So as many of you know, Scott and I came to China with the hope of adopting a Chinese baby at some point during our time here. In conjunction with that hope, I was looking forward to getting involved with volunteering at an orphanage to better understand the system and where the babies come from. After more in depth research, all doors have been shut (for now) on the idea of us adopting a baby from here during the next 2-3 years. China has pretty strict rules that both parents be 30 years old before they can adopt a child, so that rules us out until 2011. I also did some brief research on orphanages in Shanghai and volunteering at them is not a casual thing. There seem to be some serious requirements and commitments of time involved in such an endeavor. So, seeing that I have most of my time committed to Timmy, that door has been shut as well. Maybe we will revisit all of this sometime in the future.
Instead of volunteering at an orphanage, I decided to try something different. Through a mom's group called IMSG (International Mother's Support Group), I learned of an organization called Heart To Heart Shanghai. This organization helps raise funds to pay for kids that are born with congenital heart defects to have heart surgery. The kids that it sponsors would otherwise not have the opportunity to receive the care they need because their families cannot afford it. One surgery costs 25,000RMB (only 3650USD!) at the Shanghai Children's Thoracic Hospital.
Today I started volunteering at the hospital. Its incredible to see how different a children's ward at a Chinese hospital is like compared to the USA. All the monitors that the little babies were hooked up to were just propped up on chairs next to their beds. Also, there was virtually no security to get into the hospital or the children's floor. I was told by my orientation guide that there was no artwork of any kind on the walls until Heart To Heart donated it, and all the furniture and toys for the playroom. Unfortunately, the kids only get to play with the toys from 2-3:30 each day when the volunteers are there. Without supervision, all the toys would just disappear because of the lack of security. The place was clean, and had decent equipment, but not all the amenities (like carts for the equipment, furniture, artwork, phones) that we would expect to see in the US. I briefly met the chief surgeon, she seems to really love her work and the kids. She even speaks English and came in to say hello to me and the other new volunteer. Anyway, if you are interested in reading more about Heart To Heart, check out their website .