by Savio ’17
We started off the day as usual, with a short rendezvous at Yangzhou high school. We were all refreshed off of our weekends with our host families, and ready for a good day of service at Yangzhou Orphanage. The bus ride was thirty minutes, but it ended up being about an hour because the staff made us wait while they organized. Upon finally entering, we were all surprised about the condition of the orphanage. There was a clean lobby with a front desk, multiple couches, and best of all, air conditioning. After touring the building, we split up into three groups. The first group was to mop the hallways and wipe all the surfaces of the 2nd floor. The second group was to feed some of the disabled babies. And the third group was to play with some of the physically disabled children.
I was in the first group, so we ended up mopping and wiping for roughly an hour and a half. Since we finished fairly fast given the amount of time, we got to hang out with a few staff members in their office. When all the groups were finished, we walked over to their cafeteria, which was in a different building. It had the set up of a restaurant, but the food was on a tray, and of similar quality to the food at the other schools we visited. After lunch, we went to a zoo and many of us were excited to see the pandas. Most of the animals were lying down and panting because of the heat, and rightfully so, as the temperature was about 96 Fahrenheit.
After an exciting couple of hours, we walked back to the orphanage to finish our service for the day. My group rotated to feeding the babies, which was difficult to say the least. One of the staff briefed us on some of the conditions that the kids suffered, and told us to not be too rattled by their appearances. The babies were lined up in the hallway and as we entered a few started to cry. Everybody chose a baby and we got to work. Although some of the babies were relatively cooperative, others were crying continually and not eating. Luckily, my baby began to eat after a bit of coaxing and patience. I used the “here comes the airplane!” tactic, which quite surprisingly works well. Many of the babies had cleft lips, which was off putting in terms of feeding them, but we managed and eventually the job was done.
After the feeding, we went into a room on the same floor, which served as their playroom. Some of the older toddlers that could walk and run were in a large pen that had a bunch of toys, and since so many GS students were with the babies, I decided to play in the pen. It ended up being a blast and I got a game of keep away going with a foam basketball, and they loved it.
My experience at the orphanage was notably different than the special needs school because of the disabilities of the children as well as their age difference. The feeding was a very straightforward job, but it put us in the uncomfortable position of being face to face with a child that looks very different than what we’re used to. At first, it really put me off, but after a few minutes I realized the baby girl I was feeding was no different than me, simply another human trying to survive in a world that can be harsh. If anything, I wanted to give these children the one on one attention and love they deserve and clearly yearn for. It was so fulfilling to see the smile on their faces as we played, or as they hung on my arms and climbed my back. They clearly had suffered from not only physical disabilities, but a lack of human touch. This is clearly some of the biggest areas of impact I, and my classmates, have accomplished during our time here, and I hope that impact lasts.