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Jul 19, 2018

Meet OneSky's "Kids at Heart" Foster Parents!

Our fist stay-at-home dad!
Our fist stay-at-home dad!

In this report, we’d like to introduce you to our first stay-at-home dad, working full-time alongside his wife raising eight children with special needs. Thanks to supporters like you, many abandoned children living in orphanages are placed with families through our Loving Families Program. We hope you enjoy this story about these incredible foster parents and their kids!

Family mentor Zeng Feiling was skeptical when Huang Yasheng applied to be a stay-at-home dad for OneSky’s Loving Families Program. Huang Yasheng, who was working full-time as a carpenter, and his wife Zeng Lanjuan, who was working at home full-time, were doing a wonderful job as foster parents for four children with special needs. But employing two stay-at-home parents would mean adding four more children with special needs to the family.

“My first thought was eight children… impossible!” recalls Zeng Feiling. She also admits that though she knew she was stereotyping, she was skeptical that Huang Yasheng would be suitable for the job of parenting full-time at home because men typically don’t have the temperament for it. “People who take this job have to have tons of patience not only because children cry a lot but also because it is even more difficult parenting children with special needs.”

Nevertheless, OneSky decided to take a chance on the new arrangement and now Zeng Feiling readily admits, “I was wrong.” Huang Yasheng has proven to be a supportive, inventive and fun dad of seven girls and one boy ranging in age from two to 12 whose special needs include cerebral palsy, congenital heart disease, and Down syndrome. Huang Yashen’s guiding principle, underscored by OneSky’s foster parent training, is that children should be treated “with kindness from the bottom of our hearts.”

Though he is a fun dad, Huang Yasheng also helps keep order in what could easily become a chaotic household. For example, Huxin, Huang Yasheng’s eight-year-old son, who has serious mental disabilities, was impervious to his dad’s order that he needed to go to bed. Then Huang Yasheng came up with an idea: when it’s time for bed, he pretends to snore, signaling that it’s bedtime. Gradually Huxin got used to that signal and he was never late going to bed. “Sometimes we just need some strategies to reason with mischievous children,” says Huang Yasheng.

Huang Yasheng thinks he inherited his affection for children from his father, who was always warm and inspiring, despite the challenges of raising a family in poverty. At mealtimes with his five brothers and sisters, “If I tried to reach for more food, my mother used chopsticks to hit my hands.” When he turned ten, Huang Yasheng’s dad told him he had to quit going to school so he could take on the job of running the household—he cooked, cut firewood, carried well water and herded the cows indefatigably. At 14, Huang Yasheng was able to go back to primary school, but dropped out once and for all after graduating from junior high school.

Now that she has so much help from her husband, Zeng Lanjuan’s job as a stay-at-home mom has more time to enjoy all her children. Zeng Lanjuan has learned she can depend on her husband when she is stymied. For example, 14-month-old Jiajia, their youngest child, had been crying intensely for over a week. Both parents were worried and seldom slept through the night. They were even starting to think that Jiajia was more than they could handle. They tried every means to calm Jiajia down, including cuddling her constantly, but nothing worked. Then they noticed that Jiajia had developed a special bond with her dad, so he took on the task of lulling her to sleep. Soon she was falling quickly into a serene sleep and waking up in the morning the same time her dad wakes up. The bond is mutual. Huang Yasheng feels his life is complete when Jiajia calls him dad.

Of course there have been intense challenges, some of which Huang Yasheng believes stem from his children’s years of living in an orphanage rather than a family. Because two of their children arrived without toilet training, Huang Yasheng and Zeng Lanjuan were constantly cleaning up urine and feces in the house, which smelled horrible. It took a month of both parents getting up at two or three in the morning, but those sleepless nights paid off when both children learned to use the toilet. Says Huang Yasheng, “We were a little frustrated at first, but I wasn’t tired. When I was young, I had already gotten into the habit of sleeping for only several hours. Four hours of sleep is adequate for me to stay energetic.”

Now that the couple works so closely together, they have developed a closer rapport than they had when Huang Yasheng spent long days at work. They do not divide their work rigidly and hardly ever have any disagreements about who should do what, often preferring to take turns.

For example, Huang Yasheng and Zeng Lanjuan take turns making breakfast every morning. Because Huang Yasheng doesn’t need much sleep, when it’s his turn, he gets up before everyone else so he can prepare the breakfast before the family’s 5 am wakeup time. Then it takes almost an hour to wake all the children and dress, clean and feed them. Zeng Lanjuan ties the four oldest girls’ hair into neat pigtails. Thankfully, big sister Lan, who is 11, loves to help.

