seasons of giving #1: starfish foster home in xi’an, china

Our first seasons of giving took place shortly before bringing my daughter home from China.  She had spent her first three months of life in a larger Chinese orphanage before Amanda DeLange and Starfish volunteers brought her to Starfish to be cared for.  Here, our daughter was given such great care and love.  Many volunteers played a part in her nearly two years at Starfish.  And of course her wonderful nanny cared for and loved her deeply, along with Amanda and other staff.

I had always wanted to adopt.  When I met my husband and we started talking about kids, he asked, “Don’t you want to see what we make?”  I told him, “ok, once.”  And so we did that.  And our first daughter Mina is amazing and wonderous and wild and beautiful, with a heart bigger than this whole world.  I love her so.  And after that, we set out to build the rest of our family through adoption.  We took classes at Children’s Hospital, and after a few weeks, decided our course would be to adopt a special needs child from China.  That wait through paperwork and time to find out who we would be adopting was long.  But I was extremely busy working, as we had budgeted to allow for all of my photography profits to go towards the agency and travel fees.  Friends, family, and clients shared our story, and after about a year, we were able to pull it off.  I am forever grateful.

And then one fine day, I received an email with four pictures of our soon-to-be daughter.  I can still feel the emotion of that moment somehow.  I remember calling my husband at school.  There is no good way to reach him when he is teaching, so I called the secretary of the school, who was so concerned about my tone that she asked, “Sarah, is this an emergency?” very gravely.  “Yes!  A really happy one!”  was my response.  Of course we called our agency right away with a “yes!” and “when do we get to meet her?”  Her name was Michelle, and we could not wait to meet her.

Many months later, we were at Starfish: my husband Harry, Mina, and me.  We walked into Michelle’s section – I remember hearing my heart beat out of my chest.  And there she was, walking around like she owned the place.  I wanted to grab her up and squeeze her so tight, hold her for hours and kiss her beautiful face.  But I held back, trying so hard to do what would be right for her – meeting her on her terms.  Of course she was scared of us, and we had a long, but sweet process to attachment.  But that day at Starfish began a beautiful love, and a new chapter in our family’s story.

I talked over the phone that day with Starfish’s founder and director, Amanda, who was in the hospital undergoing cancer treatment.  She listened to the story of our meeting Michelle, and eased my heart with these words: “You’ve seen how she loves her nanny.  She will love you even more fiercely someday.  It will be incredible.”

She was so right.  Michelle is a bright firecracker of joy and happiness!  I am so thankful that my daughter lived at Starfish for the greater part of her first two years, and was loved on by so many.  They started her foundation in the idea of love.  And she loves ever so fiercely.  She’s amazing, and I love her so much!

When I began the seasons of giving, it was obvious to me that Starfish would be our first cause.  We extended it through two seasons (winter and spring 2012).  With the 10%, photography fund raisers, and my clients’ personal donations, we were able to raise $1,015.

Starfish cares particularly for special needs children until a forever home is found for them.  We received a thank you from a Starfish board member, telling us the donation went to operational expenses, especially in “the area of special nutritional supplements for some of our more fragile babies.”

Thank you all for giving to this wonderful place!  DSC_5760 DSC_5754 DSC_5313 DSC_5010

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