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[expat] Helping orphans in Shenzhen makes life meaningful
Latest Updated by 2007-04-17 11:05:45

BEFORE moving to Shenzhen with her husband in 2004, Judene Irvine had wondered what she would do here. Now, as the organizer of a Shekou volunteer group that visits orphanages regularly, she finds much joy in helping others.

"I'd been working out of the family all my life, chiefly on administrative jobs in colleges and universities. When my husband first moved from Pennsylvania to Hong Kong, before opening two plants in Shenzhen, he had hoped I could accompany him on trips around Asia, since he travels a lot on business," said Irvine, an elegant woman in her early 50s.

For some expats, life in another country is a long vacation. With enough money to spend and no regular job, they go shopping, visit the spa, gossip and read magazines.

"I can stay on a vacation for at most three weeks. When there is nothing meaningful to do, the boredom will kill me," Irvine said.

Her husband has found that she is even busier than him.

"My mandarin tutor once told me that her mother was so happy helping out at orphanages, and that old lady introduced me to the volunteer group founded in 1997."

People come and they go. Presently there are 35 volunteers in Irvine's group.

For the past two years, Irvine has been visiting a Bao'an orphanage every Wednesday and a welfare center in Meilin every Tuesday afternoon and Friday morning.

"Though I do not speak much Chinese, I found no barrier in communication with the kids, since love is a universal language. When you come regularly to be with them, give them a huddle, take them to a walk, and play games with them, they know they are cared for. I bring them toys. But the most important is to return to them and build up a relationship. Grandparents can be strangers to kids if they don't come to visit," she said.

"My husband is very supportive. His company Southco has a driver to take us to the Meilin orphanage twice a week. He said I am the person who is doing the important thing, and he is just earning money to help pay the bills."

Irvine also works to raise money and arrange for handicapped orphans to get treatment.

"There's a boy, aged 4, who was born without ears. We raised money to give him an operation that opened up a hole in his right ear and implanted a tube to link to the inside canals. In six months, the doctors will give him another operation in the left ear. You just can't imagine how happy he is to get back his hearing. The other day I noticed him striking a toy hammer to create some noise, and looking around proudly to other kids as if saying 'do you hear that sound? I do,'" she said.

She has found a company to support a young girl with artificial legs until adulthood.

Irvine's dream is to open a school in the Bao'an orphanage to give all children, including the mentally handicapped, an education. "If they can be taught to do simple things, it will help them fit in society and give them hope."

"There is no end in sight when I will leave Shenzhen and stop doing this, as not everyone has the opportunity to be involved personally in changing others' lives," she said.

Editor: Wing

By:Li Dan Source:Szdaily web edition
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