America World Loving Ambassador Team: We Saw their Gifts
When the 38 children first came in one by one, there was a heaviness. I saw their special needs on paper – cerebral palsy, congenital heart disease, down syndrome, brain differences, retinoblastoma, hydrocephalus, microcephaly, epilepsy, meningocele, and more. I’ll admit it was an overwhelming feeling – so many children with so many hard needs.
As the week went on, however, I began to see something new. I saw past the outside appearance. I saw every child’s strength – their gifts. I saw the one.
I saw the 13-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who had not been taught reading, writing, or math until 2 years ago but now does 3-digit multiplication and division with ease.
He could easily have been pushed in a wheelchair during our 2 hours at the zoo like his friends but instead used his walker to walk the entire time. When I saw the sweat dripping down his face in the 30-degree temperature, I asked if he was tired. He gathered his breath and said in Chinese, “I’m not tired, not tired one bit.”
I saw the 11-year-old boy who was catching his breath—every breath—with complex congenital heart disease, clubbed fingers, and blue fingernails. But was so energetic, articulate, and intelligent, even without any education. Children with complex congenital heart disease are not given the choice to take classes. If he needed or wanted something, he would ask and ask and talk and talk until you paid attention. He doesn’t give up.
I saw the 9-year-old boy with Down syndrome. I learned there is a spectrum related to Down syndrome. His teacher was quick to pull me aside and tell me how smart he is. How he can not only take care of himself and self-care needs, but he looks for ways to help others. How he will see the nannies take off their shoes, bring indoor slippers to them, and then put the shoes away. How he helps the little ones to dress. How if you tell him not to do something once – he won’t ever do it again.
How he sat quietly through the long opening ceremony and has social awareness. The occupational therapist on our team said he was the highest functioning child with down syndrome she’d ever seen even without speech or other therapeutic interventions. But I would say all of that pales in comparison to the contagious and pure joy on this boy’s face – a joy that would melt away any problem.
The 6-year-old boy with malformed upper limbs who threw up his fingers as if trying to make a peace sign every time we took a photo. Who the nannies quickly pointed out could do everything just like everyone else. Who was amazing at coloring within the lines. Who was just happy every time I saw him.
I see you, children, I see your gifts. Our team sees you. And now our Facebook friends see you.
May your families see you too.
The America World Loving Ambassador team is wrapping up their time in China but the work has just begun.
Help us tell the stories of the many amazing children whose biggest special need is a loving family. Right now new China program applicants, who are approved, can receive a $1,000 grant toward their adoption expenses. Learn more here today.