By Jean H and Kim B, Grade 12 ISB Students
As international students, we have an abundance of opportunities to do service and give back to the community, whether it's the school community or beyond. Hope Foster Home, which takes in sick and abandoned orphans with special medical needs, is one of those options that focuses on the greater community. Here, the children are very well cared for and are each assigned a foster mother to take care of them. At the International School of Beijing (ISB), volunteers have the opportunity to visit the home every weekend to spend time with the children.
The home is 45 minutes away from the school by bus, located in Beiwu Town on the outskirts of Beijing. Though the trip is a long one, nothing compares to seeing the smiles on the babies' faces when they see us come to play with them.
We are both seniors in High School, and this is our fourth year visiting Hope Foster Home. Through the years, we have spoken to the home's foster mothers from time to time, but we always wondered about their background and how they came to work at the home. The bright red cardigans that they wear year round are a physical manifestation of their love and kindness, always spreading an aura of warmth to the home and onto us, the visitors, as well. They treat the children like their own.
This year, our supervisor suggested that we talk to the foster mothers more to discover more about them. This inspired us to write an article on the foster mothers that would reveal a bit about their background and the role they play at the home.
While we worried about how much the foster mothers would be willing to share with us about their personal lives, all of them were more than happy to participate. With the approval from the foster mothers and our ISB coordinators, we set out to brainstorm questions that we wanted to ask. This was the list that we came up with:
- Where are you from?
- How long have you been working at the home?
- Why did you come to work at the home as a foster mother?
- Do you have kids of your own? How old are they?
- What does it feel like when the kids that you take care of get adopted/leave for a new family?
- What do you like most about your job here?
The foster mothers gave various answers. Most of them came from around Beiwu Town, or very nearby. While some have been there for only a year or two, others have been there for more than 10 years! One of the foster mothers even said that this is her 14th year, and she first came to the home when it was built. All of them, however, work at the home for the same reason: the kids.
"We all come here because we like kids," said one mother with a wide smile on her face. "What I like best about my job? Playing with the kids!" said another. We both laughed at this answer, knowing how chaotic the playing rooms can get, with constant tugs-of-war between children wanting the same toy, and the stubbornness that is seen when it gets close to their nap time. Sometimes even we get scared when the foster mothers are stern with the children, but we always know that in the end the disciplining is for their own good and is just another way of showing their love.
When we asked about their own children, all the mothers sighed and commented on how their kids have long grown up and have their own lives and jobs. Most of them are already in their early or late 20s, so it's been a while since these mothers have raised young children. This doesn't stop them from forming strong bonds with the children they care for, however. When we asked them about how they feel when their kids get adopted, they all expressed mixed feelings, explaining that their partings are always bittersweet. "These kids take time to warm up to strangers, and so they're always crying as they're leaving. That breaks our hearts," said one of the mothers.
Even though they're happy for the children who now have a family, they said it's always sad to see them go. Just from the affectionate way they talk about the babies at the home, it's easy to see that the children's bond with their foster mothers is just as strong, if not stronger, than that between any mother and their child.
After regularly visiting Hope Foster Home for four years and getting to know the foster mothers, we realized that true bonds are built on the love and time that is put into a relationship. We found it amazing that the foster mothers were always able to make each and every child feel cared for and loved, even though the children are not their own. Despite knowing that they don't have forever to spend with the children, there is no shortage of love that they are able to give them.
We discovered that the home doesn't need much beyond what it already has — which is the unlimited affection that the kind-hearted foster mothers give to the children. Volunteers are always commended for spending time visiting the children, but the true heroes of the home are really the foster mothers, the ones who put hours of their day into caring for children that they truly love. Seven hours a day, to be exact, as one of the mothers told us proudly.