July 2017 Kunming Visit Update

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July 2017 Kunming Visit Update

Dear YKI Supporters, 

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We are very happy to let you know that this summer our organization was able to successfully deliver $2,500.00 USD for the play garden maintenance. 

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We were warmly greeted by the orphanage staff and orphanage administration. They thanked us for our dedication and ongoing support of their SWI. During our meeting with Director Wang, we learned that their largest concern was the aging group of children in their care, and also the children with more serious disabilities. They are hopeful that in the future YKI will support their efforts to give children more opportunities for vocational training to prepare teens for life after the orphanage. They are hoping that future donations from YKI will provide education classes and general tuition fees.  

It was in this meeting that it was explained that our support is more needed than ever in this area. While the playground is used frequently, they are starting to move their work to focus more on older orphan support back in the city where they have more opportunities for school and training. In fact, fewer children are being placed in the foster villages and more are being fostered in apartments located on the SWI property. 

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They also explained that they are very interested to know how the Yunnan kids are doing post adoption. At this time, there is no organized way for them to know how the children are doing and they would greatly appreciate a way to hear about the children’s health, school performance, and overall quality of life. They would be very appreciative if we used our website to gather some messages from the families. They feel that it would deeply motivate their staff to know that their hard work has an impact on the adopted children’s future.  The director emphasized that they would really like to have this connection to the families with Yunnan children.  

Over the coming months YKI will be considering these requests carefully and moving to support their requests. We are continuously grateful for your ongoing support to improve the lives of children in Yunnan, China.

Best,
Iris Chin Ponte Ph.D.
Education Chair
Yunnan Kids International  

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YKI Launches our Store

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YKI Launches our Store

Happy 2016! We hope this New Year brings you and your family happiness and health. At YKI we have been thrilled with the work that has been happening in the Play Garden. Children and foster parents alike have been enjoying the space daily. For many children it has become their favorite space to visit, play, and exercise. Thank you for all of your support.  

To celebrate the approaching Year of the Monkey we have decided to launch our YKI Store. The beautiful artwork used was designed by a waiting child in a Kunming Foster Village. Her drawing title is, “When I play outside.” 

Every store purchase will automatically donate $10 to the maintenance and upkeep of the Play Garden. We cannot think of a more perfect Chinese New Year gift for your family.

Please join us and purchase your YKI keepsake now.

Best,
Fang Lee
YKI President 

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Construction Update

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Construction Update

Dear YKI community,

It is with great pleasure and excitement that I tell you the construction team in China has begun building the play garden! We just received the news that the project will be complete May 17, 2015. Our dream of creating a space for the foster children of Kunming is finally coming to fruition. After a lot of negotiation with the Kunming SWI, we were finally able to finish the last of the paperwork and get going. 

Please check out the photos of the progress below! The beginning of the construction of the play garden is a huge step forward for us. After a year and a half of hard work, commitment, and community, we’re shaking up a corner of the universe. None of this could have been possible without the support of our architects, designers, mentors, the SWI, the foster village, and your ongoing support. Please take a moment to celebrate this small but important moment that you helped contribute to!  The journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step, and believe me, we’re taken many and our hard work is showing.

Please make sure to check back with us for more updates as the team in China continues with the construction of the play garden. If you’re wondering what you can do to support us further, please check out our “donate now” page.  Though we raised the necessary funds for the construction of the play garden, funds are still needed to support post-construction projects, training, and of course maintenance. 

With gratitude,
Fang Lee

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Update After Kunming Trip

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Update After Kunming Trip

Happy New Year to all of our YKI supporters. We wanted to give you a quick update regarding our recent trip to Kunming. 