After breakfast, Huang Yasheng takes five children to their classrooms on the fifth and sixth floors of the orphanage and Zeng Lanjuan takes three children to theirs on the first floor. Back at the apartment, Huang Yasheng cleans while Zeng Lanjuan, who is an excellent cook, makes lunch. Huang Yasheng picks up all the children in the afternoon and the couple works together to make sure all eight children have their baths in the evening.

Evenings are also the time for singing parties led by Zeng Lanjuan, who has “kid at heart” qualities of her own. Because of her dancing and singing talents, she was admitted to an arts school after junior high thanks to singing and dancing talents, but her mother did not permit her to go. Nevertheless, she became the director of her village’s Cantonese opera troupe. At home, she unleashes her fervent passion for singing. To joy-filled music, the entire family sings in the morning and things gets livelier and livelier as the day goes by. The optimism is contagious. Though Zeng Lanjuan’s singing parties start with her family, they frequently spread to the neighbors, who can’t resist joining in.

Huang Yasheng says his wife’s musical talent helped turn one of the children, their 4-year-old daughter Anyun, around. When Anyun first joined the family, she did not want to move or talk and slept all the time, but now she is more outgoing—she visits the neighbors, says hello and then blows them a lovely kiss. “What a big difference a family has made for Anyun!” says Huang Yasheng.

Zeng Lanjuan is equally expansive praising her husband, who is much more involved in raising their foster children than he was raising their biological children because he had to work outside of the home and leave the village to find work in big cities. She singles out his special bond with Jiajia. “In his eyes, she is an infant who warrants more careful attention. Sometimes he even hoards snacks for her,” laughs Zeng Lanjuan.

The couple’s biological son Bin also recognizes how great his dad and mom are at their jobs. “I am so proud of my parents. They’re very good at overseeing the children’s growth every day.” On a recent visit, Bin and his girlfriend Caihua, who is a preschool teacher, jumped into family activities. When Jiajia handed some colorful paper to Caihua, she deftly folded the sheets into beautiful shapes for the children. Bin helped his mother prepare dinner, set up the table, and poured soup for each of his siblings, who were captivated by their big brother, especially Anyun, who couldn’t take her eyes off him. Bin told her: “Anyun, you are so adorable. You have very big eyes!”

Both parents find their work for the children more rewarding than their previous jobs. Zeng Lanjuan used to cook for 100 people in a factory and her food was popular among the workers. Nevertheless, she rebuffs suggestions that she start her own food business: “My wife is very talkative and has a shrewd business mind, but when a relative recommended that she start her own business, she said that seeing the children eat the food she cooks makes her prouder.”

Huang Yasheng feels the same way. He has a friend who keeps trying to talk him into going into the furniture industry again with him. “I have refused. I would rather care for children who give meaning to my life than make furniture. As long as OneSky wants my wife and me, we want to stay and help raise these children.”

Stay tuned to read more reports from our Loving Families Program!

One big happy family!
One big happy family!
Jul 13, 2018

Yutong the Artist has the Best Birthday Ever!

Yutong doing what she loves!
Yutong doing what she loves!

Thank you for supporting our village model in rural China! We hope you enjoy this report about a young girl named Yutong, who we’ve been following for some time. Read on for a special tale about a little girl who loves to paint and dreams of birthday cake...

Yutong’s parents did not come home for the New Year holiday.

Nor did they come home for the spring harvest. Despite Teacher Li’s best efforts, Yutong began to struggle in school and spent more and more time alone. When the summer holiday came, Yutong reminded her grandpa that he’d once promised to take her to Shanghai. Grandma’s health was getting worse; perhaps a summer away would be a good thing.

So Grandpa called Yutong’s father and asked if she could spend the summer with her parents. Yutong’s father said it would cost too much money. And what if Yutong decided she liked living in Shanghai and didn’t want to leave? Grandpa said maybe it’s time for Yutong to have a relationship with her parents. “She really misses her mama.”

Finally her father said, “Yutong, bring your school books with you. If I have time, I will help you get ready for first grade.”

And so, the next morning, Yutong and her grandpa boarded a bus for the two-day trip to Shanghai. The plan was to stay for the whole summer, but in the end, they stayed only ten days. Yutong’s parents were away at work until late at night and left early in the morning. Finally Grandpa suggested they go home. Yutong’s mama cried when they left.

