Friday, March 1, 2024

Created to Love and Connect

Recently we introduced our Made for Love project and explained the background about why we began this initiative and what we are doing.  Now we would like to give you a little glimpse into our goals and the philosophies that guide our work.

The most important principle that guides our work is the belief that children are created to love and connect.  Everyone knows that children need adequate nutrition, clothing, medical care and shelter.  Yet even when these are not lacking, we still see the terribly harmful effects of institutionalization. 

 Numerous evidence-based studies have demonstrated the crucial role that nurturing relationships play in determining both physical and emotional well-being during infancy and beyond. Indeed, human beings are born with intense needs for love, care,  and connection.  These are essential to a child's healthy brain development.  


We believe that meeting these emotional needs is every bit as important as meeting the child's physical needs.  This is true, perhaps especially true, for children who have been diagnosed with physical and intellectual disabilities.  Not only does scientific research prove this, we have seen with our own eyes - children's lives are literally transformed when their emotional needs for love and connection are being met. 


But, how do we help children who have become separated from their families? It is not within the scope of our work to facilitate birth family reunification or adoption placements.  What we can do is to provide nurturing relationships and a rich and supportive environment for the children in our care - starting as early as possible. 


In our work, we strive to support children in forming meaningful and stable connections with caregivers, group home parents, and early childhood classroom teachers. These important adults play a critical role in meeting children’s emotional needs and fostering healthy attachments. By offering love, consistency, and responsive care, we can help children feel safe, treasured, and capable of forming trusting relationships.



It is also important that the children in our care enjoy meaningful and joyful relationships with peers and siblings. What a blessing it is to have someone to play with, sometimes fight with, and grow up together with!



What is equally important for children in institutional-care settings is to be able to participate in a supportive environment which is rich in cultural and social activities. The outside world is brought to the children through well-planned everyday life and educational activities. We do our best to create a nurturing environment where children feel accepted, valued, and supported, where they learn to understand the world they live in, love themselves and the people around them.



Children are made for love.  Love and a sense of value and belonging are among the greatest gifts we can offer them!




Saturday, February 24, 2024

Making YuanXiao

 

The Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday of the year in China, and the festivities traditionally end on the 15th day of the new year with Lantern Festival.   Lantern Festival is sometimes called YuanXiao Festival, because yuanxiao are eaten on that day.  In some areas of China these are called tangyuan (often in the south).  Regardless of what you call them, they are a special treat made from glutinous rice flour, often with sweet fillings that can be made of red beans, peanut or sesame.  Yuanxiao are boiled and served in a bowl with the hot broth they have cooked in.

You can buy frozen yuanxiao at most grocery stores, but our little ones had the chance to make their own yuanxiao this year.   They tackled this cooking project with much enthusiasm!  It was a wonderful way to develop fine motor coordination, practice using kitchen tools and experience a range of textures, scents and flavors.  Of course, the best part was sampling their handiwork at the end of the day!

They started by crushing the black sesame seeds.  



After the sesame was done, we turned our attention to the peanuts.  Those also needed to be sorted and crushed:



Then it's time to add some sugar and fat:



The peanut, sesame, sugar and fat are thoroughly mixed into a sticky paste:


Then the filling is shaped into balls like this:


After that, all that remains is to roll the balls of filling in the glutinous rice flour, dip them in water, roll them in rice flour, back to the water... until the filling is completely enclosed in the rice flour coating:




Once the yuanxiao are finished, they are cooked in boiling water.  Delicious! 




Happy YuanXiao Festival!  元宵节快乐!

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Home at last!

    
 More than 8 years ago, an American named Rebekah contacted us at Little Flower looking for a volunteer opportunity.  She had recently moved to China with her husband, Chris, and had heard about the work we were doing with abandoned children.  After she shared with us her experience, qualifications, and interests, we realized that she could be a valuable addition to our team - so we offered her a job.  Since that time, Rebekah has worked cheerfully, diligently, and tirelessly - bringing together our caregivers, medical staff, foster parents, office staff, donors in China and supporters outside China to provide hope and healing to vulnerable children.



 A few years later, in 2018 we were asked to help a tiny baby girl named XinLi.  XinLi was born with a life-threatening gastrointestinal problem, a congenital heart defect and significant hearing loss.  

Newborn XinLi

Rebekah and Chris, who were already considering adopting a child, were ecstatic to be matched with little XinLi a year later, in 2019. 

Rebekah and XinLi in 2019
    
Unfortunately, their long-awaited adoption day was delayed 4 more years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.  But we are now delighted to share the news that Rebekah and Chris were finally able to complete their adoption!  

