Wednesday we visited Joey's orphanage. Orphanage visits are not always possible on adoption trips, so we're very thankful they allowed us to come. It was a moving experience to be sure. I worried about how it would effect Joey. It turned out to be a very good thing.
It's an amazing place- very unusual for an orphanage. Modern, clean and full of amenities like therapy rooms, music rooms, arts and crafts, etc. Some of the kids, like Joey, live in little apartments there with foster families. He had 3 foster brothers who lived with him and his foster parents. Due to construction, we sadly did not get to meet any of them as they are currently living at another location.
It's unusual by orphanage standards to offer so much and we're grateful for the care he received. They gave him as good of a start as possible in his situation. We walked away with some things imprinted on our hearts.
No matter how nice, it's no replacement for a family. He walked away happily with no tearful goodbyes. He obviously felt comfortable there, but also felt ok leaving. They were teachers, friends and caregivers, but not his forever family.
Despite only knowing us a couple days, his primary focus while we were there was US. Showing us his class, his apartment, his friends. He didn't leave our side. He beamed with pride and introduced us to all proudly.
The kids there are precious. They hugged us shook our hands and grinned at us. There are about 300 kids in the orphanage and he is only the 4th adoption this year. Fourth. Most of those precious ones will never have a family.
Joey appeared to be one of the oldest in his class of kids with significant special needs. In that class over the years, he sang songs, did crafts and played games. But he didn't learn to read. Or write. He's 8 years old, very bright and clearly very capable of both.
The most moving moment for me was when his class wanted him to sing a song with them and he ran out in the hall. Not because he was shy or ready to leave...but because he wanted Ben to watch him sing. He dragged Ben in by the hand announcing proudly, GeGe, GeGe. Brother, brother. Then, with brother watching, he sang.
Family is what matters. Ask a kid who finally is having his chance to have one.
He is loved there though, and it showed. His teachers both cried and a crowd came out to tell him goodbye. I think he'll have fond memories of them and his time there, but he's clearly excited to move forward. It was hard to drive away knowing how many are left behind.
They asked us not to post pictures of the kids or staff, but here's a few I can share.