Around six months ago, I received an email from Susan Baller-Shepard. Susan has an adopted Chinese daughter and was planning to embark on a trip to volunteer in a Beijing orphanage. I asked her to send me a guest post of her experience and she agreed. True to her word, she responded with a suggested entry and some pictures that arrived in my inbox this week. True to mine, I publish it here, in full and unedited:
This is not your usual vacation
Have you ever taken a vacation or holiday to “get away from it all,” and returned to work, still feeling like you never did get away? This is one holiday where you will not only get out of Dodge, but you’ll arrive home with more than just dirty laundry, photos, and souvenirs.
Chances are, you will change on this trip, or something within you will shift, or like the Grinch your heart will grow three sizes, or something. Meaning, you will not return home the same person.
I just had the time of my life spending a week in and around Beijing, volunteering in orphanages. Sure, I am an adoptive mom, with a beautiful daughter from Yangjiang, but half of our group were people who thought helping out in orphanages would make for a meaningful trip.
Along with time spent in various orphanages, there is time for sightseeing and getting to see a country that is changing at the speed of light. We took a cycle rickshaw into a hutong for lunch made by a hutong resident. We visited the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City, the Lama and Confucious Temples, along with the Bell Tower, the Dirt Market, and the Great Wall.
The program I went on works with non-profit orphan care providers in the BORN (Beijing Orphan Resource Network) collaborative. These include such providers as Children’s Hope International, Philip Hayden Foundation, Hope Foster Home, and others, with volunteer experiences specifically tailored to a person or group’s travel plans. You can volunteer for a day, a week, or a month. They adjust to individuals and/or groups or families, and can work with school groups or civic groups as well.
At my computer, I find myself scrolling through my Beijing photos. I look at the faces of the children we met, played with, took on walks, laughed with, fed. It’s not everyone’s dream vacation, but it is one that you will not soon forget. This is a great way to get away from home, to focus on the needs of someone besides yourself for a week, and to enjoy a place that is both ancient and modern. It’s unforgettable. I’d go back again in a heartbeat.
“They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom. “—Confucius, The Confucian Analects
“If a man takes no thought about what is distant, he will find sorrow near at hand.”—Confucius, The Confucian Analects
www.ocdf.org/volunteerchina Our Chinese Daughter’s Foundation “Volunteer China” Program