Wednesday, September 10, 2014

NDNorth: Getting to Know Us!

You might be wondering, "Who is behind New Day North?" That's a good question, if you haven't actually visited us, there's probably a lot about how New Day North works that you don't know. Well. it's time for some of those questions you never knew you had to be answered.

We first moved up here to Inner Mongolia the summer of 2013. Now, who is, "We"? Good question! The Olsen and the Samuels family were the two families who traveled up to the province of the Grasslands to launch New Day's newest project.

I'll start with the Olsens. They are a beautiful family of five, all of whom have been instrumental in getting New Day North off of the ground. Greg and the older children, Page and Harry, are the three who spent the most time at the orphanage, but Carrie and Roy are absolutely important as well.

Greg spent some time with the babies...

...but most of his time is spent with the older children in the orphanage. Many of these children go to school full-time, but during holidays and weekends they return "home" to the orphanage. During this time Greg often finds himself teaching them English for a few hours in the morning, and then chatting, playing and investing in them during the afternoons. Every time we arrive at the orphanage without "Ma Laoshi" as they called Greg, at least a few older boys run out and ask where he is.

马老师在哪里?那告诉他下次来吧! Where is Ma Laoshi? Tell him to come next time!

The orphanage directors really appreciate Greg's willingness to teach the older children English. It is something that they really value, and him investing in something that they are interested in really helped us as we began developing our relationship with the orphanage. While we didn't move up to Inner Mongolia with the thought that we would be teaching English and culture and games to older orphans, it has certainly been an incredible addition to our project!

Greg also has excellent Chinese, and so he has helped translate on multiple occasions. He's part of our management team and has been key in the interviewing process for our new nannies. 

Meet Harry! He's the oldest son in the Olsen family and he's amazing. He has joined us on many trips to the orphanage, and works with the older children, helping them practice their English, games and magic tricks. 

Harry went with Greg and a few other staff a few weeks ago and spent some time with little Philip. I wonder what game they're playing?

And finally, the amazing Page! Page has been going to the orphanage with us since we first began our trips. The nannies and directors all love her, and the children just flock towards her when they see her coming! Page is also an excellent photographer and has taken many of the more recent pictures you've seen on here. She also wrote many of the New Day North blog posts that you have enjoyed. We don't know what we would do without Page...

Now... the Samuels family! Brian and Wendy moved to China in 2009 to work with New Day Beijing, Brian taking the role of Intern Coordinator and Wendy serving as a special education teacher. They have six children, the oldest of whom is me (Hannah). Many of the Samuels family has served with New Day North in many ways, but those who have the more significant role in our orphanage work have been Brian, Wendy, Hannah and Naomi.

Naomi is almost 11, but she's so mature that no one would guess she's so young. Naomi has the incredible ability to make others feel comfortable around her, and she has quickly made her way into the hearts of all of the nannies and directors at the orphanage. She comes with us often, sitting patiently and politely during business lunches, and then working right alongside of the nannies in the care of the children during the mornings and afternoons. 

Working in an orphanage is not an easy job. It's emotionally and physically exhausting, but Naomi holds up well, spending most of her time with the very-needy toddlers. 

Next, Hannah! I am currently in the US right now working on a nursing degree, but through April I was the regular traveler to the orphanages, going every single trip, accompanied by different combinations of people. I manage most of our international communications, social network, etc. as well as still keeping in touch with our orphanage contacts and helping to coordinate lots of random things. 

The nannies and children are some of my favorite people in the world and I cannot wait to return to China this winter. 

Wendy is amazing. She's a US-trained Special Education teacher and has so much wisdom to offer to the orphanages. She's also a mother... and sometimes the little ones just need a mama to love them.

Wendy has helped the orphanage we work with to assess their children and come up with more comprehensive educational plans for them. It's a hard and complicated job. Ideally, a child with special needs would have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that would be worked on in conjunction with a group of therapists, parents and teachers. In an orphanage the child's needs remain the same, if not increased, but the resources are dramatically fewer. Despite all of this, many amazing transformations have occurred and we have watched with joy as children did things their caregivers never anticipated. 

Earlier this year Wendy and Liping, our contact at one of the local orphanages, arranged an actual "IEP meeting" for the staff. You can read all about that here. 

Wendy has a huge heart for the more critically handicapped children and spends a lot of her time with them. When Xuan, the little girl on her lap in this picture, see's Wendy her face lights up in the biggest smile possible. 

Wendy spends much of her time at the orphanage working with the therapists to help come up with therapy plans for the children. If you are looking for a career that enables you to make a huge difference, chose special education! 

Now, for our fearless leader, Brian. Starting a new project as we are doing is hard. There are so, so many things that must be done just right, especially when it comes to developing relationships. Brian is excellent at working with people, and the orphanage directors really respect him. They know that they can trust him. 

Brian has spent hours in thought and planning. He handles all of our big decisions, makes all of the excel sheets, leads the management team and does dozens of behind-the-scenes tasks, such as finances.

But wait! There's more. John and Ellie Gao moved up to Inner Mongolia to join the New Day North team this spring. Ellie used to be the nurse at New Day Beijing, but is now a full-time mama. Before her littlest one was born she traveled with us to the orphanage to help with the formula project measurements. She does a lot of the database work and is an excellent source of knowledge.

John, Ellie's husband, is our first New Day North staff! He used to help manage PR down in New Day Beijing, but is now our vital Support Staff. He helps with translation, communication, training and train-ticket-ordering. John has a big heart for the kids, and love education.

One more. Melody.
Melody was our first New Day North intern. She spent a few months working full-time with us after I returned to the US and we do not know what we would have done without her. She is sweet and gentle and gets it. She has ever-improving English and is an accounting major, so was a huge help when it came to many things such as finances and translation. Melody returned to school recently and we sure do miss her!

...and that's all, for now. Our support staff is beginning to grow and we will certainly keep all of you updated! In the meantime, thank you for your continued support for our new project. If there is anything you would like us to address in future posts, do let us know!

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