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Sep 7, 2018

I Have Never Felt So Proud of My Son!

Making mom proud!
Making mom proud!

Thank you for your continued support of children of factory workers in Vietnam. We hope you enjoy this heartwarming story about a determined little boy named Nhat. We look forward to bringing you future reports from our new Factory Model! 

 

When Nhat was born his dad was away working in Da Nang to earn a living, leaving him in his hometown with his mom and his grandparents. Nhat needed extra care because he had congenital ptosis — his drooping eyelids covered a large part of his pupils, which caused vision problems. He was also born with a chest wall deformity that resulted in breathing difficulties and hindered his ability to learn to speak.

After eight months in his village, his mom Hoa decided to take Nhat back to Da Nang, so she could try to find a job in a factory to help support the young family. Unfortunately, as soon as Hoa found a job in a clothing factory, his dad Doan lost his job at the computer factory where he had been working for eight years.

Doan loved staying at home with Nhat for six months because it gave him the time to bond with his son. But the time at home also meant that the whole family was relying on Hoa’s slim income, so Doan couldn’t stop worrying about the future. When Nhat was 14 months old, Doan finally found a new job that meant the couple had to send him to a daycare center.

At the home-based childcare they chose, 30 children sat on little stools in front of a small TV all day in a 30-meter square room with minimal outdoor space. The two untrained caregivers who looked after the children could not pay enough attention to any individual child. The only feedback Nhat’s parents received from the caregivers was how much he ate every day — nothing about his physical, language or social development.

Because the quality of Nhat’s home-based care was typical for Da Nang, it never occurred to his parents that he needed more stimulation, love and responsive care to thrive. Though it seemed normal at the time, thinking back, they realize, “It was more like a place to keep a child alive, rather than a place to nurture and raise a child.”

During the 20 months he stayed at the daycare center, Nhat made minimal progress. At the age of 15 months old he couldn’t crawl. At two and half years old he could barely say any words. Even when he started speaking a few words at the age of three, his pronunciation problems meant it was difficult to understand what he said. He was so shy and introverted, he would cry and scream whenever he met new people.

Because he was falling behind both physically and cognitively, people would often think that Nhat had learning disabilities, which made Hoa uncomfortable taking him out. “Looking at other parents proudly sharing their children’s photos on Facebook, I thought their children seemed to be doing so much better than mine.” Feeling self-pity, Hoa shut herself down, avoided meeting other parents, and never shared photos of her own son.

That all changed when Nhat’s parents decided to enroll him at OneSky’s Early Learning Center (ELC).  At the beginning, Nhat was very quiet, passive, and lacked confidence. Riding a bicycle, standing in the sandpit, or even having other children coming near him would make him cry.

However, Nhat’s teachers carefully observed him and noticed the one thing that made him smile: he could spend hours looking at picture books. His face lit up and he became excited when flipping through the images, especially when they were of animals. The teachers started spending a lot of time sitting with him, reading him picture books and telling him stories.  When his teacher Sa read the names of the animals, his little fingers followed each picture and he tried to repeat each animal’s name.

Slowly, Nhat also started to open up and express his emotions verbally. Although his speech is still hard to understand, Nhat loves telling stories about animals. Sa listens patiently to his stories and never forgets to say words of encouragement. Soon Sa discovered another surprise: Nhat has an incredible memory! From a boy who could barely talk, he now knows more numbers, letters and names of animals than any other child in the classroom.

Nhat’s love for letters and numbers doesn’t stop at school. Every day when Hoa picks him up, Nhat asks her to read loudly every single letter and number on the sign of the ELC at the front gate. “He will not go home until I have read all the letters and numbers to him,” boasts Hoa.  His dad excitedly interjects: “Even in the evening when he’s at home, his only wish is for us to learn letters with him.” Doan brought home a set of alphabet letters from his factory that has become Nhat’s favorite toy.

Nhat has also shown a keen interest in learning English, so his parents are trying to learn English so they can teach him. “Each English word we learn, we try to learn it correctly so we can teach Nha,” says Hoa. One day Hoa mistakenly called a watermelon “waterlemon.” Now every time Nhat sees a watermelon, he cheekily calls it waterlemon just to tease his mother. “We won’t make another English mistake again,” jokes Doan.

To help make ends meet, Doan often takes night shifts from 6pm to 6am at a factory that makes electronics and Hoa sells rice wrapping papers during her 30-minute lunch breaks.  While his parents work hard to save for a brighter future, Nhat’s parents know their son is in good care at the ELC, which is open 12 hours a day, six days a week. After just seven months, Nhat has aleady made an incredible turnaround. The shy little boy not only makes his parents proud, but everyone who sees him happily playing with his friends and greeting visitors confidently. “Seven months ago, I dared not dream that I would ever see him playing and dancing with his friends so confidently. I have never felt so proud of my son,” says Doan.

Learning is fun!
Learning is fun!
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!
 
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