Travel They Went, They Saw, and They Were Moved

A visit to a home for kids with special needs in Sanmenxia, We spoke to Chai Fern, a traveller from Singapore, who shared with us a special travel experience she had in Sanmenxia. She and a group of 13 friends went on a special 9-day trip to visit and understand the need for a home for kids with special needs in Sanmenxia, run by International Concern, an organisation which takes care of China’s abandoned and disabled.

About International Concern

An organisation which brings love, hope and opportunity to the abandoned and disabled. The ICC partners with the Chinese government to develop social welfare for these people, providing homes and services as well as empowering them. For more info, visit International Concern in the course of the interview, we were deeply moved as we heard Chai Fern’s sharing of her experience and how that impacted her and her friends, especially how they went away from the trip blessed with a deeper appreciation of how blessed they are as well the needs of underprivileged communities around us. Chai Fern told us that since their return, they have been actively encouraging friends through the sharing of their experiences with their friends and are constantly on the lookout for ways to support and contribute to the home they visited. So, Chai Fern, most travellers travel for leisure or business, but you and your friends went out of the way to visit a home for kids with special needs. How did that come about? What motivated you to go? I heard one of the board members of the ICC sharing about the conditions of the children in the welfare centres and it stirred me to want to have a look and see how I can help.

Can you share with us more about your trip

We went for around 9 days and it cost around per person, including accommodation, food and travel. The welfare centre we went to had a range of people under their care, from babies and children all the way to the elderly. They were divided into five groups – the Pearl room; which comprised of babies, the Jasper room; which has toddlers from the ages of 2 – 5, Sapphire and Ruby rooms for boys and girls above 5 and Living Area 1; which has children and adults of milder disabilities. I was assigned to Living Area 1, and what I did mainly was play and interact with the children. We played simple games like London Bridge and thumb-wrestling, which are both fun and stimulating. I and my friend also brought 3 of the older boys from Living Area 1 out of the welfare centre to the cafe at our hotel to let them have a chance to see the outside world. That was a personal highlight for me, seeing their excitement and joy. What were some of the memorable moments and experiences you had? eg. what did you see and how did the children respond to you? One thing which really stood out was how the kids were very loving. Prior to going on this trip, I didn’t know what to expect, but they were certainly very different from the mental imagery I had of them. They had such caring hearts for each other. There was a blind grandpa in Living Area 1, and whenever he wanted to go out, three boys in the same room would take turns to bring him out. They were so generous with their love and that really touched us. celebrates Children’s Day on 1st June. The children in the welfare centre were given some snacks as part of the celebrations. Even though we had known each other for barely a week, many of the children shared their snacks with us without hesitation. Some of the kids were so sweet and adorable that they even opened the wrappers of the sweets for us and wanted to feed us! These simple gestures really touched my heart. Also, there was one day when I was trying to teach deaf boys methods to communicate. I pointed to my eyes and told him what the Mandarin words for ‘eyes’ were. He actually understood and got it! It dawned on me that these children really can learn and be more independent if only they were given the opportunity to do so.

How Did This Experience Impact You

I realised how much we can actually learn from these children and adults, and it changes the way you look at people with disabilities; to see them without judgment and prejudice and be willing to look for the good in them; the bigness of their hearts and their innocence Also, I realised that everyone can play a part. Out of the 14 of us, some were grandmothers in their 60s or 70s who were assigned to the Pearl Room. So you don’t have to be young or have any special abilities to make a difference; your presence alone brings them so much joy. The biggest difference it made in me was that it made me a more compassionate person. During the trip, I also saw other volunteers who came from other countries like Australia and England, and it made me think of how, regardless of where we come from, we can contribute. Would you encourage people to go on this trip and would you do it again I would encourage people to just go and take a look, even if you think you might not have much to offer. We’re trying to plan another trip back, probably next year. Everyone who went there was deeply impacted and wants to go back again, including me.

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