A four story building sits just inside the gates to the International China Concern compound. Housed inside are the throwaways of Chinese society. Residents of the facility range in age from newborn to adult. It is a “care for life” facility. Sometimes children are adopted from there, but it is rare. Others, those with the most debilitating diseases, are transferred to I.C.C., as slots become available. Life in the government operated Welfare Centre is a sad state of affairs. The facility lacks central air, so the windows are always open, creating a fly breeding ground. Sticky fly papers (traps) sit atop the babies cribs. Those children who are unable to move much become fly landing zones. The children rarely are taken outdoors. The River Stone teams take the kids out in 30 minute shifts hoping to get everyone outside, even the non-walkers, at least once a day. When teams aren’t there though, there is no outside time.
Everyone is fed three times a day. The children who are able to feed themselves occasionally receive snacks from the carers, but the others go without. Our team breakfasts include hard boiled eggs which we save to feed the children at the Welfare Centre, hoping to add some additional nutrition to their diets. The children receive no milk or juice and rarely water. Babies are fed a formula/cereal mix from bottles three times daily. Holding while feeding is a rare occurrence as most babies receive their bottles propped in their cribs. Bottle time is one of my favorites as I get to cuddle with baby Dow Dow. The big kids are fed in groups, three or four children, one bowl, one spoon. Though several of them children are able to feed themselves, they are messy, so the carers prefer to do the feeding themselves.
The Centre has no toys, no sort of stimulation for the children. Some children are placed on mats to “play” but there is nothing for them to do. One of the I.C.C. administrators spends her mornings in the Welfare Centre and has a bag of toys that she brings in and out with her. Sadly, when toys are left they tend to disappear. There are two particularly rough children in the center who have managed to destroy half of the toys brought in just since we arrived. The carers feed and clothe the children, but rarely do they play with them. Our team spends time singing, clapping and interacting hoping to provide stimulation, even if only for a short time.
Hygiene is a big issue. The children wear the same clothes for days on end. We were pleasantly surprised to see most of the children wearing fresh clothes today. I guess Sunday is “clean the clothes” day. Baths, hah! There is no such thing. The centre is equipped only with a shower which makes cleaning the children rather difficult. Even the big kids who can stand on their own are rarely washed. What I could do with a big wash basin and a bottle of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo! There’s no hand/face cleaning after meals. We bring wipes in with us and try to wipe down the messiest of kiddos.
Troublesome children are tied to potty chairs. One little boy, Zhen Zhen, was spending his entire day strapped to a potty chair in the restroom until we came along. I got him out, dressed him and put him in the general population. According to our team lead he was very busy until they started tying him to the potty, now he hunches over with his fingers in his mouth barely walking. We make sure Zhen Zhen gets outside daily. Babies spend most of their lives lying on their backs in the cribs. Several of the babies refuse to eat and the carers seem to overlook them. One baby, who would take water from a bottle when we first tried, now refuses. Today one team member with the help of the nurse managed to feed him water with a dropper. He needs that kind of attention on a daily basis, but sadly it is not available. I cannot think about what will happen to the children who constantly refuse formula or water.
Today’s report is probably tough to read, but it is the reality that the River Stone team members working in the Welfare Centre face on a daily basis and I felt it important to share. Please continue to pray, not only for the team, but for the children housed in this centre, that they would survive to find homes or be transferred to the I.C.C. side where they can receive the type of love and care they need to thrive.