Back in China

I have settled back well into life here in China and in some ways it feels like I haven't been gone for all this time. This is now my third week volunteering at the orphanage and each day is busy and full of various tasks and activities. As a reminder, I recently finished my studies to become an Occupational Therapist, a profession which supports people to carry out daily activities which they need to, want to or are expected to do each day. OTs can work with the full lifespan of babies to older adults and those with physical, learning, mental health or other difficulties. ICC here has 160 children and young people with all sorts of physical and learning disabilities who have experienced a whole range of trauma. OTs therefore have a huge scope for supporting these children and young people to live life to the full, and support the goal of ICC to bring love, hope and opportunity.

So what have I been doing so far?
Reconnecting: first and foremost I have been reconnecting with the children and staff here. In China relationships are so important and it is important to spend time getting to know people first. It has been lovely to see some happy faces in welcoming me back and that lots of the children have been adopted.

Wheelchairs, wheelchairs and more wheelchairs... A lot of the children and young people here use wheelchairs due to their disabilities. The wheelchairs are for a whole range of needs such as mobility or complex postural support. As would be expected, due to wear & tear and the children growing, parts can break or need to be adjusted a lot. Some need small and quick adjustments (such as fixing a break or side support) while others need complex problem solving to figure out how to best support their bodies and positions. There is an OT visiting from Canada and a long term Physio from the UK who I have been working closely with. There is also a wheelchair engineer visiting on a short term team so we have been using his skills to fix the more difficult chairs.

Problem solving sensory needs: Some of the children/young people have sensory difficulties which means they have difficulty receiving and interpreting the sensory information that their brain receives. This can manifest in many ways and may mean they are overly sensitive to what is going on around them or may mean they need a lot more input than they are receiving. One particular boy here has been exhibiting some unusual behaviours which may reflect seeking extra sensory input, but it is also mixed with being medically unwell recently and in hospital, and early childhood trauma before he came to ICC. This reflects the needs here which have so many different factors. We are working hard with the local therapists and caregivers to help find what this boy needs.

Fixing a communication (speech generating) device for one boy who is non-verbal (unable to speak) but very bright and has a lot to say. This boy needs a lot of support to learn how to use the device to communicate with others as currently he is reliant on those around him to understand his basic signs and gestures. This is like learning a new language, learning to communicate with a device, where on the app different words and phrases are stored and to use it quickly and effectively. It will take consistent and constant reinforcement by all around him to be effective and to open his world.

Fun there is always time for fun amongst the business. Last week I had the opportunity to teach some of the children to play boccia, a game similar to bowls. It is an activity which nearly anyone can play as it can be adapted to include a shoot (like in bowling) for people who cannot throw. This went down really well!

To sum it all up - I have been kept busy so far with lots more to do over the next few weeks. I am really happy to be back and feel very privileged. Thanks to those who have supported and encouraged me in coming back and for your prayers. Please pray for the leaders here and for the children we are working with and for wisdom for how to support them.

Get in touch if you have any questions about what I am doing or the organisation I am with.

Returning to China 2018 (take 8)

Seven years ago today, having just finished secondary school, I embarked on what I thought would be a rewarding two week trip to China to volunteer at a summer camp for orphans. Little did I know that those two weeks would change my life (sorry, I know that's so cliché!). In the past seven years I have been on seven trips to China, lasting from two weeks to seven months in length. I have invested in and worked with four different NGOs/charities who run summer camps, foster homes and support government orphanage projects. I have also completed my undergraduate degree and am soon to qualify as an Occupational Therapist with a Masters degree. It sounds like a lot when written in a few sentences but the overarching story is that I went on a trip to China, saw and experienced things I couldn't forget and my faith has urged and inspired me to act.

On this note, following completion of my Occupational Therapy degree in September, I am returning to China for two months, following a two and a half year hiatus. I left in April 2016, after spending 7 months with International China Concern in Hunan Province, to embark on the next step, to become an OT. Whilst at the time it seemed like an awfully long period of time of not being able to return, it has flown by. So I now return, as an Occupational Therapist, with new insights and perspectives, new skills and, but with the same passion and drive.

I will be in China for about 9 weeks and will stay for the majority of that time in Hunan Province with International China Concern. I will be reconnecting with the children, young people and staff I was with two years ago help in various ways, with the potential to use my new Occupational Therapy skills. More info to come closer to the time.

I am ready to get back!