A small body frozen in a moment, surrounded by rubble. A terrified, bleeding young girl carried on a stretcher. Sobbing mothers clutching photos of children lost to the earthquake in China.
“There for the grace of God go our daughters, and us,” said Sandi Janusch, who adopted 7-year-old Kaili from China as a baby.
Moved by images of the tragedy and pulled by an invisible red thread that – as Chinese legend holds – forever connects her to her daughter’s birth country, Janusch wanted to do something, anything, to help.
So she, Kaili and some friends baked. A lot. Together they raised $2,400 for relief efforts by making and selling gourmet fortune cookies – espresso and jasmine tea were among the specialty flavors sold eight to a decorated box – in Calgary, Canada.
Where there are Chinese girls adopted by parents halfway around the world, there are bake sales, garage sales, dance performances, memorial services and cash campaigns raising money for earthquake victims.
The amounts raised are tiny in contrast to the nearly 69,000 people dead, estimated 18,000 missing and millions left homeless by the earthquake, but reaching out to their birth country is priceless to the girls and their families.
“We’re all devastated – just numb,” said Janusch, who took Kaili back to China about a year ago. “Kaili understands that her life would have been quite different. She’s worried for the people. Our kids are the lucky ones.”
Parents say the efforts are a good way to help their children embrace their native land. With about 68,000 children – mostly girls – adopted from China by Americans since 1991, that’s something many moms and dads already have made a priority.
Ming Lewis, 12, has taken on earthquake relief for her bat mitzvah project in Needham, Mass., raising $1,151 so far
Ming and her mother, Rose Lewis, visited China last year on a “heritage” tour, stopping off to see the pandas at a reserve in Chengdu in hard-hit Sichuan province. They also went to Ming’s birth province of Hebei, a safe distance from the devastation, and sought out her “finding” spot in front of a now-abandoned factory building just steps from the orphanage that took her in as an infant.
“I felt very sad for the people who were in it, and I just wanted to try to help people out,” said Ming, whose adoption inspired her mom to write the best-selling picture book “I Love You Like Crazy Cakes.”
Like many girls adopted from China, the elementary-aged Mei Mei Dancers in southern New Jersey are learning traditional dance and Mandarin as a cultural exploration that keeps them connected. The earthquake motivated the 28-member troupe to perform in Rittenhouse Square in nearby Philadelphia and raise $310.
“Our children are very proud of themselves to be able to help with what we can,” said YuChuan Fong Cline, who teaches the girls.
With so many efforts under way, nonprofit organizations that assist the adoption community and children who remain in Chinese orphanages are working to ensure the money gets to where it is needed most.
Half the Sky Foundation, established by adoptive mom Jenny Bowen of Berkeley, Calif., has created an emergency fund to funnel shelter, food, clothing and other necessities to children in the earthquake zone.
The organization, which works year-round to provide services, supplies and work crews to Chinese orphanages, has been taking in the proceeds of homegrown relief projects from adoptive parents. Together with larger donations, the foundation’s earthquake fund totals about $600,000, with about half already spent.
Bowen has been distributing e-mail dispatches from Sichuan, where she is working with the China Ministry of Civil Affairs to distribute aid.
No effort is too small, and many have a distinctly child-like tinge to them.
Lucy Yi Mayer, 3, and Amelia Nomura, 5, members of a Chinese play group in Seattle, helped make a sign for their bake sale at Wallingford Farmers Market: “Help Support Earthquake Relief in China.” They colored it with a big rainbow.
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