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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Throwing Starfish: One LDS Woman Making a Difference for Hundreds of Children in China

One of the things I've loved about my journey in Shanghai is all the great people I've met. Really great people. Some of the world's kindest, most honest, and most noble people are Asians. Yes, there are people who are willing to take advantage of you, but I see them as the sad exception here. I feel like I'm far more likely to encounter honesty and kindness with the people here. Rose-colored glasses? Or red-colored? I really don't think so. As an example, at least three times we have left money behind or dropped money only to have people scurry after us to return it or carefully return it. And our real estate agents, two English-speaking Chinese men who did a great job in finding the ideal apartment for us and showed a lot of patience and kindness with us and then negotiated almost 20% off the asking price, utterly refused to take the non-negligible cash tip we wanted to give them after the deal was closed. (If you're looking for an apartment in Shanghai, I really recommend Max and David at www.orientalrealestate.net. I think it's Max's company.) And people at work don't have to be as careful to protect computers and private property as I'm used to in the United States. Theft seems to be much less frequent here than it is in many parts of the world, though I'll always advise travelers to be cautious.

One "honorary Asian" in the noble and kind category is a woman I read about earlier this year before I even knew about the dream job that brought me here. The woman is Amanda de Lange, founder of the Throwing Starfish orphanage. I got to meet her today in the Shanghai Branch. What a treat that was. OK, this honorary Asian is actually African, having been born in Africa, but is now largely Chinese, at least in heart, and speaks the language very well.

A few years ago she had an opportunity to take a high paying job in Korea, but at the same time the government of China asked if she could take on a foster home in Xian to help kids from orphan homes. I hope I've got that part of the story right--correct me if you know the details better. This single LDS woman and BYU grad felt that the Lord wanted her in China serving the children here, and so she accepted the opportunity and founded a foster home to help special needs children. It's called Throwing Starfish, a reference to the story of a boy who was throwing stranded starfish on the beach back into the ocean to save them. A skeptical man explained that this was ridiculous, for there were hundreds of miles of beach and tens of thousands of starfish on it, and so he couldn't possibly make a difference. The boy picked up another starfish, threw it back into the ocean, and said, "I made a difference for that one." Amanda is making a difference for hundreds--but she needs help. Medical assistance, donations, time, etc.

Here is some information about this project.

Deseret News story: "BYU grad saving Chinese children, one starfish at a time"

TheStarfishFosterHome.org

Chinesestarfish.blogspot.com

Youtube: The Starfish Foster Home Story

YouTube: Some photos from the Starfish project

YouTube: PowerPoint presentation about the Starfish Foster Home

Thank goodness for people like Amanda! Why not get involved and help her out, too?

I'm also grateful for the officials who recognized the need and allowed a great LDS woman to step in and help meet the needs of Chinese children. These small kindnesses from officials, including the kindness that allows Latter-day Saints from other nations to meet and worship in Shanghai, are not trivial things. Somebody, some official, had to go the extra mile or even take on personal risk to give that help. Much appreciated!

4 comments:

Michemily said...

My best friend got to visit the Throwing Starfish foster home. What a great story. Maybe I'll get to visit some day, too.

michelle said...

I first read about her story here, and I was so moved by it. What a treat to be able to meet her.

http://magazine.byu.edu/?act=view&a=2592

Duncan D. Horne said...

Let's hope China will open up to our church in the years to come!

Duncan In Kuantan

Faith said...

I've got go to visit the foster home when I go back to China. I wish I could adopt a child. My husband and I were actually checking, but according to the Chinese government we were too poor to adopt... I wonder if I can adopt one from the Starfish... I have to read more...