Pictures for this post are on Flickr.
The organization where we serve sponsors formula for babies under 1 year old in several orphanages around China. The orphanages are very poor, with few outside resources, and nutritious formula isn't even available for purchase locally. So, we ship in from Beijing the formula to the orphanages, and make monthly trips to check on the kids enrolled. We measure them, weigh them, and watch from month to month to ensure they are growing.
After catching another overnight train to our next city in Shanxi province, we spent the following morning at the local orphanage measuring kids. The foster families brought the children to the orphanage, so we did not see their homes. It made the process a lot faster for us! The babies in this orphanage were very ill and very small. I think a lot of it had to do with intense environmental pollution. There is a lot of coal production in the area, and it is really unbelievable how bad the pollution is. In fact, this area is known to have higher concentrations of certain birth defects, which can only be a result of pollution as well. The families still doted on the children, but the kids were very, very small... one baby in the project died last month. That's how serious this situation is... it was pretty sobering to see.
We left that afternoon to come back to Beijing. That train ride was really interesting, as it took us through countryside that we might never be able to see otherwise. (Not all places in China are open to foreigners.) It was through a lot of mountains, and a lot of rural farming area. There were really old houses built into the side of cliffs... It was like another world.
We got back to Beijing about 48 hours after we'd left it, but it felt like we had travelled to another world. In some ways we had... the China you see in Beijing is nothing like the China you see further West. The village where we actually live isn't really like Beijing, either, but where we visited was even more poor...
Each month more and more children are added to the formula project. If you would be interested in sponsoring formula for these children, please contact me. I can give you directions for how to make contributions directly to this project through our organization. Donations are tax-deductible.