(Continued from Part 1)
Tim Baker, whom the children lovingly call “Papa Tim,” adopted another child named Philip. He found Philip, who was suffering from a congenital cleft lip, in one of the surrounding orphanages and saw that he was dying. He took Philip back to Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village and used a syringe to feed him since he was unable to drink from a baby bottle.
A few days later, Philip began to slowly regain his strength, laugh, move, and babble. Six months later, Philip underwent corrective surgery on his upper lip, which was remedied successfully. He became the seventh child of the Baker couple.
Soon, there were more than 80 orphans in the Children’s Village, out of which, more than 95 percent suffered from varying degrees of physical disabilities. They not only required more meticulous care, they also needed periodical surgeries, regular medication, or both. Thus, a huge expense was involved, which became the focus of Baker’s annual fundraising effort. Despite all challenges, Baker’s attitude remained adamant: “Don’t refuse” and “don’t give up.”
There was a 6-year-old named Yang Yang who suffered from hydrocephalus, a condition in which there is a dangerous accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid within the brain. When Yang Yang first entered the Children’s Village, he was bedridden and could not eat. After surgery and under the care of everyone in the Children’s Village, Yang Yang learned to get up, climb, eat, and even laugh and joke. Whenever Baker told Yang Yang “I love you,” he would roll his eyes, tilt his head, and say: “Papa Tim, I love you.” Then both of them would laugh together.
In the Children’s Village, the children’s bedrooms are clean and tidy and each room is equipped with heating and air conditioning. The helpers, all elderly women, or “aunties,” are specially trained to take care of the children. The children look upon the aunties as their “mothers.” There are in all, 67 aunties taking care of more than 80 children. Some children are still small or unable to move, so the aunties look after them around the clock.
The helpers are divided into two groups, one to work “day shift” and the other the “night shift.” They feed and care for the orphans during the day, bathe them and wash their clothes toward evening, and even record the children’s sleeping time at night. Over time, the bond between the helpers and children grows closer and each time a child leaves Children’s Village with their foster parents, the helpers feel sad and tearful, although they are happy knowing it is for the child’s sake.
The Children’s Village trains the children to be independent and gives them the ability to enter society. The Children’s Village has given abandoned children a warm home, but Baker still had the feeling that this was not enough and wanted to do more for them.
The Children’s Village runs its own school and the teachers adjust the contents of the courses according to the child’s situation and ability. They teach the children Chinese characters, English, mathematics, and also teach them how to cook, how to take the bus, how to go shopping in the supermarket, and more.
When a child is able to cope on its own, they are trained to do their own chores independently, except for those children with poor physical conditions. In the cafeteria, after each meal, each child is trained to wash their own dishes and put them back in the disinfected cabinet by themselves.
After all the good things that Baker had done, he still felt that this was not enough. He began to think ahead for the orphans. This time, he planned to set up a vocational education center in the Children’s Village to cultivate the children’s ability to work independently and be able to enter society later on.
Under the law in China, orphans who reach the age of 14 can no longer be adopted by orphanages. In normal circumstances, the healthy children will enter society with the orphanage’s help, while the disabled children can only spend the rest of their lives in social welfare institutions. Baker wanted to give these children an opportunity — to teach them survival skills and how to take care of themselves.
In the garden of the Children’s Village, there is a wall full of handprints. It is called the “Hand of Hope.” It is like a monument that records the names and handprints of every adopted child and also records the beginning of their new life with their foster families. The photos sent by their foster families are also posted on the wall one by one, forming a special “photo wall.” Every child in the photo is seen to be smiling brightly.
According to Baker: “I want these children to remember where they came from even if they go to live abroad with their foster families and speak different languages.”
From 1996 until now, the Children’s Village has arranged and contributed to surgeries for more than 3,000 disabled children and found permanent adoptive families for more than 900 children.
This makes Baker, who is now nearing 60 years old, very proud. He said he wants to stay in China and stay with the children until the end of his life. Someone once asked him: “Why is it so good to adopt children?” Baker said he loves the adopted children more than his own children because they came to his life in such special ways.
Baker said: “These children gave me much more than I gave them. They are the ones that changed me, opened my heart, and let me see the sadness and pain in this world. Every child who came to the Children’s Village has a different sad past, but here, their smiles are the same. They are all bright, and their future will be as bright as their smile. The problem is not these children, but the parents and relatives who have relentlessly abandoned them.”
Let us hope that Baker’s kindness and love can help the children to overcome their physical challenges and on the other side, change people’s indifference and prejudice toward these children and inspire more compassion in Chinese society.
Translated by Chua BC and edited by Michael Segarty