After 3 years away, I wasn’t sure what to expect during my trip back to China.
I founded Hope Station in 2012, and lived in China from 2015-20. We served children with disabilities in orphanages, then transitioned to serve children with disabilities and their families in 2019. When I left China in 2020, our local Chinese staff team took over daily operations. I never imagined it would be so long before I could go back for a visit.
As I stepped off the plane, I was nervous. China has drastically changed as the entire population experienced a 3-year roller coaster of lockdowns, social change, and great loss. What would I find as I reunited with our staff team and met the children and families we serve?
Here’s the honest truth: I was surprisingly encouraged by some of the changes happening there. But I was also deeply saddened by some of the needs I saw.
I had the honor of meeting most of the children and families we serve. I walked into each family’s home, sat next their children, received their generous hospitality, and listened to their joys and struggles in raising their child with disability.
Each family’s situation was unique. After all the home visits I made with our team, these common threads that stuck out to me:
I was encouraged by all the parents’ deep love for their child. The hardships these families face are great, but without fail every parent I talked to was unwavering in their devotion to their child. I ended every conversation with a parent by telling them I could see how much they love their child, and they are doing an amazing job. Many of them were brought to tears.
I was encouraged by the growing number of therapy centers, support organizations, helpful resources, and loving individuals who are stepping up to care for children with disabilities. Our team is growing an amazing network of supportive people who have the capacity to really make a difference for these families.
Even in light of these positive threads, there is still MUCH work to be done. Families are facing major obstacles as they struggle to raise their children the best way they know how.
I was deeply saddened by how many parents shared about their child not being accepted or supported at school. Most local schools still do not a place for children who need additional learning support or have special needs. The schools designed exclusively for children with special needs are not free, and they can’t always serve the individual child’s unique learning needs either.
XuanXuan, for example, is the first child in the entire province with blindness to go to public school. Her mom sits next to her in the front of the class and reads to her every single word on the whiteboard, helps her read all her tests, and handwrites all of her answers for her.
I was deeply saddened by the number of parents struggling with their mental health. Our team has found that one of the most significant indicators of a family’s overall health is whether the parents feel supported and hopeful about their child’s future. So many parents carry the entire weight of their child’s future on their own shoulders with no support from their community.
When I asked one mother how Hope Station has helped her this past year, she shared with me that before they joined our program she didn’t have any motivation for living. The only thing that stopped her from taking her own life was the fact that her son had no one else to care for him. Through Hope Station, she’s received some counseling, and that has changed everything for her.
I was deeply saddened by how difficult it is for families to find the right services for their child. The number of resources available in China is growing… but it is still difficult for families to find those resources. Whether they need a specific type of therapy for their child or they need to find a doctor who can help diagnose their child’s needs, it is still extremely difficult to find the right resources.
There is much to do. The encouraging changes have us hopeful. And the continued struggles motivate us to do everything in our power to support these families and their children.
Of course, there is more to share! Be on the lookout for more stories and updates from my trip coming soon.
I am so thankful for the amazing support our donors have shown in this season. Together, we keep pressing on to keep children in families.