We're excited to introduce our latest featured volunteer: Kendra. We sat down to ask Kendra a few questions about her experience volunteering at Little Flower's Beijing Baby Home. Check it out below!
When did you first arrive in China? What were you up to before you came here?
I was working in the United States as a social worker before coming to China at the end of 2012.
How did you get involved with Little Flower?
After moving to China, I wanted to keep doing social work in some way. I heard about Little Flower from sources in the expat community. However, I had never worked in infant care before, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But from my first visit, I really liked the baby home. In the beginning, I would hold babies and spend time with the ones who need some extra time. I quickly found out that babies, especially the tiny preemies, are my favorite.
How often do you volunteer these days?
Since my first visit to the baby home in 2013, I come regularly twice a week. I come every Wednesday morning and Saturday. On Saturdays, my husband comes as well to play with the toddlers.
I am the regular volunteer for preemie room 2. I always sit in the same room. That means that after the babies in my room grow bigger, or are strong enough eventually leave Little Flower, I have no contact with them anymore. But I do follow the Little Flower Facebook page closely to get updates!
What is it like when a baby leaves your room?
It is hard to say goodbye. Whenever a baby leaves my room or goes back to their organization, it's hard to part with them. I can be the first person in the baby’s life that holds them with skin-to-skin contact (also known as kangaroo care). That is something a mother would normally do, and something that is extremely important for a baby’s development.
Another hard thing about working in preemie room 2 is that since some preemies are very fragile and unstable, there is some uncertainty after each visit at the baby home. Will the tiny little preemie I’ve just kangarooed still be there the next time I come?
Did you start working with preemies right away?
After some months of volunteering, the Little Flower staff could see my long-term commitment. I was then allowed to come into contact with preemies. In fact, just before Kate left I also started Kangarooing (see Featured Volunteer: Kate and Kangarooing). I really like kangarooing. One of the reasons I like it so much is because being that close to a baby, I can feel how they develop and how much they grow every week. Up to now, I've probably kangarooed more than ten babies.
Have you learned anything coming here?
During my time here, I have learned a lot. For example, I had no knowledge of anything medical-related. But now I have learned how to read the oximeter and how to monitor the babies.
How do you remember or keep track of all the babies you come in contact with?
To better be able to remember them, I give them all their own English names. Usually, when I’m telling my husband about my experiences, or when I’m praying for a preemie, it helps me to be able to refer to their English name. There are only two babies I call by their Chinese names. The first is Fei, who is the first preemie I kangarooed. The second is Ya, the one I am currently kangarooing. Their Chinese names are quite simple!
Do you have any special memories that stand out from your time here?
One of my most special memories is Grace.
The first time I came to volunteer at the baby home, I was asked to hold a small girl. This girl was in hospice care – she urgently needed a liver transplant, but it was impossible to get a transplantation donor for a liver of that small size. Her face was yellow, and she was very sick. I would hold her, comfort her and try to get her to forget her pain. I would sing the song “amazing grace” to her – and after that, I named her “Grace.”
I did this regularly for over one month. During the time I would hold Grace in her arms, it was great to observe all the other nannies. Everyone did everything they could to care for Grace. Everything was done to decrease her pain and make her as comfortable as possible.
After about one month, I came to the baby home as usual. But little Grace wasn’t there anymore. Though it was heart-breaking, I was very thankful to know Grace had the best possible care during the last weeks of her life.