Volunteer on short-term mission trips to provide orphan from orphanages and foster homes with love, hope, a sense of worth, and long-term advocacy. Check out our volunteer page to get involved!
One of the most common questions we get about our our mission trips to China to help children from orphanages and foster homes is, “What does a week look like?” We decided to give you a glimpse of what YOU could do for a week, to change an orphan’s life. Whether you are planning on volunteering or sponsoring an orphan, here is a week at Bring Me Hope camp!
Day 1: “The kids are coming”
This is one of the most exciting parts of camp. Seeing the little faces peering out of the bus as they pull up to your camp location. One by one these kids, both excited and nervous, exit the vehicle and are paired with you. Their little hands slide into yours and you make your way back to your lodging, preparing for the rest of the week.
Day 2-4: “We are family”
Congratulations, you and your Chinese translator are now proud parents for the week with your amazing and beautiful child! Your responsibilities will consist of making sure they are bathed, dressed, fed and physically taken care of throughout the day…this of course includes a bedtime story and tucking them in.
Throughout the day you and your family group will go out to experience many firsts. These include swimming, going to the beach, eating ice cream, singing songs, coloring, crafting, shopping for snacks, playing games and of course your nightly dance parties. While this is fun and an incredible experience, it’s the in-between moments that change lives…the times of comforting your child when they are sad, the times of carrying them around when they are too tired to walk and moments of just listening and loving them in the midst of the days events. This is what brings healing and shows your child what it means to be loved and valued.
Day 5: “The last day is just the beginning”
The last day of camp is just the beginning. We have seen how camp not only impacts the orphans while at camp, but continues long after camp. We have seen children adopted, advocated for, and helped in many different ways. Your job is just starting…and you are responsible to make that child’s voice heard, advocating for their needs!
For another awesome picture of camp, check out our documentary, Hannah’s Story and also don’t forget to check out our website to sponsor an orphan or volunteer in China. www.bringmehope.org
TO LOVE: Our five day summer camps center around bringing forgotten children out of orphanages to experience a week of fun, love, and attention. This often
includes many firsts for the kids—their first time swimming, eating ice cream and hearing “I love you”. Demonstrating God’s love in action is what camp is all about
TO DEFEND: Most overseas trips end when you fly home, leaving you with only memories and pictures. However, our desire is for you to continue to have an impact long after you’ve left camp. Through our advocacy program, you can bring awareness to your child’s needs and even help find adoptive families. Our goal is to equip volunteers to defend vulnerable children.
VOLUNTEER: Visit our volunteer page for the most current volunteer opportunities.
DONATE: Visit our donation page for ways to support Bring Me Hope.
A WEEK AT CAMP
DAY 1: The kids are coming! Today, you become a proud “parent” as you and your translator(s) are paired with 1-2 children to form a family group. Spend the day getting to know each other before you begin an amazing week of camp!
DAY 2-4: Let the fun begin! Camp is filled with activities for your family group to enjoy together. From arts & crafts to talent shows to dance parties, this is a week for your child to explore new experiences in a safe environment. You will have the unique opportunity to empower these children and show them unconditional love during camp. These are the moments that Bring Me Hope Camp was created for!
DAY 5: Today is the day that the children go home to the orphanage. It’s a bittersweet celebration of the relationships you’ve created and how far your family group has come in just 5 short days. It becomes more than just the last day of camp. Some volunteers have been able to help children get adopted, receive medical care, and help with other needs.
AFTER CAMP: Bring Me Hope will provide you with the skills and training to make a greater impact on these children’s lives when you fly back home. You will be given the privilege to be an advocate for the children’s needs and help them find adoptive families!
“An amazing experience that doesn’t stop when camp is over. Not only did I get to love orphans for a week, but I was also able to come home and try to find the kids families! It is life changing!”
