TEAMworks winter newsletter is up!!! Check out this inspiring story from Julie Marvin, updates on our China trip, dates for future trips, and personal information from Dimitri Clark about Heroes for Kids.
"We Called Her Naomi"
My friend Charity once told me after she returned from a TEAMworks trip to Guatemala, “You don’t go on one of these trips thinking that you’ll want to bring home a 17 year old boy…” After going to Guatemala and meeting Carlos, I understood where she was coming from. So why should I be surprised when coming back from our trip to China that I can’t stop thinking about a 19 year old girl we called Naomi? When I got home, I randomly Googled the meaning of the name Naomi and it means “gentle.” I think we named her well.
The story of how we met Naomi starts at a lunch we were having with the adoption director. We had some larger wheelchairs and equipment, so I asked if there were any older children that we would be seeing. He spoke of a girl who lived in the orphanage who had something wrong with her feet. She had surgery in the past, but was still unable to walk. As soon as we got back from lunch one of the Nannies came walking across the street carrying a small person in somewhat of a “piggy back” fashion. She abruptly laid her on a mat in front of us. It was apparent that this young lady was very afraid. There was much going on in the room we were given to assess children in (pretty much controlled chaos) with children, nannies, therapists, directors, and interpreters. Amber and I decided to move her to another room close by. Now poor Naomi was in a room, alone with 2 strangers. She was no less scared. While Amber assessed her feet, stretched her and looked for braces and shoes that might possibly fit her, I tried to sooth and calm her. I played soft music and held her hand. She never made a sound, but a steady stream of tears ran down her face. Her club feet were surprisingly still fairly easy to stretch and had decent range of motion, but no braces we brought were going to work for Naomi. Amber was able to locate a pair of shoes that fit…
What to do next? We wondered, “Could she sit up?” She could! Next we got her to sit on a tall bench. Could she stand? (At this point we realized it might be good to have one of the interpreters in the wild room next door). Amber went to get one of the walkers that magically adjusted to just the right height. And guess what, Naomi stood. Guess what else, Naomi smiled. She was so proud of herself and of course Amber and I were cheering like crazy maniacs. After a few minutes we sat back down on the bench with her and in true therapist fashion discussed our next move….. Dare we try to walk???? Why yes we do! Naomi stood up and slowly but surely the girl who 30 minutes before had been carried and plopped down before us walked into the room of chaos. The nannies, interpreters and the rest of our team were so surprised and then cheers and applause erupted like Naomi had never heard before! Naomi was exhausted, but on longer scared. We left that day on a high giving God the glory!!!
That night we were told we would be able to go into the orphanage the next day. We were so excited that we would be able to do the job we planned and worked for, but were nervous about what we might find inside…..
The next day when we arrived, everything from the room of chaos was moved to a very large room on the third floor of the orphanage. As we were scurrying around getting things arranged, they starting bringing the children. We got busy assessing children, fitting them with equipment and educating nannies. Periodically throughout the day I would turn my attention to Naomi sitting on the same mat, sometimes holding a child who plopped on her lap, sometimes stringing beads or drawing on a dry erase board that one of us would place near her. She seemed content, but not happy. Before the day was over we walked with her a few times and made plans to fit her for custom braces the next day (our last day). As we were leaving that day I asked our facilitator what would happen to Naomi (children in China can’t be adopted after age 15). I was told she would move across the street to the “retirement” part of the Social Welfare Institute…..
The last day was super busy and hectic. A group of therapists and adoption staff from America had arrived the night before and we introduced them to the orphanage staff and children. Amber and I then got to work on Naomi’s braces, which elicited some of the fear we saw on the first day (Casting does involve hot water and a blade). This time I knew better how to distract Naomi….. Selfies!!! Apparently it’s “the year of the selfie” in China too! After finishing up with casting we took Naomi on a walk around the room followed by seeing if she fit in one of the larger wheelchairs….. She immediately started pushing herself all over the place. She now doesn’t have to sit in the same spot until someone decides to move her somewhere else! We saw lots of smiles from Naomi on this day….
It was so bittersweet to leave Naomi. I wonder if she wonders where we went, why we left her…. I pray every day that someone takes the time to walk with her. I pray that she has access to all the equipment we left for her. I pray that when we ship her new custom braces and extra awesome shoes that someone will put them on for her every day. More than anything I pray that someone will take the time to notice her and make her feel loved.