One of the most heartbreaking things for me is seeing a child that is hurting, lonely and sick. If I could I would adopt every child that did not have a parent, because I believe that every child deserves to have a mom and a dad, a family to call their own. I realize that I am not alone in this feeling, there are many people out there that when they see a helpless child want to reach out and do something, they just don't know how to go about it.
Recently I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Karen Maunu. Karen is the Associate Executive Director of Love Without Boundaries and before I go into what we talked about, I really want you to understand why this organization and this woman are incredible.
Love Without Boundaries is a organization that is comprised of people from all over the world working towards one common goal, to improve the lives of orphaned and impoverished children in China. You may wonder why China, consider this fact. Each and every year there are 17 million registered births in China and each and every year there are innumerable babies that are left unregistered and abandoned by their parents… because they are either disabled and/or female.
In the year of 1979 the Chinese government instituted a new policy in attempts to manage population. That policy stated that married couples were only allowed to have one child. This coupled with the fact that generally speaking Chinese culture sees females and disabled people as inferior compared to healthy males. In the US, the birth defect rate is 1 in 47, in China it is 1 in 8…this is from our demand for consumer goods…the amount of pollution spewing toxins into their environment is causing this. Reference: http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKPEK155250._CH_.242020071029
Love Without Boundaries is dedicated to making sure that as many children as they can help receive humanitarian aid in Foster Care, Healing Homes, Education, Medical and Orphanage Assistance. The overall goal is to help these children finally have a family to call their own. Believe it or not Love Without Boundaries (LWB) was started in 2003. It was a group of adoptive parents that started LWB in an effort to save a little boy in China. He needed to have heart surgery, without it he would perish. They helped save his life, and it was then that they realized that a true and "pure love for helping children can truly make a difference."
For me, when it comes to charitable organizations, I always wonder why a person chooses one charity over another. It is this question that started my conversation with Karen. Rather than trying to summarize what she said, I think it is important that you read exactly what inspired her. Now, here is the Interview:
Jennifer: What inspired you to get involved with Love without Boundaries?
KAREN: We have two daughters from China. It was on my second adoption trip that I was able to visit an orphanage. Visiting in an orphanage was life changing. I had so many little children who wanted to be held, one little girl that didn't want me to put her down. I ached for those children we had to leave behind. I still followed the Chinese adoption yahoo lists and followed the remarkable story of a woman I had watched adopt her daughter the year before our adoption. Amy Eldridge often posted on her adoption and also had a great blog about her adoption story. I watched her travel back to China in 2003 to visit her daughter's orphanage because she hadn't been able to visit. I saw many parallels with our first adoption. But I got busy and lost touch for a while. Later that year, I saw that she had formed a nonprofit and soon learned her story. While visiting her daughter's orphanage, she had seen a very blue baby dying of heart disease.
When she asked when the baby would have his surgery, she was told that there was no money…he was going to die. She had no idea what to do…but she also saw three more children with heart disease, one a beautiful little 3 year old girl so weak that as she walked across the room, she had to keep kneeling to catch her breath. She came home from China and didn't know what to do. She spent some time praying to God, asking him why she had seen those children, but what could she do, she was just a mom. She felt a huge pull to do something to help those children and she started writing to family, friends and the adoption community, hoping to heal at least one of the children. She was flooded with donations and soon had enough to heal all four children. Others wrote to her, asking what they could do to help, and Love Without Boundaries Foundation was formed. They vowed to be the most loving and caring charity, run by all volunteers, with the needs of the children always coming first.
I had connected with some families from both of my daughters' orphanages, one of who was helping Amy. I was so intrigued by the work they were doing, but didn't know what I could do. The man I had met had a daughter from my first daughter's orphanage. He was working as the medical director and was working with Amy to set up a cleft trip. I talked about going with him to help on the trip and we both talked about wanting to visit our daughters' orphanage, who we knew needed help. As the trip got closer, he and his wife decided to adopt again, so he wouldn't be able to go and he also needed to step down in his role with LWB. I could have still gone, but I didn't know anyone, plus I really thought I wanted to plan a trip where I could visit my daughter's orphanage.