– Caitlyn Barkalow
“Just finished my first month of volunteering at summer camp and I am moved by what they do. Seeing the joy in the kids’ faces everyday instilled hope in me. Thank you Bring Me Hope for the opportunity to know these orphans by name and to love them! Best summer ever!” – Christina Lopatin
“Most beautiful children, most beautiful ministry, most beautiful experience that changes you into something more beautiful. What are you waiting for? Go.” – Rose Cannon
“I have been to Bring Me Hope five times, one was when I was an orphan and the rest I returned to Bring Me Hope Camp as a volunteer. I just love Bring Me Hope Camp, it is a great mission to reach out to the un-reached children who are lost in the darkness and the translators. Being Me Hope is the first one who truly showed me what true love, hugs, kindness, and warm home feels like. For the past thirteen years of my life in the orphanage, I have never knew what it is feels like to have a loving family until I went to Bring Me Hope Camp.”
– Eden Robinson-Robertson
I love stories…not fairy tales but the nitty gritty, real life stuff. The little and big things that make life unique in it’s own way and show that all things have beauty — even if it’s what the world deems it as broken.
As I write, I am thinking faster than I can type because I hope that people’s eyes are opened to the talent that lies across the world, of a young boy with a special need, that he refuses to let get in his way. I want to introduce you to Zhang Xu Fei, a 19 year that grew up in the Shanxi Province, China (just north of our Taiyuan summer camps). He lives with his parents in a 3 room “cave home” carved in one of the hillsides. His Mother farms their land while his Father does manual labor in another town to support their family.
When Zhang Xu Fei was a toddler, his parents noticed that their bright, baby boy was not able to walk…but would only move around the room while holding on to the surrounding furniture. As he continued to grow, his legs could no longer support him, his spine curved and his muscles weakened. Xu Fei was always told by the doctors there was nothing that could be done and pretty soon he had to drop out of school. Although, he was not able to be accommodated in the school, with his Mother’s help, he was able to teach himself to read and write.
Along with his new reading skills, Zhang became interested in drawing and painting. Not only was he interested, he also had a new found talent for the art. His family would prop him up against their brick bed and Xu Fei would paint, developing his new skills. As Zhang continued his art, his family found a teacher that gave him art lessons and also had his art displayed in a city wide art show.
It was not until his Zhang was 16, that his parents heard of Evergreen China (check out their awesome work in China). Through this organization, Xu Fei was able to get professional medical help and was diagnosed with “severe congenital neuromuscular disorder with secondary severe neuromuscular scoliosis.” There is no treatment for his condition and it is estimated he will pass away by the time he is 30, because of his weakening respiratory muscles. Although his future to the world seems dire, there is no special need big enough to stop this young man. He continues to remain joyful and shares his love of painting, with the hope of supporting his mother and younger brother.
Zhang Xu Fei’s story is amazing and his talent is extraordinary. I hope that you will see his art and also be moved by the hands that paint it. Right now, Xu Fei, has 7 pieces in his etsy shop (https://www.etsy.com/shop/ZhangPaints), that equates to only 7 buyers…let’s work together by sharing his story and sell out his shop!
Thank you Evergreen China for allowing me to share Zhang Xu Fei’s story with us! I love the work you are doing.
We all know the horror stories people tell you when flying to another country for the first time. With those things flooding our minds, we sometimes get a knot in our stomach as we jump on the plane…only our imagination to accompany us for the next however many hours.
This has been the experience of countless people, as they head on a plane marked with the country name CHINA! I myself had heard the horror stories of the culture shock that was awaiting me. But like anytime you hop on a plane and fly around the world…there are going to be people living a life that is foreign to us…but that is definitely part of the adventure and what makes traveling around the world glorious.
And now without further ado…9 things people traveling to China should know!
