Twenty Years of Love
Something Worth Celebrating
Posted by Ben Chhoa October 21, 2013
From Friday, 24 May until Sunday, 26 May, more than 30 people from around the world traveled to Changsha in China’s Hunan province to be part of International China Concern’s 20th anniversary celebrations.
The group of Australians, Brits, Canadians, Singaporeans, Hong Kong residents and Americans came together to join with ICC’s foreign volunteers living in China to mark the special occasion. Some of the visitors were former ICC volunteers who had once lived in China. Some were brand new to ICC, about to see the projects and meet the children for the first time. Others there had helped to build the organisation from the earliest days of operation. The rest were representatives and staff members from ICC’s network of National Offices.
Tours of ICC’s projects, as well as the welfare centres in Hengyang and Changsha, were organised. Warm welcomes were given by local government officials in both cities. Everyone was able to see ICC’s facilities as well as the government-operated facilities where abandoned children are first housed prior to entering ICC’s care.
David Gotts and other members of ICC’s board attended treeplanting ceremonies to mark the continued partnership with the Chinese government. The planting of the Arhat Pine evergreen tree was a representation of a lasting and enduring partnership, as well as the friendship that exists between the foreign volunteers and the Chinese people.
During the tours, everyone was delighted to be able to visit the sheltered workshops (Vocational Training Centres) to purchase some of the art and jewellery proudly made by many of the older children, teenagers and young adults. And as the visitors were getting ready to leave the Hengyang Project, a child was seen running toward the workshop with a very full and heavy plastic bag. It was discovered that the bag was full of ice cream bars — a cool reward for some brisk sales!
On the Friday night, a “family” celebration dinner for just the foreign volunteers and the international visitors was held in Changsha. After dinner, several of the volunteers spoke about certain parts of the history of ICC, telling the stories of some of the children and recalling former volunteers who had been so important in the growth of ICC. Some of those speaking had been living and working in China for more than ten years, intimately entwined in the living history of the work being done in cities like Changsha, Hengyang and Sanmenxia.
Bringing It All Together
On the Saturday night, the Chinese government hosted a dinner in ICC’s honour. This included a number of children from all the projects attending along with their caregivers. It was a special time as the children, the local Chinese staff and the foreign volunteers all took part in the entertainment for the night, singing and dancing for everyone. But it was when several children shared from the stage about the impact that ICC has had on their own lives that the last 20 years came into sharp focus for everyone. Right there was living evidence of the power of love, hope and opportunity.
On Sunday morning, the ICC family joined together again to give thanks, to worship and to have communion before everyone travelled home, wherever that might be. David Gotts spoke about where the journey of ICC has been and where he believes God is taking it in the future. He affirmed that ICC is first and foremost a Christ-centred organisation. He spoke of the mission not being over—there are still so many abandoned and disabled children all over China who need love, hope and opportunity.
The weekend was truly a celebration of all that God has allowed ICC to accomplish over 20 years. It was encouraging to see progress in other areas, particularly in how the government provides care today for those in the welfare centres compared to what was seen in years past. While still having a long way to go in terms of standards of care and worker training, it is a far cry from what was once the norm. Now, there is evidence of real efforts to provide adequate nutrition, medical care and therapy.
The past 20 years has been an incredible journey for ICC and there is still much to do as the mission continues to give love, hope and opportunity to every disabled child.