China – Chunhui China Care Home
Incoming second-year student, Michelle Vu, is currently pursuing a major in Physiological Sciences due to her interest in child development. Specifically, she is fascinated by the various factors that contribute to the emotional, physical and behavioral development of children throughout different stages of their lives. With the strong conviction that children are the “building blocks of our community,” Vu believes it is our duty to ensure they are properly nurtured. This summer the Baldwin Park native has been giving back by volunteering with OneSky, a nonprofit that aims to help communities and caregivers serve vulnerable young children. Citing her own moral obligation to help others who are disadvantaged, Vu traveled to Beijing for 10 days this June to volunteer with orphaned and abandoned children at Chunhui China Care Home.
Her journey in this world first began with her involvement with China Care Bruins, a mentorship program between UCLA students and Chinese adoptees. This organization initially interested her because it drew attention to a very unique cause that no other campus groups were addressing. The targeted goals and mission engaged her own interest and led her to continue her work with this population. Through China Care Bruins partnership with OneSky, Vu learned about the opportunity to join OneSky’s Student Volunteer trip to Beijing.
Over the course of these 10 days, Vu was charged with taking care of and spending time with the children at Chunhui. She was also tasked with looking after one specific infant to build a more stable and long-term bond. Especially due to their rough backgrounds of abandonment, these children struggled to build trust and connect with new faces. Rather than forming many superficial relationships, the program and Vu focused on gaining the trust of these children through concentrated one-on-one experiences. This meant that Vu and her fellow volunteers would wake up every morning around 8 am to walk to Chunhui, where they would have to remove their shoes and sanitize their hands due to many of the children’s vulnerable health. Their daily tasks consisted of playing with and taking care of the babies. This ranged from dancing and making them laugh to doling out hugs and kisses. They would also focus on their assigned baby for tasks such as feeding and nap time.
Though there were naturally many highs from being around adorable babies, Vu also touches upon the challenge of connecting with some of the children who were more guarded. After experiencing abandonment so early on, these babies had difficulties connecting with new volunteers. She specifically recalls two toddlers who were very apathetic and hesitant to interact with the volunteers. However, she never gave up and always made sure to pay attention to the less responsive toddlers despite their reclusiveness. After days of gentle encouragement and nurture, she notes how these two began reaching for her and smiling and laughing with her. Through her efforts, even her “own baby” would proactively turn to her for help and support. Michelle describes the first time her baby reached out to hug her rather than the other way around. Her baby actually turned around and started grabbing at Vu’s shirt while reaching to place her arms around her neck. Though her time in China is over, Vu will never forget the valuable bonds she formed with these children over the course of her service experience.
With OneSky and Chunhui China Care Home, Michelle cemented her interest in child development. By gaining real life experience in this field, she was able to understand just how important child care and environment can be in maximizing the potential of children. She says, “My biggest takeaway from the time I spent in China is that love is love, no matter the barriers in geography, culture, or language. I want to take what I learned in Beijing at the Chunhui China Care Home and be able to continue to provide care to children that need it most.”
If you are interested, visit www.onesky.org to learn how to donate, fundraise, sponsor a child, or apply to be a student volunteer.
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