#1 The first is one of the most important! Invest in your trip ahead of time. Read – Prepare – Pray. Especially, if you are going on a missions trip or working closely alongside the natives and orphans…you don’t want to just show up and hope for the best. You need to be prepared for both a culture and spiritual shock. Find scriptures that will carry you through each day and have them there to meditate on. Find a prayer partner that will keep you accountable on your trip. Prepare to be part of the culture…learn about their culture/traditions & learn some Chinese (even if they are simple phrases and compliments for your Chinese friends). Having this basis for your trip, will help you dive deeper into building new relationships with the people and learning to LOVE China! It’s not like the West… and that’s okay! In a world of increasing globalization and homogeneity, it’s refreshing to visit a place that is so foreign. Exciting new sights, sounds and smells will greet you at every turn. Keep an adventurous mindset and you’ll experience the trip of a lifetime!
#2 While driving, remember you’re not in Kansas anymore. In many places there are driving rules and regulations…in China, well they are more like suggestions. Believe me, it feels like the old video game Frogger and will be an experience can both terrify & excite you…giving you a road trip/drive you will never forget!
#3 Being stared at is to be expected and not considered rude but normal and very common in the Chinese culture.
#4 If you are going to be working with orphans, or kids in general…learn the song “Xi Yang Yang (Pleasant Goat)”. It’ll get you places with the little kids. It’s their jam. Not to mention that grown ups will be impressed that you know it.
#5 Squatty potties. Just the thought of them can make a person cringe. Sure, sometimes they’re gross and stinky but so are some American public bathrooms too. The trick to the squatty, is to pack a travel pack of Kleenex in your purse, backpack or pocket and then to go to the very last couple of stalls. It’s a secret but most of the potties in the back are the handicap ones and those are American style potties. And if you’re a germ-a-phobe, then you’re already packing gallons of antibacterial wipes and sanitizer, so you’re set to go.
#6 Shopping spree. Buy your favorite snacks before you leave. Snacks in China are not the same as America. Bring something along to curb hunger and keep you energized. Having said this…I love CHINESE snacks, so be open to finding a new favorite to bring home with you!
#7 Whether you’re adopting or volunteering or just being a tourist, tour the orphanage and give as many hugs and kisses as you possibly can. Step out of your comfort zone and find a way to love those who need to know that they are loved. From an adoption standpoint this statement is somewhat controversial, but these trips are never about us and always about the children. These kids want, need, DESERVE to know that they’re loved!
This is a snippet from the experience one of our friends had while visiting an orphanage:
“Last year, I toured our daughter’s orphanage and saw a beautiful young girl who was so sweet and clearly played a role in my daughter’s life. I took pictures of the two of them together, hugged her, immediately fell in love with her, and as soon as I was back at the hotel, e-mailed our agency and begged them to find her file. This sweet, beautiful girl has been deemed unadoptable though and will never know the love of a family. I’ve been given permission to write to this sweet girl and every letter, she tells me that she doesn’t understand why someone like me would care about an orphan like her. I love because God loved me first. If I could bring this little girl home and into my family, I would. Show love!”
#8 Practice your best sorority squat pose, duck face & learn a couple of Chinese words/phrases because chances are pretty darn good that you’ll be approached to be in a picture that will later float around on Chinese QQ. Have fun with it and take it all in stride. You can also take it to the next level and swap pictures…take a picture with them if they agree to take a “silly picture” with you!
#9 Last but not least, the food is remarkable! Try it! Break out of your comfort zone and give it a whirl! You never know what you will discover and crave for the rest of your life…or until you return to China. Oh, and while on this last point…please, please, please LEARN how to use chopsticks. It will be a lifesaver and make eating way more fun!
We always stand amazed when we have former campers come back to Bring Me Hope as volunteers. They have a first hand experience to truly understand our campers and impact their lives. This year (2014), we have three former campers back with us. Eden, who was adopted and flew back to join our team…Tim, who came back as a translator…and todays feature Mier, one of our camps Chinese helpers.
