Students Visit Orphanage in China on Study Abroad Program

By Abbi Loving, Whittier Law School student

This past July, as part of the 2015 China Study Abroad Program, students in Professor Mertus’ International Children’s Rights class had the opportunity to visit an orphanage for children with special medical needs. Sadly, many children who are born with medical conditions – even those that are relatively easily treated, like cleft palates and club feet – are abandoned at birth in China. Chinese Social Welfare Institutes (state-run institutions) are often not equipped to deal with these children and, as a result, they perish. However, 15 years ago, the fate of some of these children began to change thanks to Dr. Joyce Hill and her husband Robin.

Whittier Law School students in China for the Summer 2015 Study Abroad program

Dr. Hill, a family medical practitioner, and her husband, a former manager of a Swedish engineering company, started the New Hope Foundation with the goal of providing palliative care to infants in crisis and to save the babies that could be saved through medical intervention. Beginning in 2000, the New Hope Foundation began providing personal care and medical treatment for sick babies and those with surgically correctable deformities. Operating with the goal “to comfort always, to relieve often, and to save sometimes,” New Hope raises funds and arranges for medical care for children in their care.

This orphanage is much different from others in China because it operates as a foster home for these children. New Hope takes physically handicapped babies under six months old and provides them with long-term care in an environment that is as close to a normal home as possible. Children are given a nanny, which allows them to experience normal emotional bonding that they wouldn’t receive in a typical orphanage. The nannies are carefully trained to perform the duties typical of a mother. New Hope also has on-site nurses that assist in caring for the children. Unlike most orphanages, children at New Hope also receive their own clothing that they do not have to share. Additionally, when a child leaves New Hope they have their own scrapbook to take with them that was made by staff during their time there.

The author, Abbi Loving, with her friend Paul, at the New Hope orphanage in Beijing

Not only did we get to tour the facility and learn about what they do, we also got to spend time with the children. From the moment our class entered the children’s playroom, the kids immediately bonded to us like glue. The uniqueness of New Hope was apparent in that these kids clearly have the ability to form emotional connections and bond, unlike so many other orphans in institutions. Looking around the room at my peers, each one of them had a child they had bonded with. When I walked in, a four-year old named Paul grabbed my hand, handed me a toy airplane, and said, “Come on, let’s play!” At that moment, this child won me over and I spent the remainder of my time there playing with him. I learned that Paul was at New Hope because he was abandoned as a baby due to being born with bilateral glaucoma and a bilateral cleft lip and palate. He had received corrective surgeries and had spent the past four years at New Hope where he was doing well. As happy as I was to be bonding with Paul and as grateful as I was for the care he was receiving, I felt sad that this sweet little boy did not have a forever family.

Bonding with these kids reinforced the value of intercountry adoption for me beyond the point of only learning about its value through taking classes on the subject. Visiting New Hope changed my life. Leaving Paul after an hour of bonding time was one of the saddest things I have ever had to do. Here was this little boy with so much love in his heart and nobody beyond the staff at New Hope to love and care for him. I could not help but think about him during the remainder of my trip, wondering how long it would be before this resilient little four-year old was adopted.

Fortunately, Paul’s story, like most of the other children at New Hope, has a happy ending. I landed back in Los Angeles, I opened my e-mail only to find a forwarded newsletter from Professor Mertus informing me that after spending four years at New Hope, little Paul had been adopted. This little boy now has a forever family and will grow up with the love and care that all children should receive; all thanks to this amazing organization that took him in and helped him become healthy.

I am forever thankful for the opportunity I had to participate in the 2015 China Study Abroad program. This experience really struck a chord inside me and made me realize that I want to adopt a child in the future. Visiting New Hope and participating in this program taught me so many things that I would never learn inside the four walls of a classroom. As happy as I am for Paul, this experience really raised awareness for me in terms of international children’s law and intercountry adoption. This was a life-changing experience that I encourage all Whittier Law students with an interest to participate in next summer.

Paul playing at the New Hope orphanage in Beijing.

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