“DO IT! This home is such an amazing place to visit.”
College Junior Alice Mockenhaupt volunteered at Alenah’s Home, our CHI Foster Care Center in Beijing, just this Spring. In addition to her service to the kids at Alenah’s, Alice was kind enough to give an interview sharing her experience with others who might consider a similar visit. Here’s what Alice had to say:
CHI: What was the purpose of your visit to Alenah’s Home?
ALICE: I went to Alenah’s Home to explore Chinese culture and views on children with disabilities. I wanted to experience the different ways China helps children with disabilities as well as get a better understanding of the possible living conditions I might have gone through when I was in the orphanage. In addition to my own curiosity, I also went to Alenah’s Home for an independent study through my university, Illinois State University. Visiting Alenah’s Home is a perfect fit for my major because I am studying to become a special education teacher and I was fascinated with learning more about other cultures views, perspectives, and works with children with disabilities.
CHI: How did your visit compare with your expectations/ hopes?
ALICE: Prior to going to China, I was super nervous that I would become homesick and that I would not be able to communicate with anyone in China because I do not speak Mandarin. I was also expecting to feel out of place in this new setting as well as feel a bit uncomfortable. Once I landed in Beijing, I was greeted by Julia with a friendly face, smile, hug and English! Julia helped me a lot with understanding Alenah’s Home and policies for the volunteers and ayi’s. The group of women working with the children were exceptional and made myself feel as if I was home with my own family. The dynamic between the ayi’s and children is truly something else, the bond that they formed together and support and love was incredible. I could definitely tell and see that these children were very much taken care of and loved by the ayi’s, workers, and volunteers. The wholesome group made me feel comfortable and that there is always an open door policy.
CHI: What was your favorite part?
ALICE: My favorite part of this experience is being able to engulf myself into a culture that is different than my own and being able to understand their views and thoughts in a different perspective. I enjoyed listening to the ayi’s stories of the children as well as the children’s stories. I loved seeing the children everyday and helping them practice their English while we played together. I enjoyed eating and teaching the ayi’s how to speak English as they taught me a little mandarin. The whole experience has changed my life in a way that I never thought could.
CHI: What was the hardest part?
ALICE: The hardest part of this trip was the language barrier. Mandarin and English are the two hardest languages to learn so it was a little difficult to speak to the ayi’s, but luckily I had Google Translate to help me. At times I found myself to become frustrating in not knowing much Mandarin because I really wanted to understand the children and ayi’s more. I had to accept that my only way of communication was to use my Google Translate and other volunteers and workers, who spoke English, to communicate with everyone else.
CHI: Any thoughts to share with others considering a visit to Alenah’s Home?
ALICE: DO IT! This home is such an amazing place to visit. I am truly grateful to know that there is a home like Alenah’s where children with disabilities are treated with respect and care from these ayi’s. My family and I are so lucky and grateful for this experience and entering the lives of these children, adult and volunteers. It is a glimpse of a life that no one really thinks about but everyone should experience. It will change anyone’s life, not just those who have a disability or were adopted from China. This will benefit everyone, as soon as they walk into the home, their life will change for the better.
NOTE: Alice was adopted through Children’s Hope International in 2001.