Upon arriving to the Kunming SWI, we met with Director Qiao. He explained to us that it was his preference to have the foster villagers build as much of the play garden as possible. He explained that not only will it save funds it will also help the foster villagers feel ownership of the space. The YKI team agreed. However, we also discussed that there are some areas of the play garden that require more construction skills (i.e. the play house, the sandbox, and the covered seating area). It was determined that for specialty items the orphanage would help facilitate the hiring of a professional construction team. Director Qiao explained that these boutique construction teams were often very expensive so that we needed to think carefully about how much funding there is for this project.
There was a lot of discussion regarding the trees on the play garden site. After many SWI discussions we were requested to save as many trees as possible, more than previously discussed. Director Qiao explained that the villagers had tried to move one larger tree unsuccessfully and unfortunately the tree died. For this reason, both the villagers and the director requested that our build only removes small trees and not the large ones. This decision impacts the build because reconsideration will have to be given to the location of the activity areas. The YKI team felt confident that these adjustments could be made while still preserving the integrity of the design.    

There was also an important conversation regarding the materials that would be used to create the play garden. Director Qiao felt that the quality was important and that it needed to match the existing community center.

It was determined that because of the good weather a trip would need to be taken to the foster village immedietly. Our YKI team would be escorted by Angie, and Pu Jing and his assistant Jessica to the site to make adjustments to the layout.

After a local lunch, our team spent 4 hours on site reconfiguring the layout of the play garden to take into consideration the location of the activity areas. The requested adjustments were made to avoid the removal of any large trees. It was also determined that a fully enclosed fence was going to be necessary around the entire area and that construction will not grade the small hill area of the play garden. In order to preserve the root system of the trees, the team decided to leave the mini forested area as is, instead of creating an open playing field.

Everyone was happy with the final layout of the play garden. On Wednesday we returned to the site to conduct a final tree measurement so that the final construction design could be delivered with precision. 

We are happy to report that things are moving forward beautifully. We will provide the revised design as soon as our architect can get home and then the final price will be determined. The preservation of the trees, use of the villagers to build as much as possible, and not changing the grade of the land is going to help the price tag immensely. As soon as a final price is set, the orphanage expects the build to only take a few months.

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Exciting News

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Exciting News

Dear Families and Friends of Yunnan Kids International:

We are delighted to bring you some great news. Our Annual Gala, which took place on November 14th, was a huge success. Not only did we raise a lot of money for a great cause, we also enjoyed a lovely night of lively music, delicious food, and good company. We send our warmest thanks to the friends and family from all around the New England area who came out to support our organization. I was moved to hear the entire team explain to the guests why this project is so important to them.

The second big piece of news I want to deliver is that FCC-New England has bestowed a $25,000 grant on YKI for the play garden project. We are deeply grateful for their contribution and support. This project would not be possible without their kindness. It is so important not only for adoptive families, but for adoptees ourselves to see that we have a village of people rallying behind us as we go forth in this world and give back to those who once cared for us.

And while we’ve made great strides, the Play Garden Project still needs your help. We’ve raised enough money to begin our build, but we’re still raising money for the ongoing Play Garden maintenance fund. Without funds for replacement and repair, too many projects like ours become unused decorative fixtures, off-limits to children to avoid damage. Your support can help us follow through on our vision to build a loved and used addition to this village.

While any amount helps, I would like to remind individuals and families that those donating at least $500 may choose to have their names added to a permanent plaque to be installed at the Play Garden site (the deadline is December 8, 2014). This is a very special opportunity to build a lasting connection between two communities. Please visit our “donate now” page for more information.

The play garden team, including Dr. Iris Ponte and myself, will be traveling to Yunnan province on December 12th to start the build. We are incredibly excited for this opportunity and we look forward to reporting our success to everyone back at home on our website.

We wish you a very happy holiday season!

With gratitude,  Fang Lee

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Kunming in June: Official Project Approval

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Kunming in June: Official Project Approval

Now that our team is back on US soil and we have recovered from our jet-lag, I wanted to take this opportunity to give a quick but thorough report of what happened in Kunming this past June.