Mier, joined our Beijing & Zhengzhou camps 2007-2009. He is now 18 years old and we are beyond blessed to see his life impact the future. Below is a short letter he wrote for us:
“First of all, I really want to say thank you to my sponsor whom I even don’t know. Because of you I can go back to Bring Me Hope summer camp.I had a lot great experience in this week, even though it’s only 5 days. Loving and taking care of each other is a new lesson for me this summer.
This summer also reminds me of the camps I joined before, like 2007. Time flies! Can’t believe it has been 7 years. Bring Me Hope summer camp makes a great difference on my life, I’ve learned a lot from all the friends I met in Bring Me Hope summer camp.
However, this time is so different, since I’m 18 years old now. I came to camp as a helper instead of child. One night, Queenah Jie jie and S. Jie jie asked me to help their three boys take shower. At beginning, I was not pleased to do that. Maybe I thought I was still a kid who need help always, but later I realized I’m a helper now. After that, I started to help others. And then I realized I can do more than I thought. I’m so happy I can help people now. Especially, I experienced being a volunteer at camp.
Anyway, this is a special summer for me ! I’m so thankful for all the people who helped me before and who are helping me now. Thanks Bring Me Hope and all the Gege jiejie!”
We want to thank everyone who has financially sponsored our past and present campers. YOU are changing lives and impacting futures!
Last week’s Night Walk fundraiser was an incredible success! With 166 people walking in 26 locations, there were people supporting orphans in China all over the world! During the walk, we hosted a live stream of two of our locations in China. It was so fun to see the excitement on each of their faces! Some of the kids featured have been coming to camp for five years and are anxious to return!
“I’ve never met a person who was ugly, unless they wanted to be. I’ve never seen my wife’s face, but I’ve listened to the sound of her smile.”
– Tom Sullivan
“During the last week of camp I met a little boy named “Timothy.” He was blind. His face, where his eye sockets should have been, was flat and kinda empty, and on one side the eye was missing completely. When I first met him, it was really hard for me to look at him…I was disappointed with myself that I couldn’t love him instantly the way I had with all the other kids. I remember emailing a friend one night and expressing how sad I was about this little boy – I felt like he didn’t just have a minor disability but that his disability actually defined him. Eyes are so key to a persons’ soul, and to hardly even have eye sockets just seemed so unfair.
On the first day i went up to Timothy and his caregiver to see how they was doing. She was sitting their crying. Tears streaming down her face. Timothy couldn’t really engage in the art activity that we were doing so she had her iPod out and was letting him listen to her music. She was clearly overcome at the intensity of his disability too.
As the week went on. I got to know Timothy a bit. He was a pretty passive kid, in his own world a lot of the time, obviously had not received much education or one on one attention. He seemed very oblivious and quite removed from the real world. But still, I fell in love with him. I started teaching him guitar and just kinda interacting more with him – figuring out ways to include him and make his surroundings come alive to him. I ran his hand over the contours of my face and through the length of my hair. I started to explain about how my skin was a different color to his…but then i stopped – does color even exist to him? We connected through touch and he could tell instantly when it was my hand he was holding and when it was someone else’s.
Then on Thursday – this was the highlight of my entire summer – we took him to the ocean. At first he didn’t want to go in, he kept saying he was scared, and so his caregivers just let him play in the sand. But I really wanted to try taking him in. I knew he would love it once he got in, its just that he didn’t know what the ocean was – and how would he? He’d never been there before, he couldn’t see it and I’m sure the sounds of crashing waves weren’t the most inviting.
I held his hand and explained that i was going to take him down into the water. He said, “姐姐我不要，我害怕，害怕” – “sister! I don’t want to go in, I’m scared.. scared”. But we went nice and slow and I explained all the sounds and textures and smells to him. When his feet first hit the water he was a little surprised and kinda hesitated but I kept reassuring him, and then, he decided to trust me. We went further in. His face showed a mixture of raw curiosity and deep peace. He seemed to be enjoying it. When he was in up to his waist he was still holding both of my hands, but visibly starting to relax. Then I put his hands in the water and rubbed them together, he let out a little giggle and started saying 洗手洗手！”I can wash my hands!” He put his hands up to his face and giggled further, exclaiming 姐姐！看看我！我在洗脸！”sister look at me! I’m washing my face!” it was the coolest thing – so innocent, so pure.
