Yueyang, Hunan Province - Page 3 -

Mr. Li, another vice director of the Yueyang City Social Welfare House took me to his institution after sightseeing at the historical Yueyang Temple. It was 9:30 in the morning. The Social Welfare Department was a two-story building separated from the entire House with metal gates, which were divided by two big red pillars. Between the pillars were big red Chinese characters "Children's Department" written on a light yellow wall styled like the Great Wall, which gave the air of safety and serenity. A huge pine tree taller than the wall was growing in the middle of the courtyard. Stepping past the gate, the building was shaped like a big rectangle composed with rows of rooms built in three directions and circling the squared inner courtyard. This was styled after traditional architecture in Yueyang, a city rich in history and culture. Diametrically across the gate was a big conference hall.
Mr. Chang, two vice-directors, Ms. Chen and a women assistant dressed in white gowns and of the children's department had a meeting with me at the hall on the first floor. The meeting was long and formal, discussing the concerns from each side about the international adoption affairs. Mr. Chang reconfirmed what he told me at our short meeting last night at my hotel about telephone instructions they received yesterday afternoon from the Ministry of Civil Affairs in Beijing: No pictures were to be taken nor any video shots.
Soldier Chen, Ms. Chen and her assistant then took me on a tour visiting children in their small rooms. We went upstairs first and the first room we entered had six cribs arranged in an L-shape and against the wall on the right side and underneath the window opposite the door. Two caregivers were each holding babies and sitting in the middle of the room. It had been the first time for me to see a label card attached to each crib's rails. On the card was written the child's name, birth date, and the date the baby was sent to the House. The youngest child in this room was born on May 23rd, 2000. It was after feeding time, all the children were laying in their cribs quietly and all dressed with several layers of clothes and wearing cotton diapers. The crib was covered with a cotton mattress, not like the institutions in Fujian or Guangdong where the cribs were covered by bamboo or straw mats. On top of the mattress a thick cotton absorbent pad was laid in the middle of the crib for protecting the mattress from getting wet. The room was diffused with the smell of young babies and diapers. The window was closed and the room was dim. Everything was clean, tight and in order.
We walked into two other rooms along the corridor, which was circling and open to the inner courtyard. All the rooms had the same setting as the first one. Every room was quiet. I stopped at the double doors of a big room where a young caregiver or a nurse dressed in a white gown, similar to Ms. Chen and her assistant, was helping a baby stretch her legs on a big mat. Four other children were lying next to her. They all seemed about 6 to 8 months old. The room looked like a rehabilitation hall with some equipment in. The room was right above the conference hall. Ten minutes later we went downstairs to the conference hall. I took a glimpse of the last room at the end of the corridor, the wooden sign on top of the door frame read ROOM 12.
Mr. Chang was waiting for us there. We sat down and exchanged some further opinions of policy about their House being open to visits from foreign families. Mr. Chang said that all the families that adopted children from Yueyang City Social Welfare House would be warm-heartedly welcome to visit. For other families interested in this House, they were welcome to visit if they had permission from certain authorities.
A picture of all of us - the three directors, two chief caregivers and myself -- was taken in front of the gate of Children's Department. Mr. Chang walked us to the entrance of the House where the senior building was under repairs. He waved "good-by" and said "take good care of yourself."
On the way back to the hotel, Soldier Chen told me that Mr. Zhu and Mr. Chen might be in the hotel waiting for me since Mr. Chang had asked him to make the arrangements for people from the County House to come pick up the donation. I waved goodbye to Soldier Chen and watched the taxi move along the hotel driveway after I was dropped off.
I waited for Mr. Chen in the lobby after finishing my packing and took him to the Business Center of the hotel. The donation, a thick pile of Chinese yuan, was handed to him and an official receipt was given to me. I asked Mr. Chen if the County House had decided what the donation would be used for. He said that it would be spent mainly on medicine. He promised to contact me once they had used the money on children so I was able to pass along the message to the families that made the donation.
I checked out before noon to avoid paying extra money for lodging. It was almost five hours before I boarded on a train for my next destiny. So I accepted Mr. Chen's invitation to go to a restautant. Mr. Chen and I were talking about his House over the lunch.
The County House was founded in 1994 and moved to a new location on a converted rice paddy of 2 acres in 1998. About 60 children were being cared for, but no senior citizens at present. Children ages ranged between several days to three years old.
Mr. Chen did not mentioned if they had handicapped children there. The new constructed House had a row house with several units, which had 4 rooms in each. Four of the units were used for young children. There were eight young children in one unit cared for by three caregivers. For the older children, they stayed and had meals at the House during the day. At night they went with caregivers to sleep at the caregivers' homes, which were nearby or in the House courtyard.
Mr. Zhu and Mr. Chen helped me drag the two suitcases to a black car that they rented from the county to drive to the city. The car carried us to the train station. At the checkroom, we shook hands for good-bye. I waved to the two gentlemen and turned over, started searching for bottled water, canned food and newspapers for the train ride to my next destination -- Wuhan, Hubei Province.

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