You can say that I’ve been around charity work since I was adopted at age 1. My dad worked for Special Olympics International for over 20 years; he and my mom were in charge of Special Olympics in China for many years. Since 2010, my dad has been with Orbis International, a blindness prevention NGO with a really cool Flying Eye Hospital. Did you know that 80 percent of blindness cases can be prevented or cured?
Everyone in my family is also a huge hockey fan. Both my brothers played in the youth and adult leagues in Beijing. We take part in the annual Hockey Night in Beijing (HNIB) event; that’s how we came to know about Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village (SFCV), as it was the charity for HNIB 2013.
Before HNIB, I did a drive for donations such as diapers, food, and everyday needs like cooking oil, batteries, and cleaning supplies. At HNIB itself, I helped with kid’s activities such as temporary tattoos, face painting, and the bouncy castle. As my mom said, “It was a win-win.” We had so much fun and at the same time helped SFCV children.
This year when my Grade 4 teacher at Daystar Academy, Ms. Weeks, asked our class about doing a community service project, I jumped out of my seat and said: “How about SFCV?” She asked me for more background, so my mom and I introduced her to the SFCV staff, who told her about this orphanage for special needs children.
After Ms. Weeks shared the information with the class, everyone was in 100 percent agreement to help them. Right away, we started brainstorming what kind of fundraiser to do.
We came up with many ideas, but a boy called Julien Glauser thought about creating a movie theater. Everyone loved this idea. A group of boys planned the theater and everyone else added to it. Rose Guo brought snacks every single day. Elaine Yang made and sold at least 50 bracelets. All the girls were busy packaging popcorn and the boys were busy trying to eat all the salt meant for the popcorn. Everyone who wasn’t doing something helped out by cutting tickets. Drinks were brought in by Andy An and Stefan Luca. I brought two pizzas.
We started selling tickets the week before the event. On the first day, it was kind of slow. The next day, a lot more people came. The first day was a little bit hard to handle but on the second day it got easier. On the day of the fundraiser, everyone was so nervous, happy, and excited because we didn’t know if it would work out. On the third day, everyone was starting to get tired but we still tried our best.
By the end of the fourth and final day, we had raised RMB 8,565 with the support of our whole school. Our original goal was RMB 4,250. We were very proud of this success!
Ms. Weeks then received the list of needs from SFCV. Then she, a girl called Dorothy Asiedu and I went shopping. The next step was to plan the visit.
On Thursday, April 24 at 8.30am, my class headed to SFCV. The only problem is that the orphanage is far from our school – all the way in Longfang, Tianjin. To make things worse, it was raining that morning and so there was a lot of traffic. At first, we were all quiet; then we were like normal kids on a bus asking, “How much longer?” But we were well-behaved, especially since Mr. Bayley, our school director, joined us for the trip.
When we finally arrived at the orphanage, Chrissy Kelly and Joanna Rae Candy from SCFV met us. The orphanage was very nice and large; I liked the Chinese-style buildings. They brought us all into a big room, gave us an introduction, and told us the day’s schedule. Because we were a bit late, we didn’t get a chance to see the babies or the toddlers; it was their nap time.
However, we got to visit five of the elementary classrooms. We divided into small groups and walked over to their school building. The children were really happy to see us. Many of them wanted to be hugged and picked up. One boy named Kennedy sang the ABC song in English; another boy was a great artist and drew some animals for my classmates. I played with a boy named Brody. After we hugged each other, I asked him if he wanted to read a book. He picked one up one about bears and we read together. He was adorable and we became fast friends!
I’m used to being around people with disabilities, since my family was so involved with Special Olympics and we did activities at the Western Academy of Beijing with students from the Shunyi Special School. Some of my classmates were a bit shy around them, but disabled kids just want the same things as you and me: to have friends and to be cared for.
For me, it was an extra-special trip. For my 10th birthday, I asked my mom if we could visit my orphanage in Chongqing. We are planning a trip this summer. Having a chance to go to SFCV made me happy because I feel very lucky to have been adopted by my loving parents. My hope and my classmates’ hope is that, by sharing our story, more people will consider supporting and maybe even adopting these special children. To learn more about SFCV, please visit their website at www.chinaorphans.com.
Quotes from Ella’s Classmates
“Shepard’s Field is a good place for orphans. My class had a fundraiser for them and when we had a field trip to their orphanage, we met a lot of kids. What surprised me was they even had a computer room with lots of computers! After this amazing trip, I felt happy helping them. Maybe we could do another fundraiser again? I hope so!”
– Lynn Chen
“I think Shepard’s Field is a lucky orphanage because the workers are nice and they try to teach the kids good manners. When we got off the bus, I thought we went to the wrong place. It was so nice and fancy; I couldn’t believe it. After when we went inside, I thought everybody must really like their home. I liked it a little bit, too!”
– Julien Glauser
About the Author
Ella Neary Meiyan Smith (age 10) is a Grade 4 student at Daystar Academy. Born in Chongqing in 2002, she was adopted by Arlington natives George and Trish Smith at age 3. In addition to running fundraisers, Ella enjoys traveling, cooking (especially pizza), golf, track and field, and bowling. She recently started taking guitar lessons, as she wants to be a singer and/or actress when she grows up.
Photos courtesy of Daystar