Thursday, 14 June 2012

Orphans and Organic Yoghurt


The Mr and I visit an infants’ home every weekend and two other similar institutions for school aged children annually. I haven’t written about it much because there are so many limitations on what I can say that it seems too hard to say anything. The children and the staff deserve their privacy and there’s a risk of placing children who have been removed from abusive homes in danger by disclosing any identifying information. This story is really about me and not the children though, so I think I can get through it without saying anything I shouldn’t.

One of the things I do for the babies is to help them stand and work on their leg-strength. They spend all day in a room without furniture or anything to pull themselves up on, so although they crawl normally they’re often delayed with standing and walking. There are too many children per staff member for the babies to get individual attention, and that’s where the volunteer program comes in.
The other day we had a quiet afternoon with fewer babies awake/there than usual, so my husband and I were both able to focus on one little girl. He sat a little way away and I helped her “walk” just over to him, letting her go before she reached him so that she could take the last “step” and fall into his arms. Then we told her how amazing she was and he “walked” her back over to me. It’s such a common scene, probably happening right now in thousands of homes all over the world. For this little girl, though, it was very far from common. She rarely gets the undivided attention of a single adult, let alone two. She toddled like a champ and chortled the whole time, squealing with laughter every time she reached her goal and got a big hug. She’s a sweet little thing who often sits by the window quietly playing peek-a-boo with her reflection. Being the focus of attention brought out so much energy from her, it was amazing! …and then our time was up and we had to leave. We had to sit her back down by the window and say good bye.
On the way home we stopped by the supermarket to get some milk and I saw a young mother, with a baby in a Baby Bjorn, comparing the labels on organic, GMO-free baby yoghurts (nothing like long-winded labels that actually mean nothing to make parents spend more). She had a basket full of health food and was obviously taking a lot of care to provide the very best she could for her family. I had a minor flip out right there in a dairy aisle, staring at this woman in her Birkenstocks with her baby and her fancy yoghurt. Her baby had done nothing different from the babies in the orphanage. None of them has done anything other than be born. Yet this baby was so loved, so cared for. Why does he have organic yoghurt and Montessori toys* while my little girl has bulk-buy formula and her own reflection? It’s unfair and it sucks and the world is all wrong.

If you're waiting for the resolution to the story or the uplifting moment: sorry, there isn't one. But if you want to read more about "orphanages" in Japan you can read this
or this or this or this. And if you would like to donate to help volunteer programs to work with children being raised in institutions, please consider Kizuna Baby and Smile Kids.

*OK, I don't know that the baby had Montessori toys. But they looked like the kind of family who would, ok?! Also, I am not in any way having a go at this mother for being a caring parent or begrudging her child its loving family. It was just a dramatic contrast.

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4 comments:

  1. Gosh, I cried when I read this. I've been wanting to adopt since I was 17, and we're hoping/planning to adopt here in Japan sooner than later. And even though we have a little baby now to take care of, it just opens my heart more to wanting to adopt. It is frustrating and so sad that there are so many kids who won't ever have loving parents to love and care for them. :(

    Anyway, thanks for sharing this. I'm also curious how you got involved with an infants' home? Was it easy/difficult? We've been wanting to volunteer at a children's home but an infants' home might be good too, depending on what's around.

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    1. Ashley, I think it'll be hard to answer that without going into too much detail about our specific area, so I am going to try and contact you privately. But if anyone else is interested I recommend http://www.smilekidsjapan.org as a good starting point

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  2. Yes, I spent over five months in an eastern European orphanage. Very strong feeling and painful thoughts created in me. All so, very rewarding and produced new priorities in all facets of my life.

    I help often and the experience helps me everyday. Highly recommend everyone volunteer support.

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  3. That's great! Volunteering is one of those things that gives back to you as much as you put into it, hey?

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