goodbye. Those of you who know our visually impaired children, you can keep up to date with them at https://www.bethelchina.org
Keep tuned to see how these little guys settle into their new lives at home. We can't wait to see how they fly!