Jacob and I had the opportunity to go this month on the measuring trip. We left Monday night on an overnight train to the first city in Inner Mongolia. This orphanage, like many, has placed the majority of their 200 kids in foster care, so we drove around the city the whole day visiting about 30+ babies in their foster families. It was a fascinating day… we saw the way “real” Chinese live in a city far from the economic boom China is experiencing. It was a sad day, too, as we saw a lot of intense poverty. It was bitterly cold in Inner Mongolia, and many of the families lived in small brick houses with a blanket for a door and a small coal stove in the middle of the room for heat. They also use what’s called “brick beds” — a bed that basically serves as the vent for the coal stove to the outdoors, but as the exhaust passes under the bed, it heats the top of it. They have a thin cushion on the top and that’s where they sleep… it would just barely keep off the chill. For the most part, the babies were very well cared for and doted on by their foster families (they also wore about 2.5 inches of clothes!). I can’t share pictures due to confidentiality, but the kids were clean, happy, and growing well for the most part. They all had special needs, but their families did a great job caring for them. There were a few very sick babies… in fact, we visited the local Children’s Hospital to measure 4 kids… that was an eye-opening experience. They did not have any of the medical equipment I associate with being in a doctor’s office, not to mention in a hospital, and the hospital rooms were literally only equipped with a bed — that was it. I understand better why it is so imperative to bring sick children to Beijing, where they have excellent hospitals, for medical care.
After catching another overnight train to our next city in Shanxi province, we spent the following morning at the local orphanage measuring kids. The foster families brought the children to the orphanage, so we did not see their homes. It made the process a lot faster for us! The babies in this orphanage were very ill and very small. I think a lot of it had to do with intense environmental pollution. There is a lot of coal production in the area, and it is really unbelievable how bad the pollution is. In fact, this area is known to have higher concentrations of certain birth defects, which can only be a result of pollution as well. The families still doted on the children, but the kids were very, very small… one baby in the project died last month. That’s how serious this situation is… it was pretty sobering to see.
We left that afternoon to come back to Beijing. That train ride was really interesting, as it took us through countryside that we might never be able to see otherwise. (Not all places in China are open to foreigners.) It was through a lot of mountains, and a lot of rural farming area. There were really old houses built into the side of cliffs… It was like another world.
We got back to Beijing about 48 hours after we’d left it, but it felt like we had travelled to another world. In some ways we had… the China you see in Beijing is nothing like the China you see further West. The village where we actually live isn’t really like Beijing, either, but where we visited was even more poor…
Each month more and more children are added to the formula project. If you would be interested in sponsoring formula for these children, please contact me. I can give you directions for how to make contributions directly to this project through our organization. Donations are tax-deductible.