Here's Donna and Gwen standing outside her orphanage, the Shenzhen Social Welfare Institute (or SWI). Shenzhen is a beautiful and modern city which more or less came into being only a couple of decades ago, and is now a major commercial hub due to its proximity to Hong Kong. The architecture is much more modern than anywhere else we've seen in China, and it's immaculately maintained with flowers along the highways, bright colors on the buildings, and lots of glass and chrome everywhere.
We came to the orphanage via a two-hour van ride set up by the China team, and Philip and Mary accompanied us. We traveled with Toni and Wayne, who also adopted a daughter from the same orphanage.
Once inside, we met the director (second from left) and a person we're taking to be the chief caretaker (left), shown here with all of us. They took us around the orphanage and showed us all manner of interesting stuff. Government regulations do not permit pictures inside the orphanage, maybe due to some traumatic video footage that was released some time ago that created a huge uproar. But we were able to take pictures of some of the play areas. Also, we were able to photograph one little girl who will be adopted in November by somebody who has been in email contact with Donna. We were in a room full of little children, some special needs, some others, some boys, some girls. They were all well-dressed in Western-style playclothes, t-shirts and shorts. When Donna recognized the other little girl, we asked whether we could take a photograph for the adoptive mother. They said yes, and took her off into a corner to put her in a dress, then took us outside to take her picture in the corridor.
They also let us take some pictures of the room where Gwen played when she was in the orphanage. As you can see, it's prety nice -- if we went to a US daycare center and saw a room like this, we'd be pretty happy with it. We saw quite a few rooms through the SWI that were like this, including two with pianos that were used for lessons for the older students. And we say a few classrooms with blackboards, and books. Most of the rooms had windows, due to a big central courtyard, and most of the walls had bright colorful things stuck all over them. And the caretakers all seemed friendly.
Speaking of the courtyard, here's a picture of some of the playtoys, and one of Gwen playing on a little rocking horse that was set up out there.
The primary caretaker sat with us and gave us a really detailed picture of her diet, with translations provided by the China team. We asked a million questions, and they were pretty patient, giving us a sense of what she ate for each meal of the day, how she ate it, how much, and so forth. Very helpful.
All told, we had an incredibly positive experience visiting the orphanage. We have a much stronger sense of where she comes from, and a pretty positive view of it.
Here is some interesting information about adoptions from the Shenzhen SWI. Source: http://www.sznews.com/szdaily/20040531/ca961375.htm
A TOTAL of 1,210 orphans have been adopted by Chinese and overseas families since the Shenzhen orphanage opened in 1992.
Fu Tianyue, head of Shenzhen Social Welfare Center which supervises the orphanage, said Monday that of the 1,210 adopted children, 870 had gone to Chinese families and 340 had gone to overseas families.
"The Chinese families are mainly from Shenzhen and Pearl River Delta area cities such as Zhuhai, Dongguan and Huiyang. The overseas families are from the 14 countries and regions that have signed adoption agreements with China," Fu said.
Fu said the latest adoption was a 7-year-old girl, who was adopted by an American couple May 24.
"This year, 17 orphans have been adopted by foreign families from the United States, Canada, Spain, Australia and Britain," Fu said.
"So far, we have 120 families applying to adopt our children," he said.
The Shenzhen orphanage now has 430 children. Of these, 114 are already living with adopting families but their adoption paperwork has yet to be finished.