Amy Duffy volunteered for one week at a Bring Me Hope camp in Southern China. This is the story of her experience at camp and the special little girl she met there.
Kunming, China – Xia, a small girl from a neighboring village, arrived at camp shy and reserved. At first her smile only flickered across her face occasionally, as if she were afraid of letting herself have too much fun. As I heard pieces of her story, I understood her reluctance better. Living in a volatile, broken family, she was rarely able to let her guard down long enough to enjoy herself. I determine that during this week at camp she wouldn’t have to worry about anything but having fun.
Along with Xia, I was paired with a Chinese university student, Stephanie, who served as a translator, friend and big sister for me. Her fun sense of humor and untouchable dance moves added a light-hearted feeling to our new little family group.
Over the five days of summer camp we went on some crazy adventures together. Besides the structured activities of camp, singing, crafts, swimming, dancing, we had time to spend doing things with just our family.
We discovered a beautiful park that Xia wanted to explore. She was insistent on finding some ducks, so we ran all over searching for them. When we finally spotted them, Xia’s face lit up brighter than I’d ever seen before. That same huge grin stuck around for the rest of the week.
Stephanie and Xia taught me how to say red, blue, green, and yellow in Chinese, during our many games of Uno. Xia giggled as she listening to me stumble through many interesting pronunciations. It turns out the word for donkey and the word for green are very similar!
Every day after lunch we visited a nearby shop to buy ice cream. One day Xia picked out an ice cream with a bright yellow wrapper I’d never seen before. When I asked what kind it was, Stephanie told me it was corn flavored. Although it was not the flavor I would have picked, Xia seemed delighted with her choice and she quickly devoured the vegetable-flavored treat!
Early in the morning on the last day of camp, Xia arrived at my room. She pulled me to breakfast, holding tightly onto my hand. I knew she wanted to spend as much time together as possible before she had to go back home. When the time did come to say good-bye, we both cried and gave each other huge hugs. Stephanie and I held onto each other as we watched the bus drive away. A confusing mix of feelings welted up inside of me, joy that I had gotten to be part of what was probably one of the happiest week of her life, and sadness that it had come to an end so quickly. I hoped with all my heart that the love we shared would comfort her during the hard times ahead.
I went to China not knowing what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect to meet two new sisters. I didn’t expect to have my heart filled with so much love or to have it broken. I didn’t expect to think about going back every day. But I did and it changed my life dramatically. Now I am planning a second trip to camp and I can’t wait to see Xia’s smile when we’re finally together again!