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A Trip of a Lifetime

Ever since I was adopted from China as a baby, my parents thought about returning to my birth country so I could learn more about my beginnings and heritage. When we finally began making travel plans, I became more and more interested in visiting the orphanage where I had lived. And I began to wonder if there was something I could do to make a little difference for some of the children who live there now.

When we were eight years old, my sister and I started a kids-only philanthropic organization called “KidStuff.” We recruit kids to participate in projects to help others. Once I knew that my family would be traveling to China, I organized KidStuff kids to raise money to benefit the children at my orphanage. We began selling bracelets engraved with our KidStuff motto: “Make a little difference.” We raised about $300 that way.

One day I sold a bracelet to my friend’s grandmother. She asked me to explain about the orphanages in China and I told her how many of the children live there for a long time and don’t have many possessions. Then my friend’s grandmother said she belonged to a knitting circle and asked if I thought her group could somehow make a contribution through their knitting. We talked about it and came up with the idea for a benefit fashion show where we could sell knitted items to raise money for my orphanage.

The knitting circle donated about sixty items including: hats, sweaters, scarves, socks, and blankets. I recruited seven friends, most of them from adoptive families, to be “runway models.” We found a church to donate space, a caterer to donate food, and newspaper reporters to give us exposure.

When my mom’s hairdresser donated products for door prizes, I wondered whether other business people would donate things as well. I wrote letters and visited local businesses. That was one of the hardest parts for me because I am a little shy. But I was able to get donations from about thirty businesses and so we included a silent auction as part of the event. A lot of people came and we sold almost everything. The event lasted two hours and we raised $2,000.

As the time for our trip approached, our heritage tour planners at Lotus Travel contacted my orphanage and arranged for us to visit. On our behalf, they asked about the children who live there and found out that there are many babies who have cleft palates and that they have a hard time drinking from a bottle. The staff at the orphanage try to modify the bottles for them, but still the babies have a hard time. I learned that there are special bottles that can be bought for cleft palate babies, but that the bottles are not sold in China. They are, however, sold in the United States.

I used some of the money I had raised to purchase one hundred bottles and we took them with us to China. They took up a whole suitcase! The nannies at the orphanage were so happy to receive the special bottles. We also took the nannies shopping and, with money I had raised, bought enough powdered milk to feed all of the babies for three months.
It’s been three years now since that trip, but still when I remember my orphanage I feel pretty emotional. Going there really changed my perspective on things. I always just assumed everyone had much of what I have in America, but now I understand how little there is for some people. It was sad to see the orphanage babies sleeping on boards in metal cribs, and even sadder to see a little boy grab my dad’s hand and not want to let go. But it was also why I felt so good about being able to make the donations.

My experience taught me more about how just one or two or seven kids can make a little difference, and that is one important thing I’d like other kids to know from my experience.

Overall, this experience changed my life for good. I’m proud of being adopted from China, and I’m proud I was able to give something back. I’m already thinking about new projects that will allow me and other kids to continue making a little difference for others.
Author: Julia W.

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