(Written by Edith Young Soares, Chairman of MedArt Volunteer Committee)
When we arrived to the Suzhou Children's Hospital, I had so many different feelings about being there. I was filled with doubt because I am neither a medical professional, nor a social worker nor a mother. During the trip, I kept asking myself: "How can I be of help?" Moreover, the last thing I wanted was to be a burden to everyone. But Dr Ngan reassured us that the role of the volunteers is to talk and play with the kids and to give moral support to their caregivers or known as Aiyees.
I told myself to keep an open mind and be ready to cooperate when needed. Thankfully, the doctors, the nurses and the volunteers were all very friendly and made me feel accepted and included.
At the waiting room before the children were called in for surgery, we had the opportunity to chat with the care-givers. I found out that most of these ladies were from the villages and have worked in the orphanages for six or more years. They shared about their job and their initial fear and apprehension of taking care of disabled children. I could tell the caregivers really appreciated the time we spent together. One of them even gave me a big hug when I visited her the following day. The doctors mentioned that these caregivers play an essential role in the aftercare of the child to ensure a smooth recovery.
One of the patients waiting for corrective surgery was a 17-month-old girl named Li Yu Feng Suzy. When I met her on the day of her operation, she was very guarded and rebuffed my attempts to play with her. But I noticed that she was still curious about who I was. I could tell she was observant. Her eyes always looked like they were filled with wonder and she would fix her gaze on me as I chatted with her caregiver.
The next day - after her surgery - we visited her again. This time, she greeted me with such as sweet loving smile which was her way of saying “Hello, I remember you!” This really made my day.
When I reflect on this experience, I realize that my initial fears were unfounded and I am so glad I joined the Suzhou trip. The commitment of the medical team, the compassion of the caregivers and the camaraderie of the volunteers all worked together to make a positive difference in these children's lives. For us, we are richly rewarded by the children's smiles and the hope that they'll have a smooth recovery. More importantly that they will be adopted into loving and caring homes.