We ventured in further. It was incredible. He was in awe of all that he was sensing. The way the waves gently lapped against his body, the saltiness on his lips, the all encompassing presence of water. When we were deep enough I told him to lift his legs up and that I was going to teach him how to float. He tried it immediately, trusting me fully, and relaxed onto his back. The look on his face was one that i’ll never forget. He was so delighted and kept doing his little giggle thing. He could have stayed there for hours.
I think it was then that I realized he didn’t need eyes to communicate delight. I didn’t need to be able to look into his eyes to understand what he was thinking/feeling, his voice and facial expression was plenty. It was also at that moment that I stopped defining him by his disability, but by his name – Timothy. He was no longer the little blind boy with no eyes. He was Timothy, the brave adventurer who I had the privilege of taking to the ocean for the first time, the innocent child who was so willing to trust, the young man who had no qualms expressing emotion and embracing freedom.
I hope that next time I see a little boy with no eyes I don’t have to wait a few days before I start seeing his heart. I hope that I will be able to remember that he is not defined by his physical features or lack there of, just as I am not. I now see that beauty is not only something seen with the eyes, but it is the delight that seeps out when you allow yourself and others to embrace freedom.
Timothy, thank you for redefining beauty for me, and for revealing something of my own beauty to me.” -Rach
We meet so many kids each year at camp that from the worlds view are “flawed” and “unlovable.” These kids are more than a number, more than a face and more than their disability. Timothy is like so many other children, is longing for someone to show him he is beautiful, he is loved, his life has purpose! Through HIM, we see the beauty of this boy and so many other children!
For The Kids – Bring Me Hope
P.S. Below are all the videos from this week’s Yantai blog features!
Every year BMH camp brings around a new set of volunteers that are pumped to fly over to China and get camp started. But some people don’t realize, there is another huge group of volunteers that make camp possible…our Chinese staff. They are a group of amazing college students that make our communication with the kids possible but also add the extra energy and fun needed for our summer adventures. It is amazing to be able to form a relationship with them, become part of a camp family and leave at the end of the week with a new friend. Personally, some of our favorite memories with our translators were being able to bond over life experiences, learn about the culture differences, be parents together for the week and attempt to learn some Chinese (attempt being the key word).
How we would sum up camp life with our foreign volunteers, “The beginning of the week brought a bunch of confident university student eager to practice their English. Five days later we were looking at a tight knit team of people who had been broken and transformed by these precious children. Childen who needed constant diaper changes, who always pushed the boundaries, who didn’t act like other children we’d seen before…Children who needed love!” Thank you to all of our foreign volunteer staff that help make camp possible!
“I learnt this week that love is not about what you can receive in return, but what you can give. Love doesn’t have any expectations.” – Vivian
“Today at lunch, my little boy said “I would really love to become your son”. After I heard him say that, all the things I previously thought were important no longer seemed important. I no longer simply want to pursue academic achievement and a good job, I want to pursue a life of significance.” -Luna
“I learnt so much looking after my buddies this week. When I saw them being thankful for seemingly insignificant things, I suddenly realized that I haven’t ever really thanked my parents before. When camp is over, I’m going to be intentional about expressing my love and thanks to my own family.” Heyson
“Before I came to this camp I was afraid of kids with disabilities. But after this week I see that they just need more love, they need us.” -Reagan
“This summer camp changed me a lot, I feel like I learnt the definition of love for the first time.” – Olivia For The Kids,
This week I was contacted by a young woman interested in volunteering for Bring Me Hope 2014. As we continued to talk, I squealed with joy when I found out this girl, Anna, was one of our past campers! There is something about reconnecting down the road with a kid that came to camp that makes life so real!