   
 Please join us in wishing Rebekah the very best as she moves on to her very important new job - being XinLi’s mom!  Even though Rebekah will no longer be working with us as she has in the past, she and XinLi will forever be part of our Little Flower family.   We are grateful for your prayers and support - you have made a difference for XinLi and all of the other little flowers in our care!

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Dumplings!


Do you know how to make Chinese dumplings?  Called "jiaozi" in northern China, they are traditionally eaten in the winter, especially for the New Year's celebration.  Dumplings can be stuffed with a variety of meat/vegetable/egg fillings.  Our little ones have been gearing up for the New Year by learning the fine art of making dumplings, and they are happy to share what they have learned with you!

First, you start by making the wrappers.  These are a simple flour + warm water dough.  




Once that is all mixed up, you can let it rest while you turn your attention to the fillings.  We had a lot of fun chopping carrots!


Then, we laid out all of our different ingredients and mixed up the dumpling fillings - so many options to choose from - corn, carrots, chicken, pork, onion and a little soy for flavor!


Each of our little ones got to choose the best combination of ingredients for their special dumplings:


After the fillings are ready, it's time to finish preparing the wrappers.  The dough must be kneaded, and then cut into small pieces and rolled out:



And then the fun part - filling the wrappers, and carefully crimping them closed:



After that, they can be boiled, steamed or fried up as potstickers.  No matter how you cook them, they are delicious!




Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Made for Love

     

We believe that all children are born to love and connect, and that all children can learn and develop – this includes children with medical or developmental special needs, especially those who have been impacted by trauma.  While most children we work with do have special needs, we recognize that they are equally affected by the trauma of birth family separation, serious illness, hospitalizations, institutionalization and more.  In addition to their other special needs, the long-term effects of trauma on these children’s brain development, behavior and relationships cannot be underestimated.  


    We are often faced with questions from our own staff, foster parents, teachers and others who are confused why the children they are working with don’t respond to love, affection, discipline, and traditional educational methods the way “normal” children in families would.  We realized that there was a great need to address these questions, so last year we launched Made for Love.    Our goal is to share an awareness of the abilities of children with special needs, an understanding of the impact of early trauma, recognition of the signs and behaviors of trauma, and to teach others to respond with understanding, compassion, and connectedness. 



Through Made for Love, we seek to provide support, evidence-based knowledge and practical skills to:

  • People who work with children in orphanages, such as staff members, caregivers, group home parents, and special needs teachers
  • Domestic adoptive families  
  • Families choosing to raise their own children with special needs

    We began by providing training in our own orphan care projects.  Word soon got out that we had developed training materials and were providing seminars to early learning teachers and orphanage caregivers, and we have been invited to provide these to other orphanages as well.  



    One orphanage we are working with has a model that we are particularly excited about (and hope to expand to other orphanages) that welcomes special needs children from the local community to participate in classes at the orphanage early learning center.  



    This is an incredibly valuable service to offer to those families, as specialized learning centers for special needs children are not widely available in China.  Because services like these are severely lacking, this has long reinforced the belief that families themselves are unable to care for their own special needs children.  We hope that providing this kind of support can begin to change attitudes in society and even reduce the number of children entering orphanages in the long term.



    We are also seeing an increase in domestic adoptions in China (including the children in our own orphan care projects), but there are still very few resources available to these adoptive parents.  Many of them do not have any preparation before the adoption, have unrealistic expectations, and nowhere to turn when they have questions about how best to deal with the inevitable difficulties of the first days and weeks at home with their child. 



     The Made for Love project is working to provide information and support for these adoptive families, and we hope that we can make our videos and materials widely available so that adoptive families all over China will be able to benefit from them.

    We will be sharing more about about our Made for Love project in the days and weeks ahead, so stay tuned!  We thank you for your support and look forward to helping even more families and children in the years to come!


Thursday, January 18, 2024

LaBa Festival

 

Have you heard of LaBa Festival?  Perhaps not, as it isn't as well known Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) which follows closely.  LaBa Festival is a traditional Chinese holiday that is celebrated on the 8th day of the 12th lunar month of the year.  This holiday is a time for celebrating the year's harvest, honoring ancestors and worshipping gods.  One of the most important parts of the celebration is cooking LaBa porridge, which is a mixture of grains, beans and dried fruit.  This porridge is said to invoke peace and good fortune.

We celebrated Laba Festival this week.  Our little ones were very happy to learn more about this porridge and to make their own porridge handicrafts.  They started by selecting a color and pattern for the tablecloth:


Choosing a design for the bowl and decorating it well is also important!


Glue the tablecloth, bowl, spoon and porridge in place:


Add some grains, beans and dried fruit:




A few more finishing touches:






And what do we have?  A Laba Festival masterpiece!


By now, everyone has worked up an appetite.  So of course, it was time to sample some real LaBa porridge!



It was delicious!

Happy LaBa Festival!