The day after a few of our team members and I touched down in Kunming, we met with the orphanage director and his assistants. Director Qiao was extremely warm, welcoming, and put us at ease immediately. Before our sit-down meeting, we were given a thorough tour of the new orphanage. We were thoroughly impressed with what we saw; we were especially pleased to see that the children who lived in the orphanage full time had a clean and loving space to grow up in.  Along the way, we spotted a play area that looked very much like the architect of the play area was trying for a more natural look, which was pleasantly surprising to us. After the tour, we delivered our donation of $8,000 for the sunshade as promised. We then proceeded to show and explain to the Director the designs for our Play Garden. The director along with other staff members who were present at the meeting were all very impressed with what they saw. The Director took a careful look at each element of the elements of the design. At the end of our presentation, which was fairly informal compared to other meetings I have had with the directors of the Kunming SWI, Director Qiao announced, “If this is a successful project, I would like to see Play Gardens in all seven foster villages.” Needless to say, Iris and I were both taken aback. We knew he liked our design, but we hadn’t anticipated such an overwhelmingly positive response. Before our meeting ended, Director Qiao said that in order for our project to move forward, the next step would be for us to deliver the design to the foster families in Jiu Du. We would need to get their approval and suggestions before having finally confirmation. He said, “Since you are building on their land, in their home, you have to get their approval. They are the ones who will be using this, so they have to be happy with what you make for them. Be sure to make any adjustments they want!” I was both surprised and moved to see how much thought and empathy he had for the foster village. Traditionally, many orphanage directors or any sort of heads of institutions in China are known to be… Less democratic. He instructed several orphanage workers to arrange a meeting  with the foster village for the next day.

So, the next day, along with some gifts and Ms. Song in tow, the overseer of the foster family program, we traveled for about an hour and a half by car to Jiu Du to meet with the foster families. Before our meeting, we were treated to a locally lavish lunch by the head foster mother. The food was simply amazing. After lunch, we proceeded to the community center that my mother had helped build many years ago.  When we walked in, we saw about 25-30 foster parents sitting in the room, eager to see why we had come all this way. The audience was comprised of mostly mothers with a fathers clustered in the back corner, which is not surprising for a Southern Chinese community. As a feminist, it was refreshing to see that the decision-makers in these families were not predominantly men. After giving an introduction, Song had pass around the individual sheets of paper that our designs were printed onto. The foster parents smiled and chatted among themselves as the design circulated around the large crowd. Iris and I were really pleased to see the reaction on everyone’s face. After going through and explaining the purpose and usage of each individual element of the design, we fielded questions and suggestions from the foster parents. They all had great suggestions that the US team would not have been able to come up with. For example, the foster parents said that they liked to sit closer to the ground, therefore, they requested the sitting areas to contain lower benches and tables. This is a cultural thing that US designers would not have taken into account. The foster parents also requested there be a swing for special needs children and a swing that both children and mothers could use at the same time. At the end of the hour long meeting, we had hashed out all of the details including which trees to remove and which ones to keep. The foster parents even agreed to help out in the building of the structure in order to minimize costs.  Many of them said, “Though we may not know how to build certain things, we’re willing to learn!” They were all so grateful that they were finally getting an outdoor space where more children and adults could come together and have fun. After the meeting, we proceeded to do a thorough look at the space and at the trees. The foster families pointed out the trees they wanted to keep and the ones they were happy to dig up and move elsewhere. Before we left, we organized a small art activity where we had a few of the older foster kids draw up what they imagined as “the best place to play”. We can’t wait to reveal their amazing creations!

The trip to Kunming could not have gone better.  With the approval from the SWI and the foster families, we are ready to start fundraising and building. We have about $100,000 to raise for this project. This will not be an easy feat. However, I believe that with the help of our community in the US, we can make this dream a reality for families on both sides of the world. If you can help out in any way – your contributions do not have to be financial – please contact us. 

With great thanks,

Fang Lee
President

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Designing a Play Garden for the Kunming Social Welfare Institute

Play in outdoor natural environments has historically been positioned as a context in which children can grow and thrive. Play in natural environments is a key venue for exploration that offers many possibilities for children to be critical thinkers and co-constructors of their play experiences. On a natural playground the environment offers environmental affordances that attract children to sustained interactions with natural elements.

