Heart to Heart: Xi’An 2015

We are proud to announce that our first Summer Youth Volunteer Camp was a great success! Lead by Sophie Wang and our wonderful chaperone, Heidi Van Fleet, this 10-day camp in Beijing and Xi’an truly brought life-changing experiences for everyone who participated.

 “Our time volunteering in the orphanage was nothing less than fulfilling.  We were met with open arms from the orphanage staff and felt from the very beginning that we were helping to make a difference.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Volunteer-Heidi

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Drum Tower Xi’An

Sun Travel has been working for many years within the adoption community, their understanding of adoptees’ pasts has led them to develop certain programs that are geared towards their needs. This past summer, Sun Travel was able to create a specialized trip for those interested to return to China and experience not only the place of their birth, but also to spend time volunteering at a Social Welfare Institute. Not only were volunteers able to be exposed to this aspect of the trip, however, they were able to explore the surrounding areas, such as climbing Mt. Hua Shan, (One of the five famous mountains of China), visiting the Muslim markets in Xi’an, climbing the Great Wall, touring the Summer Palace in Beijing, and eating at local restaurants as well. The volunteers involved felt this trip exceeded their expectations and it brought a wealth of experiences they carried home to their friends and family.

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Xi’An Children’s Welfare Institute

When the camp participants first arrived at the Xi’An Children’s Welfare Institute,  (About 600 having a range of special needs) required special training so that the children could receive the best care. The volunteers were assigned to different groups, and were responsible for about 20 babies ranging from newborn-2 year olds who had various special needs. There are only a handful of nannies to take care all of those children, so the level of care to each individual child is very limited. At first this posed a few difficulties, however as their day-to-day routines became more familiar, the volunteers were able to embrace the new schedule, methods of feeding, changing the babies’ diapers, and attending to other important tasks.

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Volunteers with one of the foster mothers and her foster children

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Anna with a sweet baby

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Grace feeding a newborn.

All of the volunteers were determined and ready to take on the challenge upon their arrival to the orphanage bringing with  them their positive attitudes, lots of energy and diligence to work. Not only were they able to experience learning how to care for the children, they were also given opportunity to explore the orphanage on their breaks, where they saw first-hand how certain programs were run, such as the rehabilitation program designed for those children recovering from a surgery and needing extra care to heal. Also the volunteers were able to see how vaccinations were done, so that gave them perspective about certain processes occurring at the Institute. They were also able to witness the arrival of a new baby, in the arms of one of the nannies who traveled to the hospital and brought them to the Institute. The volunteers’ confidence grew as they became acquainted with the nannies and staff. Along with learning, those involved felt a multitude of emotions/feelings when working with the children and staff. It ran the gamut such as feeling reflective, sad, and humble. Additionally speaking, Heidi was a registered nurse, so her expertise to help guide the orphanage staff was helpful in understanding their needs.

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Feeding Time

“It was very rewarding to be part of the children’s happiness every single day, while enjoying the best of China in my time here!”                                              Volunteer-Anna

Anna and Grace were also able to document their experiences, and also help out an adoptive family by interacting with their soon-to-be-son so that they could have a little memento of his time there. They were also able to visit several foster families who lived in the same building. These foster families were granted special permission by the orphanage program to care for about four children or so and giving them the necessary tools and resources so that they can thrive. These foster families were able to send the children to a special school that would support the needs of the children.

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Lounging around

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Pre-nap ritual

“As an adoptee from China going back to volunteer at the orphanage was a wonderful experience. I highly recommend this trip for anyone one who has been adopted from China. Caring for the children was so much fun and the staff was very nice too.”                                      Volunteer-Grace 

By the end of the week, all the volunteers, staff and children developed a special bond making it hard to say good-bye. The fond memories each volunteer carries close to their hearts, the relationships they cultivated with the staff and the children they were able to embrace will signify the dedication and patience to work at a unique home. As a way to indicate each volunteer’s efforts each one received a Certification of Completion recognizing their hard work during that week. It was a truly rewarding time abroad! 

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Gan Bei 干杯! Cheers for a new friendship

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Old friends reunite

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Farewell!

“I have been to so many orphanages for the past years however this was the first time I was able to feel peaceful and joyful being there without any distractions. I observed the children’s growth, and spending the week with them allowed me to be fully engaged with the babies/children. This made my heart full. It was wonderful to see that the babies recognized me and the other volunteers after only a few days. I felt humbled by this experience, and hope to return with my daughter in the future.                            Volunteer-Sophie  

If you’re interested, this will be offered in the Summer of 2016. Feel free to check out our website, www.suntravelusa.net. If you know of anyone who’d like to join, please pass the word along! Thank you! 

-By Ming Foxweldon

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