When Yutong started first grade, no one had remembered to buy her a new book bag, so Grandma washed the old one and her beloved OneSky Teacher Li bought her a pencil box, some pencils and notebooks.

When Yutong’s first grade teacher handed out the new textbooks, she wrote her name on every one. Though the books were a little difficult for Yutong, that didn’t stop her. From the start, Yutong was very serious about her schoolwork—even practicing characters while the other children played or napped.

Teacher Li also decided to help Yutong thrive in grade school by working with a social worker to create an art class for her and other village children passionate about art. On the first day of the class, Yutong introduced herself haltingly, but with the help and encouragement of her teacher, she said: “I am seven years old. I like to draw pictures and I am very happy to attend this art class.”

Soon Yutong started sharing her paintings with the other children. One day after she created a painting she was particularly proud of, Yutong said, “I drew this picture very well.” All the children applauded her. Perhaps best of all, Yutong stopped watching TV and drawing pictures alone at home, preferring instead to play with her friends from art class.

Again, OneSky stepped in when Teacher Li learned that Yutong’s secret dream was to have a cake for her birthday — we decided to make that dream come true!

On the big day, our staff found Yutong playing in the Children’s Park on the square with her friends. After changing into a dress for the party, Yutong took them to her home where her grandmother was harvesting peanuts. Yutong best friends arrived and sang Happy Birthday for her. Then for the first time, Yutong made a wish before blowing out the candles.

After giving some birthday cake to her grandparents and friends, Yutong sat next to her best friend Tian Tian and started to eat. Teacher Li playfully put some cream on Yutong’s face, making her look like a cat. Yutong laughed happily and put some cream on Tian Tian’s face. Yutong’s favorite birthday gift was a bicycle, which she rides every day, rain or shine.

Though she doesn’t see her parents often, Yutong is determined to make them proud. And thanks to the adults who have stepped into her life to support her and her grandparents, she is making her parents proud by becoming a self-confident, joyful little artist who, despite their absence, knows she is loved.

Be sure to check out this link for more stories and videos about the Village Model on our website!

Yutong gets her cake!
Yutong gets her cake!
Apr 23, 2018

From Orphanage to Foster Family to Adoption!

Anjing was born with severe special needs.
Anjing was born with severe special needs.

At OneSky, we love happy endings! And, thanks to supporters like you, many abandoned children living in orphanages are placed with families through our Loving Families Program. But sometimes the story doesn’t end there. Occasionally these children—who often have special needs—will then be adopted by a “forever family” to call their own. Such was the case with Anjing…

When she arrived at the orphanage as a newborn, she was given the name Anjing (“Sunshine Girl”) even though she wasn’t expected to live, let alone beam with laughter and love.

But her OneSky-trained nanny vowed to care for Anjing as if she were already a Sunshine Girl, not a tiny, broken baby who had been abandoned in a hospital corridor because of a severe birth defect. That nanny was the first of several OneSky-trained caregivers who led her to the bittersweet days this December when she said goodbye to her preschool teachers, foster mom, dad and siblings and opened her heart to her adoptive family.

“Anjing will be adopted by a Chinese-American couple very soon,” the orphanage director told OneSky foster mom Chen Yanqing one morning. It was news that pierced her heart. Mama Chen was thrilled for Anjing, but tears welled in her eyes as she thought of the day her beloved child would become another mother’s beloved child. She wiped away her tears quickly, but Anjing seemed to sense her pain and her joy. After her bath that evening, Anjing blurted out, “Mama, I like you!” and hugged her tight. Then, as if to assure her mom her now big girl of four years old would be fine after she left, she said: “Let me put on my clothes myself today!”

In preschool, Anjing loves the toy kitchen where she can be a good mom, just like Mama Chen. After she “cooks”, she puts the “food” into different “bowls” and shares it with her “kids.” When she asks, “Who wants a spoon?” her friends raise their hands and she carefully serves the “meal” that they “eat” ravenously.

Like Mama Chen, Anjing’s preschool teacher Li Lingyu wants to prepare Anjing to meet her new family.

Teacher Li: “You’re going to see your American Baba and Mama. Are you happy?”

Anjing: “Happy.”

Teacher Li: “When you go to America what will you miss the most?”

Anjing: “Miss mom and dad, Nana and teacher.”

Teacher Li: “What will you do when you miss them?”

Anjing: “Make a phone call.”

Teacher Li: “How do you make a phone call?”

