Ilana is teething.
She is fussy and a little feverish, and she keeps sucking her lower lip up over her gum, so that she looks like a little old man with no teeth. It seems harsh that such a tiny baby has to be so uncomfortable. A little baby, who is just starting to figure out the difference between night and day, and is still so amazed by the discovery of her toes that she holds onto them for hours at a time - as though she is afraid they'll run away - and all of a sudden her gums are swollen, and she whimpers while she drinks from her bottle because it hurts so much. It feels unfair. But when Ilana cries in the middle of the night there are two parents to get up and soothe her. We offer her chilled teething rings and baby tylenol that tastes like cherries. She is cuddled and sung to, and so very, very lucky.
All over the world there are children who suffer from medical needs that are desperate and severe. Children whose hearts don't work the way they are supposed to, whose prematurity leaves them so tiny that their little lungs can't breathe on their own. And the even greater tragedy is that many of these children have no parents sitting up with them during the long, worrisome hours of the night. When they need medicine and and a doctor to care for them, there is no one to pay for it. They have no one to sing them back to sleep when they wake up suffering. They are small, and sick and helpless. And they are all alone.
Anyone you asked would say that sick children deserve to be cared for. Everyone would agree that orphaned babies deserve to have a chance at finding a home. But Love Without Boundaries is one of the amazing organizations that actually makes it happen. They build Healing Homes - special orphanages for children with heart problems or cleft palate, with specially trained nannies who can care for the children's needs, and give them all the affection and caring they need to thrive. They sponsor surgeries for children who desperately need them, often saving their lives, and making it more likely that the child will be able to find a forever family. They sponsor education programs and nutrition programs, and arrange for loving foster families for the children who wait.
One of the most amazing things about LWB is that there are so many ways to get involved in helping them with their important work. I was privileged to have Lavonne Dideon share her story with me. Lavonne and her husband have four children, all of whom they adopted from China, and all of whom were born with special needs. Their son Winston received heart surgery through LWB while waiting in China for his family to find him. The amazing thing about the Dideon family is that they work so hard to contribute to the organization that changed their son's life. They want to empower their children, and show them that they are capable of making a difference in the lives of other children, just as someone once made a difference in theirs.
Lavonne writes, "Our children, know they are giving back – and that as a family we have benefited from LWB in providing Winston a life saving surgery for his heart. Now we have the opportunity to give back and help others. We hope that with doing this early this will become an ingrained habit that will stick with them into adulthood and part of their regular giving."
They do this in many ways. When the children have birthdays, they send cards to all the guests and ask them to contribute to LWB instead of bringing a gift.
Lavonne helps to organize a Chinese New Year event at her place of worship, with proceeds going to LWB.
Lavonne believes that, although her children are young, now is the time to involve them in giving. "Starting early with your children allows them to form a habit. It demonstrates a giving heart, putting others first and, in the end, an openness and awareness of the needs around us. We plan to have family vacations in China working in the orphanages, so our children understand their roots, and that others are still waiting."
There are so many ways that your family can get involved in the amazing stuff that LWB does. You can help sponsor an individual child's surgery, and LWB will send you updates and info about how that child is doing. Sharing these updates with your children can make what your family is doing very real and personal. You can sponsor a child in foster care, or send blankets to the healing homes. And if you want to model volunteering for your children, LWB is staffed entirely by volunteers and you can be one of them. All you need is a computer, some time, and a real desire to make a difference. Check out their website at www.lovewithoutboundaries.com to learn more.