May 15, 2008

Families with Chinese orphans sadly watch quake news

As the news trickles out about China's biggest earthquake in a generation -- 40,000 are reported dead and the government has said the toll could hit 50,000; millions are homeless -- few Westerners are paying more attention than a group of families in Racine.

The Southeast Chapter of Families with Children from China and Asia represents about 40 families here, who have adopted 50 children from the region.

"I can't fully explain to you how painful this is for our families," said Kelly Gallaher of Racine. "We all traveled to China to adopt our children, which was a life-changing experience without a doubt. One of the most difficult aspects of what was a joyous experience was visiting the orphanages that housed far too many children. We are all haunted by the children we left behind."

While little specific information has reached the West about which buildings survived and which collapsed, a story in today's New York Times said residents of Dujiangyan, in the quake zone, are calling for an investigation about why government buildings remained standing while many schools did not. The Times quoted one man who said two stories had been added to the Xinjian school even though it had failed a safety inspection two years ago. The Times has a picture slideshow of the devastation HERE. The Times' latest story is HERE.

Sichuan province, where the earthquake hit, is in central China, about 1,000 miles west of Shanghai.

Gallaher said that Racine's children from China all know each other now, thanks to the local chapter, although they came from different orphanages. "It was not unusual to have four or five orphanages represented in each travel group (when families went to China to pick up their children), so our attachments to the orphanages are broader than one might expect."

Kraig and Debbie Moffatt of Racine have two daughters adopted from China. Makayla, 5 1/2, is from Fulin, which is just south of the quake epicenter, and their older daughter, Linsey, 8, is from a neighboring province. Linsey went back to China with her parents in 2002 when they adopted Makayla. The family also sponsors a child in China's northern province.

"Our heart goes out to them, because when you've been over there, when you adopt a child, you have a lifelong connection," Debbie Moffatt said. "We said a prayer for their biological mothers."

Makayla's orphanage was not damaged "as much as others," Debbie Moffat said. "Many need a lot of help. It breaks my heart to think of the suffering," she said, referring to China's one-child-per-family policy and the thousands of children believed killed.

The Southeast Chapter of Families with Children from China and Asia issued the following statement today:

Chinese rescue workers desperately struggle to remove rubble from flattened buildings, the result of China’s worst earthquake in three decades. Three days after the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake centered in Wenchaun, Sichuan, China, there are confirmed 20,000 dead and 22,500 reported missing. The government has estimated there could be 50,000 dead.

There are no words to describe the sadness and helplessness we feel in the face of such devastation. Particularly horrifying, are the reports that the earthquake hit during the school day causing the collapse of at least six schools and the deaths of so many students. Our prayers and deepest sorrow are with their families and the people of Sichuan and Chongqing during this tragic time.

Area families whose adopted children were born in this area have been anxious to hear news of the effects of the earthquake on the orphanages in the area and the welfare of children remaining in these institutions. Through “Half the Sky Foundation” we have heard from staff members in Sichuan about the situation and what their current supply needs are.

Chongqing and Yibin orphanages are fine – no building damage, no shortage of supplies.

The orphanages below report problems. However, please note that not a single child has been injured; all are fine.

--Zigong Children’s Welfare Institution (CWI): Needs bedding, powdered milk, crackers and disposable diapers.

--Neijiang CWI: Has suffered some structural damage; one or two children’s dormitories, office building and laundry room have cracked walls.

--Nanchong 2nd Social Welfare Institution (SWI): Has cracks in walls, substantial damage to the ceiling of a staff building, needs tents.

--Mianyang Zitong CWI: Has severely damaged walls. Children have been moved to a military base. Urgent need for diapers, bedding, powdered milk and purified water.

--Hanzhong CWI (Shaanxi): Quite a few water pipes burst, the water tower had cracks. Children have been evacuated and there is need for more tents, bedding and purified water. We’ve posted a few photos on our website.

--Dujiangyan SWI: Has evacuated all children. They have no tap water or electricity in their temporary shelter. They urgently need food, purified water, diapers and powdered milk.

--We are still unable to reach the following institutions: Deyang CWI (78 children), Abazhou CWI (52 children), Guangyuan SWI, Mianzhu SWI.

The International Federation of Red Cross has made a global appeal for aid and supplies. Half the Sky Foundation and China's Ministry of Civil Affairs (the government agency responsible for disaster relief) have set up a Children’s Earthquake Fund that will provide direct aid to the thousands of children in welfare institutions and in the community who are suffering in the wake of devastating earthquakes in Sichuan Province and Chongqing. Donations will be used to provide emergency and long-term relief to children affected by the disaster.

Individuals who would like to make contributions may do so through the following websites:

Half the Sky Foundation

American Red Cross

The Southeast Chapter of Families with Children from China and Asia is a not-for-profit group of families who have adopted children from China, Korea and other Asian countries. FCC&A works to promote Asian adoption assist families currently waiting to travel for adoption, and organize assistance for children who remain in Asian orphanages. Further information about FCC&A can be found at the group's website.

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