Welcome to the Lotus Family

Tao Tao (left) and Ju Ju (right) when they first became part of the Lotus Family.
Laptop open, Yang Yong Sheng plunks down beside a young woman with a withdrawn face, trying to engage her in the video game she is playing. 

Though she is initially unresponsive, soon other girls in the room join in, filling the house with laughter. Before long, Ju Ju—the wary one—cannot resist the fun and enters into the game, a shy smile growing on her face. 

Welcome to the Lotus Family. The young women in this living space at International China Concern's (ICC) new children’s care centre in Hengyang were one of the fortunate families who received two new members this past October. The larger building allowed for ICC to receive 26 new children and young people from the Hengyang welfare centre, including Yang Xia Ju (Ju Ju, above photo, right), 14, and Yang Xia Tao (Tao Tao, above photo, left), 16. 

Both of these young women were assigned “buddies” from their new family: Yang Yong Sheng, 26, was assigned to Ju Ju and Yang Hua, 18, was paired with Tao Tao. What has been amazing, staff and caregivers report, has been watching these buddies and other family members welcome the two new girls into their home, giving back to them the love and care they themselves have received.

“It’s a huge blessing to see all these girls flourishing and becoming givers of life." 

— Kyla Alexander

Ju Ju and Tao Tao came into ICC’s care out of a very challenging situation. The two young women with shaved heads and long faces lived together in isolation, in joyless conditions. Because of the girls’ vulnerable state, their room was locked to prevent their wandering away. Food was passed to them through the door, and they came out of their room only for showers. Unable to manage for themselves and left without care and support, the girls’ hygiene was poor and the room stank. Ju Ju has epilepsy; her seizures were unmanaged until ICC staff began visiting the girls last year. Both girls were clearly suffering. 

Upon the girls’ arrival in Lotus Family, however, Yang Yong Sheng, Yang Hua and their “siblings” wasted no time in befriending the new family members. Yang Hua loves dancing and singing along with TV shows and encouraged Tao Tao to get up and dance with her. She quickly discovered what foods and toys Tao Tao liked, and would make sure she had them. She even taught Tao Tao how to use the washroom and dress herself. 

Welcoming and encouraging the new family members has increased Yang Yong Sheng and Yang Hua’s self-esteem, says Kyla Alexander, head of China operations for ICC. 

“They get to lead and be responsible,” she says. “To be the strong ones for once—not always being a receiver, but being a giver.” 

Gradually, Tao Tao and Ju Ju have begun to respond. Both girls were underweight, and Tao Tao had a habit of grabbing any food in sight. However, she has now filled out to a healthier weight and learned to eat appropriately at the table, says Xing Yu Xue, one of the caregivers for the Lotus Family.
The Lotus Family today.
“The whole family really loves the two girls,” Xing says. As she speaks, you can see from her wide smile how proud she is of the progress these two young women have made. 

In fact, Ju Ju—who hardly spoke initially—has recently started to communicate. In mid-March, she surprised everyone by becoming protective of one of the caregivers. The “auntie” (as the caregivers are known) had put her head down to take a nap. One of the girls started pestering the auntie and waking her. Ju Ju suddenly spoke up, telling her fellow family member to leave the caregiver alone. 

“It’s a huge blessing to see all these girls flourishing and becoming givers of life,” says Kyla. “Ten years ago, Yang Hua and Yang Yong Sheng were the ones needing love, and now they’re givers of love.” 

“In a few years, it will be Ju Ju and Tao Tao loving and giving to others.”