Not going on this trip was the biggest regret I had ever made…..I vowed afterwards to live without regrets and that I would try hard to go on the next trip. Soon talk was happening about the plans for another trip…I jumped on board and wrote to Amy. I told her I would do anything to help. She introduced me to Heidi Reitz, who was planning this trip but told me that she wouldn't be able to go, so I was the answer to her prayers. I loved planning….it was amazing! We planned a trip that was two weeks long, had 4 surgeons, two dentists, AND we set up an OR and recovery in an orphanage. I actually look back at that trip and think we were just crazy…but it was the most amazing trip. We had 75 volunteers, both with and without medical experience. We ran three shifts and by the end of the two weeks, 125 children were healed and we had done numerous dental exams. It was truly a remarkable time and there are many funny stories…but it was so wonderful (blog is here – http://lwbchina.blogspot.com/).
While in China, Amy had told me that she was looking for someone to be the Medical Director. She was busy with so many different projects and running most of the programs, but medical was the largest. I kept telling her that how could I, I was just a mom….but I kept hearing a voice in my head tell me, why can't you… In the back seat of a taxi, in Luoyang, Henan, I said yes…. I was the medical director from Nov 2005 until Feb 2009, when I was promoted to Associate Executive Director.
Jennifer: Have you found it difficult to get support and funding from sources in China? (Such as government funding or even donations from the people)
KAREN: We haven't been able to get funding in China, because we aren't registered there yet. We have applied for NGO status and are waiting for the review of our documents. Most of our donations that we receive are from individuals or small family foundations. Since we are worldwide foundations (150 volunteers in 10 countries and 39 states) we have people that fundraise all around the world for us. We have a very active group in Ireland, the UK, and Spain. We are just finalizing documents to obtain nonprofit status in Spain…soon LWB Spain will be up and running.
Jennifer: I noticed that you have a page on the site for sponsoring a child. I have a couple of questions here. There are 14 children listed, are they the only children that can receive direct sponsorship? How do you decide which children can be sponsored? What does the money that a child receives each month go towards?
KAREN: We have 5 different programs – medical, foster care, education, healing homes, and orphanage assistance. There are children in every program listed on our website on each programs sponsorship page. We update the sponsorship pages continually as we receive new children. There may be 14 children today, but based on funding and the needs, tomorrow there could be 16. Currently on our website, we have 13 medical children needing funding, 25 children needing foster care sponsorships, 15 children needing education sponsorships, 17 children needing Healing Homes sponsorships, 16 orphanages needing nutritional sponsorships, and 4 orphanage assistance needs. With foster care, healing homes, and education, we offer sponsorships on a monthly basis. When a person goes to our website, clicks on "Sponsor a Child" and then clicks one of these programs, they can sponsor that specific child. In foster care and healing homes, the sponsor will get monthly sponsorships, and in education, they will get quarterly updates. With medical, the children on the webpage are updated as the children are sponsored. The amount listed is the amount required for that particular child's surgery.
Once the child is fully sponsored, they will be moved for surgery. It often takes more than one person to fully sponsor a surgery child and we always tell potential donors that every donation counts. With Orphanage Assistance, we provide many different services from monthly nutrition sponsorships to donations for cribs, clothes or coats….these always depend on what we hear orphanages need.
Jennifer: Looking at the education opportunities LWB offers, I notice that for the Mama's Wish school, you offer programs to orphaned children especially girls and impoverished children that are most promising. Is there a testing procedure that is done to select children or is the program really offered to all impoverished children in Tibet?
KAREN: We don't require any testing requirements to begin our sponsorships of these girls. We have managers for our programs and they recommend the children we help based on a number of criteria, including family situation and current education situation. Then we take them based upon our ability to sponsor them. Mama's Wish is an amazing program and our first college students graduated this spring. We do commit to these students that once they enter our program in high school, we will continue sponsoring them into college as long as they keep up their marks and can get into college (China has a country-wide testing program to get into college) they must meet these testing requirements.
Jennifer: Moving to the foster families. I can see from the pictures and the content that you have staff in China qualifying families to make sure that they are going to take care of the child, do you have any families in other countries, such as the US that can be a foster family?
