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This cute little guy is one of thirty-five special-needs children living at the Starfish Foster Home in Xi’an China (read prior posts about Starfish). He posed for this photo before I could get my camera set up and mugged for the camera off and on all day. I gained a real appreciation for the beauty of a child who doesn’t necessarily look or act like the rest of the kids. At Starfish, they’re all that way.
There are about one million orphans in China; most are healthy little girls and the rest are special needs children. Because of a strong cultural preference for boys, China now bans gender identification procedures during pregnancy to discourage abortions, but this, combined with the one-child policy increases the number of live births of unwanted children. To be clear, most of these healthy girls and many of the special needs children would have a happy home with their birth parents but for China’s one-child policy.
Poor parents, upon learning that their one allowed child has a birth defect that could cost more money to fix than they can dream of having, sometimes feel that they have no choice but to leave the baby in the hospital.
The Starfish Foster Home seeks to care for these especially marginalized children in China. They are born with a range of physical problems, including cleft palettes, club feet and spina bifida; many of the children who come to Starfish have problems that can be fixed surgically.
Starfish arranges for the surgeries, often performed by visiting volunteer doctors who come from the United States and Europe. The children then remain in the foster home until they have fully recovered and can be adopted. The ultimate goal of Starfish is to get children into a permanent family situation.
Some of the children who end up at Starfish are there because they have a questionable diagnosis or a mystery condition of some sort. Sometimes, they simply aren’t thriving in the big public orphanage. At Starfish, the children generally flourish. During our visit, we saw countless smiles and a wonderful ratio of one nanny for every two children in the home, giving each one plenty of care. A New Zealand-trained nurse, Gillian Wain, who has performed humanitarian service around the world, now lives at the foster home to help care for the children around-the-clock.
Some have conditions like cerebral palsy that will be with them for the rest of their lives. They are all precious. They are all special.
Recently, I wrote about Amanda de Lange, the South African founder of Starfish who has recently been diagnosed with stage four uterine cancer. She is now in the United States being treated for her disease and is doing well. All involved with Starfish pray for her recovery and look forward to her return to Starfish.
In the interim, Patrick Belnap, who has been developing a dual Sino-American career in the NGO world has taken over as the interim director. He brings a strong commitment for continuing Amanda’s work and for seeing that the organization is strong and stable for the future.
Due to Amanda’s illness and her absence, everyone in the Starfish community is worrying about the relationship with state regulators and partners who work with or oversea the Starfish operations. The children continue to thrive and operations are running smoothly. It would only heap travesty upon tragedy to have Starfish closed due to Amanda’s illness.
To learn more about Starfish or to contribute to its mission, visit the homepage.
How can you help?
One third of the water wells in India are broken, depriving millions of access to clean water. The Adventure Project is working to fund training for water mechanics who will be able to repair and maintain these wells to restore clean water sources. This week alone their goal is to raise enough money to restore clean water sources to nearly one million people. I’m hoping to raise enough this week to fund the training for one mechanic: $550.
I’m going to need your help. My bestselling book (wink) hasn’t been published yet, so we’ll have to do this together. I’ve donated $50 and will ask ten friends to donate $5 each and ask two friend to do the same. Will you contribute $5.00 and ask two friends directly to do the same? If you will, within one week I am confident that we can reach our goal.
Living and working in China at Chinese wages, I have a whole new appreciation for $5. It is hard enough to earn $5, after tax, but it is much harder to save $5 so that it can be donated to help people so far away as India. I am grateful that you would consider making a donation of $5.00.
May I suggest that rather than simply sharing this post on your facebook page or in a tweet, that you instead pick the two people you know who are most likely to be willing to donate $5.00 and pick the two people they know who are most likely to do the same, in turn. Then, post this to their facebook pages or send them a personal tweet.
I don’t ask this favor lightly. To say there are lots of good causes in this world is the understatement of the century and everyone has a favorite. I’m guessing broken water wells in India weren’t on your radar before reading this. They weren’t on mine either.
I do hope, however, that you’d be willing to give up one run to McDonalds or Starbucks and to ask two friends to do the same in addition to all of the other good you do in the world.
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Those who chose to leave a mark on the world are as different as can be. Some wear suits while others are more comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt. Some seek to make a mark in the name of their deity while others claim no such faith and seek to leave their mark on the world anonymously. Some crusade without a dime, others leave fortunes as their mark. Some leave a mark in the dust of an African desert, others leave it enshrined on a university wall. Some are young and serve the old, while others are old and serve the young. Some travel great distances to leave a mark in a far away land, yet others make a mark right in their own community.
It isn’t the mark you leave or where you leave it that matters. It isn’t how you leave it or even why you leave it that is important. What matters is that you leave your mark on the world.
If you want to be among those who leave your mark on the world, connect with us, follow yourmarkontheworld.com and share the message. Together, there is no challenge too great for us.
Won’t you join us?
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Our friends, the Smiths, have moved on to India where they are volunteering at Rising Star Outreach, a school for the children of parents with leprosy. Each day as I try to learn more about both the problems in the world and the efforts of noble people to address them, I am equally moved by the scale and scope of the problems and by the courage, character and charm of those who battle them. How will you make your mark on the world?
Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.
Worldhaus is creating affordable housing for people around the world, providing them with basic shelter, plumbing and electricity. This video shows the construction of a $1,500 home within two weeks.
As a new organization, it will be exciting to watch Worldhaus grow and succeed, leaving a huge mark on the world!
Be sure to follow Worldhaus on tumblr.