Tuesday, March 25, 2008

3000 U.S. dollars- Crisp, Clean and Unmarked

“3000 U.S. dollars- Crisp, clean and unmarked.” This was the email we received from our agency. They stressed that the money would be scrutinized and so we needed to be very particular. We placed the request to our bank and after weeks of waiting, it was all there. We went in, opened a safety deposit box and placed the small envelop in it for safe keeping until our trip to China.

It all seemed so very ‘business’ like. I had visions of how much 3000 dollars would look like and when we were handed the small neatly stacked pile, I was surprised at its minimal appearance.

It sat in our safety deposit box until the day before our travels. It would often be brought up amongst those waiting. Some were stressed because their bills had marks from a money counter it had went through, some stressed over how it should be carried to China. My husband and I chose to keep it in a money pouch wrapped in hard cardboard and then the pouch was pinned to my husband’s jeans to avoid any unforeseen accidents or heaven forbid “the pick pockets”.

Although the money was referred to as a donation, we were all very aware that it was much more than that. It was mandatory and part of the program. It seemed quite minor when compared with the costs of the social workers and agency fee’s, yet when weighed against the entire fee’s we did pay, this money became the heaviest burden.

As soon as we got to China, our money was collected. Our in-China facilitator went over each bill and made sure it met standards. Some people failed to bring the specified condition and thus relied on others to exchange extra money.

Finally our whole group succeeded in handing over our “perfect money”.

I had moved beyond this fee and actually began justifying it to many who were often curious on how much China made from us. I explained how it was a mere 3000 dollars and it was simply paying for my child’s care while in the orphanage.
I made sure that I told others that it was a “donation” because the word sounded softer. Usually this would be enough for others to give us their approval and I felt more secure after these conversations because in a strange way, it also convinced me that China was not making money and this was not about business to them.

I am not sure when I began to understand how much 3000 U.S. dollars is for the people in China. It seemed like a large sum for us to physically hold, yet in reality, it was minor on what we earn each year and on how much we spend.

The time had come.
The children and staff were lined up in the civil affairs office and each name was called as we received our long awaited children. I was overjoyed to finally have come this far. She was so beautiful. She slept through the entire transfer from the staffs’ arms into mine. She briefly awoke, checked me out and then went back into her slumber. Neither the orphanage staff nor the kids shed any tears, only us parents who waited for so long for this moment to come!

My child had been ill, very ill, and yet no medication was provided. We began her on a simple antibiotic immediately and her condition improved within days. Many kids had both Scabies and Giardia from this orphanage as well.

She had never been introduced to solid food and was used to the gravity fed method that the orphanage used. She could now hold her bottle and would suck the mucky mixture down within a minute.

Our daughter received minimal care in her orphanage. She was kept alive and for that I am so thankful. She was fed quality formula that was fully supplied by Love Without Boundaries. She was kept warm in multiple layers of old clothing and she did have a crib and was blessed with the company of another little child as her crib-mate.

From all the pictures I received back from my digital camera, no toys were seen. I had read that there were toys donated and I know all the parents in our group mailed toys, however none were seen in any of the pictures. It appeared to be an orphanage with the bare minimum for our children.

I began to question just how much of our money went to the children. $3000 x 150 children per year (at the minimum) = $450,000 U.S.
In China, this would be so much money. Surely it would supply the nutritional needs, the heat and possibly even air conditioning, at the very minimum simple medications that would heal those who were so ill. One would assume that the children could have their basic needs met through the multiple donations that came into this orphanage. Each child meant $3000, many travel groups offered additional donations and large gift items such as air-conditioners, washing machines, cameras, clothing, diapers, bottles etc.

The list seemed endless and yet so did the needs.

The staff was minimal at this orphanage and at the very most only 10 caregivers were employed. So the big question is, where did the money go? Even if the CCAA had taken their cut and some money went to the few special needs children who resided there, still there was a huge gap between what was being given and what the children received.

I have since read that donations are on the increase. I would have once justified this raise in price. Long ago, I would have defended it with the mindset that all things go up in price. Now I know that the kids are not seeing the benefits of this money. I am not sure where it does go and I would hate to even venture a guess, I just know where it does not go. It does not go to quality care for our children. I am so grateful to Half The Sky, A Childs Right, Love Without Boundaries and all the other organizations that have recognized the needs of the children and overlook many issues just to deliver the lifesaving care that the kids need.

$5000 dollars can become dangerous to hand over without question. It is an enormous amount of money to be handed over without a breakdown of where it will go. When you consider the many children who will flow through the doors at $5000 a child and the notion that the kids must keep flowing for this amount of money to continue as well as all of the extra donations. It creates an even larger market and the nature of business will only escalate as the fee’s do.

I really do hope that people feel more enabled to question and speak out against this increase. I hope people force this issue of where the money needs to go and demand proof that it is being spent where it needs to be spent.

The children are what matter most. Not our desire to parent, not another’s possible motive for more wealth. It is about the kids. It began that way and should continue as such. Don’t let them be lost in this issue, let them be the focus of it.

They deserve so much more than any of us can ever offer them. At the very least, we should be making sure they get what is rightfully theirs.

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