KAREN: We decide, based on our relationships with orphanages, the ability to find a good local manager, willing foster families, to open a foster care program in an orphanage. All of the families that foster children are in the same town that we have our programs, close to the orphanages. We have a local manager that check on the children and send monthly reports. We very rarely have a child come to the US for surgery and when we do this, we use a family to host the child/Chinese caregiver during the surgery.
Jennifer: I know the overall goal is to help these children have a family of their own, and that you do offer adoption grants. Can you tell me the process and then expense of adopting a child from LWB?
KAREN: LWB doesn't do any adoptions. We help the children in our programs and then advocate for their adoption paperwork to be submitted. All children who are adopted in China have their paperwork submitted to the Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA). The agencies in the US and around the world that adopt children from China all work directly with this agency. We try to find out where the children we help end up so that we can advocate for their adoption. In some cases, the children who are harder to place who are in our programs we offer adoption grants to help find them a family. When a family is ready to consider an adoption from China, they find an agency that works in China and also a local agency to do their home study, rarely are they the same. The agency that process the Chinese part of the adoption can assist families in finding the best local agency that can do a home study in the format the CCAA requires them to be done. The family then works to complete all parts of the dossier that China requires, as well as files the paperwork needed through their home country government so that they are able to bring the child into their country.
Once the CCAA has reviewed the paperwork and approves the family, they will match the family with a child (in a special needs adoption, the family finds the child and then the CCAA approves this match). The final paper is issued by the CCAA allowing the family to travel to China to adopt their child. A family spends 2 weeks in China, 1 week in their child's province finalizing the adoption and getting the child's passport, and then, in the case of a US family, a week in Guangzhou to obtain the Visa to bring their child home to the US. The total cost, including travel to China is about $25,000…..this is over the course of a year and many families, in the US, can qualify for a $10,000 tax credit.
Jennifer: As happy of an event it is for a child to be adopted, do you find it hard letting go a child that has become so much a part of your life? (I know as an oncology nurse that it was hard for me to lose a patient, you get close to them and they become a part of your day. I always said a nurse that does not cry over the loss of a patient should no longer be a nurse. How do you and your staff handle the happy events?)
KAREN: We rejoice every time a child finds a family. This is our goal for every child we help. We know that the foster families that care for the children have a hard time and grieve when their child has to leave their family. We love to be able to send these families updates on the children they have helped. They are so happy to hear about the children they have helped and know that the child now has a permanent family. Once a family is home with their child, we have a form for them to fill out to receive all of the information, reports, and pictures we have on their child.
Jennifer: What is the best way for someone to get involved with LWB? Donation? Volunteering?
KAREN: We LOVE both. We always need sponsorships for children in all of our programs. We keep our sponsorship pages updated daily and they always have our most current needs. In addition, we love volunteers and have a wide range of jobs always available. From small jobs that take just a couple hours a week to fulltime volunteer jobs, we love volunteers. Again, we have over 150 volunteers around the world and we all work out of our homes. We just need someone who has high speed internet and a computer….that is the coolest part of our virtual foundation. It is amazing how we are able to get so much work done via email, Skype, our yahoo groups, and the phone.
In case you are wondering whether Karen lives in the US or in China, she lives here in the US. As you have read, Love Without Boundaries has volunteers in countries around the world. To me this takes away any doubts that you can be involved in helping these children because they are in China and you are not. Can you imagine the impact of your donation on the life of one child? I know that we are all facing our own economic crisis, and that there are weeks when we each wonder how we are going to make ends meet. You don't have to donate a lot of money to make difference and if you would rather donate your time and help LWB raise the needed funding to help these children give them a call.
Here is all of the contact information you will need to get involved. Love Without Boundaries website: http://www.lovewithoutboundaries.com/
Financial Donations: Love Without Boundaries P.O. Box 25016 Oklahoma City, OK 73125-0016
All Other Correspondence: Love Without Boundaries 306 S. Bryant, Ste. C-145
Be the world to that one child in need. Visit Love Without Boundaries and learn how you can help.
Biography Jennifer Shakeel is a writer and former nurse with over 12 years medical experience. As a mother of two incredible children with one on the way, I am here to share with you what I have learned about parenting and the joys and changes that take place during pregnancy. Together we can laugh and cry and rejoice in the fact that we are moms! No part of this article may be copied or reproduced in any form without the express permission of More4Kids Inc © 2009 All Rights Reserved