Anjing: “Like this!” placing her right hand near her ear. “Hello, I want to speak to Nana!” Nana comes to Anjing and passes the ball she’s playing with to her. Anjing catches the ball and gives it back.

Teacher Li: “Nana, will you kiss Anjing when she leaves us?” Nana hasn’t learned to speak, but she approaches her best friend and sister, kisses her on her cheeks, and gives her a hug.

Though her doctors cautioned that Anjing might never sit up, stand or walk on her own, Anjing has mastered sitting and standing and teacher Li is helping her work on walking.

Anjing: “Teacher, I want to walk!”

Teacher Li: “Okay, let’s try to touch the ground with your feet first. Use your whole strength to touch the ground! I’m holding your waist, and don’t be afraid, I’m here behind you and will get you anytime. Ready? Go!” Anjing tries very hard to bend her one knee to walk one step. “Great, do you want to try another step?”

Anjing nodding, “Yes!”

Teacher Li: “Does it feel good to touch the ground with your feet?”

Anjing: “Good!” and she tries another step.

At home, Anjing’s dad Jiang is also trying to prepare himself and his daughter for her departure. Anjing is a daddy’s girl, who greets every night when he comes home late from a long day at work. “Hug” she says sweetly and her dad’s stress disappears thanks to that little magical word. Jiang decides to organize a final family outing at a nearby park so Anjing can explore nature with her pink-rimmed magnifying glass. “Baba, I want to observe the leaves.” Jiang picks up a leaf and places it under the magnifying glass. “Leaf, I found you!” says Anjing, “Green leaf.” She looks at her dad, who squats down and asks, “Will you miss me, Anjing?” “Yes, I will!”

The day Anjing will meet her new family finally arrives. Before he leaves for work, Anjing’s Dad kisses his sleeping daughter for the last time, her brother Miaosheng gives Anjing his last hug before he goes to school, her sister Xiangdie combs her hair gently, and Nana pats Anjing’s shoulder as if to wish her the best of luck. Mama Chen asks Anjing to pick out her favorite photos in their family album, organizes the progress reports written by her OneSky caregivers, and carefully packs them and her orthopedic shoes and favorite panda in her new pink bag, along with this note: “Anjing likes to eat eggs, chicken, and fruit; please massage her feet after a foot bath every night; please make sure she wears her orthopedic shoes every night.” “Anjing, show this note to your baba and mama when you see them, Okay?” Anjing nods.

Then it’s time for the drive to the adoption center accompanied by Teacher Li. During the trip, Anjing whispers in Li’s ear, “Teacher, I’ll tell you a secret.”

Teacher Li whispers back: “Tell me what is it. I won’t tell anyone.”

Anjing: “I’m wearing a new pair of socks!”

Teacher Li: “Oh, really? What color are they?”

Anjing: “Pink. Animals on them, meow, meow.”

Teacher Li: “Are they cats?”

Anjing softly: “Yes, cats.”

Teacher Li: “Who gave them to you?”

Anjing says proudly, raising her voice a bit: “My new mom!” Then she laughs happily and snuggles close to teacher Li.

Teacher Li: “Where do they live?”

Anjing: “Home.” She takes out the album her adoptive mom sent to her and turns to the picture of her future house. “This is my mom and this is my dad, two brothers, sister.”

Teacher Li: “Wow, you will have three siblings!”

When Anjing and Li arrive, her new family is waiting. Her big sister touches Anjing’s face, kisses her and pats her gently on the shoulder. Her big brothers can’t take their eyes off Anjing, but hold back. “Come on, hug your new sister,” mom urges. They approach Anjing, hug her quickly, step back shyly and giggle.

Anjing’s mom notices a gift wrapped in Christmas paper in her lap. “Who gave this to you?” she asks?

Anjing: “My teachers!”

Teacher Li: “Now, Anjing, you can open your gift,” With her mom’s help, Anjing opens the box. “Wow, a lollipop, a red watch and a pearl necklace, Anjing, do you like these gifts?”

Anjing: “Yes!”

As Anjing grows up, the memory of receiving the gifts and the faces of those who cared for her will fade as she is enveloped in the love of her new family. But the gift of unconditional love she received from her caregivers in China, which enabled Anjing to thrive despite the daunting physical and emotional challenges of her youngest years and readied her to embrace the love of her new family, will endure.

Read more about Anjing Parts 1-6

With love and nurturing, Anjing blossoms!
With love and nurturing, Anjing blossoms!
Meeting her new family!
Meeting her new family!
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