We had the awesome opportunity to visit Sawyer’s orphanage where he had lived since he was two days old. It’s called Zhoukou City Social Welfare Institute, and it houses around 80 children, in addition to elderly people who need care. Often, orphanage visits in China are discouraged or not permitted, so we were so happy to find out we could go see where he had lived and to speak to his caregivers.
It just so happened that the morning we went to visit, they had just started renovations on the inside of the orphanage where Sawyer had lived. So the rooms where he spent the most time were empty. To say they were dirty and needed work is a big understatement. It was quite sobering. The building felt very dark and grim and institutional.
I was very nervous about taking Sawyer to see the orphanage. We didn’t know what his reaction would be – if he would want to stay at the orphanage or be scared that we were going to leave him there.
I asked to see the people who took care of him the most and they came running out of the building when they heard we were there. The two women were so sweet and happy to see Sawyer. I could tell they genuinely cared about him.
They took him from my arms, and he looked very worried and had the same blank expression when we saw him the very first time.
As I watched him play, I soaked in all of the bittersweet feelings of the day. He had spent the first two years of his life in this institution with no family, no one to call mommy and daddy, no home to feel safe and loved, no siblings to play with, no space of his own. And here he was – playing with his sister who adores him, and knowing he has a mom and dad who would do anything for him. His life has been completely changed.