Today we started wrapping up our orphanage relief efforts.
With your help, we have purchased and delivered huge amounts of medicines and medical supplies, tents, cribs, cots, bedding, baby formula, diapers, kids clothing and shoes, rice, noodles, cooking oil, water, powdered milk, bowls, cups, towels, mosquito repellent and much, much more. Just as we finalized plans to ship, then to bring in engineers to erect two giant tents to care for hundreds of newly orphaned and displaced children, we got an emergency call from Aba Civil Affairs Bureau.
They are caring for approximately 1,000 displaced children, most of whom are 7-12 years old.
There are over 100 infants. They’d been placing the children in local shelters but had just received news that 70 more children are on the way. There are no more tents and no more beds for them. Further, they urgently need powdered milk and diapers. And they need foods that don’t require cooking as most of their cooking stoves and supplies have been destroyed. They need so much they can’t even give us an estimate.
But then we got news that the road between Chengdu and Aba is simply too dangerous to travel. Nearly 200 people have died in the last few days along these roads due to mudslides caused by the early summer rains. Under these conditions, we just can’t risk the three day drive. We will figure something out.
Next week, we will launch our Sichuan Caregivers Training Project. I am thrilled, honored and very, very excited to tell you that we will work under the guidance of the foremost child trauma and bereavement specialists in the world, the National Center for School Trauma and Bereavement. Comprising an international network of child trauma experts, the Center grew from the tragedy of the Terrorist Attacks of 9/11 and has served as a resource during hurricanes, school shootings, airline disasters and wars. Monday’s two-day workshop will be the start of what will be a long-term project to help children orphaned by the disaster to recover and rebuild their lives.
Stop presses—I’ve got good news! The ministry has agreed to help us get goods to the children of Aba! The Army, which has already helped us in so many ways and proven itself a great friend of the children, will fly in to the remote area with a helicopter as soon as we can load the trucks.
Tomorrow will be a busy day. Now, it’s almost midnight and I’m exhausted. I’ve had two days on the road through a landscape filled with aching sadness, determination along with many, many signs of hope.
First thing Sunday morning, 40 uniformed soldiers arrived at the Chengdu institution to help us load two big army trucks. This time, there was no hitch.
In the afternoon, the Army dropped lifesaving supplies from the sky that reached the 1,000 stranded children of Aba.
Now, we have fulfilled all the last urgent requests for supplies and so move on to the second phase of our efforts for the children.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
It was a Children’s Day with not enough children. For those parents who lost their only child, it was a day of immeasurable anguish. For those families still whole or partially intact, it was a time of sad resolve to get on with the task of rebuilding their lives and the lives of their children. For children who survived but lost a parent, schoolmates, teachers, home, the holiday toys and candies were small comfort. Still, life goes on and the children will slowly begin to heal. They will need help.
Many have lost one or both parents. An estimated 16,000 children were injured. And countless others are struggling to deal emotionally with the horror they have experienced. These are children whose lives were really just beginning—and now must begin again.
Though we have never provided emotional support for children in the wake of a natural disaster, we have, over the last decade, provided that support for 15,000 children living in welfare institutions who have lost their families – delivering such care is the essence of our work.
The day after Children’s Day, we held our first Sichuan Caregiver Training Project Workshop at the Chengdu orphanage, a milestone on that long road toward bringing emotional relief to the children.
While we tried to keep the first two-day workshops small because we wanted time for interactive discussion, it was not possible. The need for caregiver support, including 90 volunteers who’d been working in shelters and the administrators from the two largest shelters in Chengdu, was just too great.
The questions from caregivers and volunteers were challenging.
Do we try to gently tell the children who cling to the hope that their parents are alive that they are instead likely dead? How do we reach children who have shut down, refusing to talk about what they went through, yet screaming in the night from memories too horrible to consider during the day? How do we keep our own sanity as we try to be there for the children? Do we let them see us cry?
Our real work is just beginning.