“My name is Anna Coiner. I attended Camp Bring Me Hope when I was in the orphanage in Jiangxi Fu Zhou . When we heard that we were going to Camp Bring Me Hope, we were all very excited. When we got to Camp Bring Me Hope, we did lots of fun activities. We went to the bowling place and played games, that was our first time went bowling. We colored our shirts and made key chains. It was so much fun. When we finished designing our shirts we all put the shirts on and take picture of us all together. We also went to the river to swim. I also remember that David Bolt jumped to the water because he saw snake but when he jumped in it was not snake it was just stick we all laughed. I really loved the volunteers. They were so kind to us. I felt loved by them. We all really liked when the volunteers said “Good Night” to us in English. We also played musical chairs, it was an awesome game. When Camp Bring Me Hope was almost over, we were all very sad. We all were crying because we didn’t want to leave Bring Me Hope.
The next year, a couple kids that attended Bring Me Hope at they got adopted by an American family. I was the last one to get adopted by an American family. My family loves me and is taking care of me now. I have been America for 6 years. Now I want to volunteer for Camp Bring Me Hope. I want to help the orphans just like when I was an orphan at Camp Bring Me Hope. I want to tell them about my story when I was in the orphanage and then I got adopted by an American family. I want to tell them all the fun things we did.” Anna Coiner
And here is Anna today…I already love this girl!
Thank you Anna for contacting me and sharing your story! We hope to see you next summer as a volunteer at Bring Me Hope Camp 2014 (woot woot, which will also be our 10 year aniversary)!
About a week ago we had a little girl named Suzi join us. Suzi was a kind & warm hearted girl who loved her camp family to pieces. One day Ciara, her Irish volunteer, brought her to the store and went straight to the shoe section. Suzi’s shoes were “in bits” and didn’t fit her anymore, so it was Ciaras intention to surprise her by buying a new pair. As they were looking at shoes, little Suzi began to cry and explained she didn’t have money and could never buy a new pair. It took her awhile to finally understand that Ciara was buying the shoes and that she didn’t have to pay her back. Ciara said, “She finally realized that I was going to give her a gift and her eyes got so big! She couldn’t believe that someone would buy her new shoes!” The rest of the day was all smiles from Suzi as she happily received the simple gift of new shoes.
One of our favorite parts of camp is giving out camp awards. Every night the ‘Award Fairy’ comes to our Assembly Hall (the Award Fairy is played by our crazy-fun staff member Keri) and each night new campers receive awards such as, “Most Generous” or “Biggest Smile.” We wish everyone could have the opportunity to see these orphans nearly burst with pride when their names get called to receive an award. They come up to the front of the stage and everyone cheers and claps for them as they hold up their awards. One of our little campers who joined us last year brought her award from last year which she keeps in a special folder because she is still so proud; even a year later!
This week we sent a few of our volunteers to ride back to the orphanage with the kids. They said as they looked around on the bus, so many of the kids had opened their memory books to the page of the ‘family photo’ and were just staring at the picture. Many of the kids looked at the picture and cried as they drove back to the orphanage. This really touched our hearts because we put a lot of time and effort into making the memory books, but we didn’t know how important they really were to the kids. These orphans cherish their memory books and many of them keep them in special places to keep them safe.
Although each week our little campers are carrying home lots of new things with smiles on their faces, our biggest hope is that they carry in their hearts the truth that they are special, important and very loved. Camp is so important for these kids and in many cases is considered one of the highest points of their lives. These are lives changed when you and I show love to these kids through volunteering at camp, sponsoring an orphan & standing alongside of them and advocating! We want to thank you all for the difference you are making in the lives of these kids…who now can see that they are loved and have a hope that can carry them through.