The playground team is made up of both child development professionals as well as design and building professionals; Debbie LeeKeenan (Former Director of the Eliot-Pearson Children’s School), Prof. George Scarlett (Deputy Chair of the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development), Iris Chin Ponte Ph.D. (Eliot-Pearson Alumna 2007), Fang Lee (President of Yunnan Kids International), Patrick Rettig, (Designer for Green Edge Builders), and Robert Scott, (Consultant for Cornerstone Development and Construction).     

Over the past six months the playground team has been working closely with the leadership of the Kunming Social Welfare Institute to design a space that can equally serve children between the ages of zero and twelve and their foster families. An additional challenge is that many of the children that reside in the foster village have a range of special needs. After numerous meetings and a visit to the Eliot-Pearson Natural Playground at Tufts University the team has developed a space they are now calling a “play garden.” This space includes a traditional climber alongside many naturalistic play areas (i.e. garden beds, stump walks, large sandboxes, meandering pathways). All areas have been designed so that children with a variety of special needs can participate. It is the playground team’s hope that by providing this space, children and foster families alike, will have more outdoor play opportunities. Throughout the play garden seating for foster parents has been strategically placed to support caregiver-child interactions to promote positive play experiences. 

This June, a few members of the playground team will be traveling to Kunming, China to meet with the administration of the Kunming Social Welfare Institute regarding the play garden design and deliver the first round of funding. Team members will be making a site visit to re-access the build conditions as well as any final adjustments before the build begins. 

The Kunming Play Garden will symbolize the connection between children that have already been adopted from Kunming and the children that wait. A place to run, explore, play, and laugh. We invite you to explore our drafted design. After working with the Kunming SWI modifications will be made and another design will be posted!

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A Letter from President Fang Lee

I believe in the power and the importance of family. Both as an adoptee and as a young woman of color finding her way through the world, I am reminded everyday that the people behind you often help determine the life in front of you. Back when China was more village than city, life was shaped, supported and defined by the village community. For example, if you got sick, the village doctor would come to your house and prescribe some bitter herbal concoction and your fourth aunt (who wasn’t really your biological aunt) made ginger chicken soup with rock-sized pieces of ginger floating around just to sooth your mysterious headache. This was a time when meal-time meant family time. And family time meant everyone in your immediate and in-immediate circle sat around the dining room table sipping the tea someone had just harvested and shoveling rice into hungry mouths. Just as the village scene I described, I see the YKI community like my village. 

It is a village that I want to build and nurture, and with a little luck, will grow into a village that extends beyond geographical boundaries. In other words, I want the YKI village to be the village for children that wait, adoptees, and adoptive parents alike. We are all driven by one common goal: improving and helping the children in Yunnan province. With the launch of the Play Garden Project, I hope we can all take this small but powerful step in the right direction, together. With every dollar we raise, and every email we send, we are sending a message to the foster village; we are telling them that they are not alone and that their village on the other side of the world has their back. 

So far in 2014, the team has been working diligently on the design for the Play Garden. This June, a few members of the Play Garden team and I will present these plans to the Kunming SWI Director and Foster Care Director in person.. After receiving their feedback and suggestions, we will proceed with gathering more information about the location and layout of the building site. 

In addition to presenting the initial Play Garden plans, the Director of the SWI has requested our help to purchase a large sunshade for a more rural Kunming foster village. This sunshade will cover an open area where the foster kids – most with disabilities – will be able to play and enjoy outdoor activities out of the intense high-altitude sun. Along with the Play Garden plans, we expect this first step will further establish YKI as a committed partner of the SWI and Foster Program in Kunming. To purchase the sunshade, we need to deliver $8,000 to the Kunming SWI.

Despite all of the excitement about engaging the directors of the SWI, let us all stay focused on fundraising. We’re very excited about the team we have assembled, about the relationships we have made in China and about the difference we can make to these children. But in the end, our success is dependent on achieving our fundraising goals.  If you would like to join our team, specifically join as a fundraising volunteer, please feel free to contact me. We need as much help as we can get. I look forward to working with all of you. Go team!

Thank you for your ongoing support,


Fang Lee
President of Yunnan Kids International

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