Friday, October 28, 2011

Foster Centers

Lots of the children who belong to the orphanage live in foster homes in the surrounding area.  There are several clusters of families in the same neighborhood.  Last year, Dongnan Li set up 3 different therapy centers where the families can come daily to meet, talk and help their children.  Red Thread Charities has provided therapy equipment like therapy balls, headphones for music therapy, mats and a variety of fun toys for each center.  We toured each of the facilities and it sure looks like a big hit with all of the proud families! It was really fun to interact with the kids!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Well, yesterday was an amazing experience for our school age kids, Quin, Samantha, Eloise, Paige and Jack. They got to make homemade dumplings with kids who live at the orphanage. Seriously! This was as cute as it gets! It amazes me that some of these children from the orphanage still are not matched. They are typical kids with a variety of special needs. But today they got to work as a team to chop vegetables, mix up the pork, roll out dough, use chopsticks to add the filling and make pretty symmetrical little dumplings! But kids will be kids and a it did not end without digressing into a fun and naughty food fight. Everyone had a blast!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Face to Face: A Look at Autism

Autism is a relatively new diagnosis in China.  After the Hangzhou delegation was able to tour the therapy centers in the US, they told us they had around 6-7 children at the orphanage who they suspected had Autism.  Anne Harrington, autism specialist from Mpls is one of our volunteers.  We knew she would be able to diagnose and help some families in China.  Here is what Anne demonstrated:
 A foster mother told us that her child doesn’t talk much at all., nor does he interact with others and prefers to be by himself with a single toy.  Anne asked if he ever asks for something he wants such as food.  Foster mom said, “No.  He just brings my hand to the object he wants.” Children with autism have difficulty interacting socially and prefer to focus their attention on an object rather than a person.  Often they lack  verbal abilities.  If a child with autism, for instance, wants a sucker unwrapped, he will place the sucker in the caregiver’s hand and stare at the hand rather than interact face to face. The goal is to increase social skills by enticing the child to ask for what he wants by looking into the caregiver’s eyes and even asking for the object by name. 
Anne enticed the child with a particularly visually interesting toy.  The child became fascinated with it but as soon as he put it down, Anne scooped up the toy! When the child went to look for it, she brought it up to her face with animated gestures and a huge smile.  As soon as he made eye contact, (success!) she handed the toy to him as a reward.  The next step was to up the ante.  This time when he put the toy down Anne picked it up again.  When the little guy looked for it a moment later Anne did the same gesture by bringing it up to her face… this time saying the Mandarin word for toy: “Wan ju!”  Our little guy really wanted that toy.  But Anne kept bringing it to her face saying “Wan ju!”   Finally after several rounds of this the child reached for the toy, made eye contact with Anne and said, “Wan ju.”  Huge success!!! The foster mother was amazed, but better yet, she now had a therapeutic intervention to help her child with autism.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Early Morning Sounds

This early morning I am in the orphanage "internet cafe" alone with wet hair and my computer.  I can hear the babies fussing for their formula and I'm watching the nannies going back and forth from building to building with pink and blue thermoses of formula. Birds are chirping... but it sounds maybe they are chirping in Mandarin.   Every morning the routine is the same...a familiar sound day after day...year after year.  This year I am privileged to be sharing the nurse's room with my friend and colleague, Angie, an RN from River Falls.  We had a blast yesterday examining the babies and doing their measurements and vital signs.  Some of them loved us and a few really didn't like us one bit.  But of course we love them all.  -Jane Steinmetz

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Volunteers Have Arrived

Our volunteer group has now arrived in Shanghai!  Some have been doing a little touring in Chengdu to see the Giant Pandas and some have just arrived. We will be seeing the sights in downtown Shanghai today in order to acclimate to the time change.  We're planning on the Shanghai Museum, the Bund and a little light shopping...and of course you can't go to Shanghai without eating dumplings.  Sunday afternoon we will head over to Hangzhou by bus and then it is a week of seeing the children and working with the staff. We can't wait to see everyone!  We are bringing 8 boxes of donations...pediatric walkers, bath chairs and positioning and seating devices!!!  Thank you to all the friends of Red Thread Charities who donated to this cause! 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Picnic in the park

 Red Thread Charities hosted a potluck picnic at a park in Mpls while our friends from China were here.  Volunteers from previous trips and new volunteers for this October's trip were here to meet and greet the ladies.  A very special surprise were the attendance of some children who had at one time lived in the care of these ladies, walking in and being immediately recognized by their former nannies.  It made more than one of us shed a tear.

Children learn through play

We sure enjoyed having our friends from Hangzhou come to MN and WI to visit therapy centers.  They got to tour Courage Center, Gillette Children's Hospital, U of M Adoption Clinic, The Therapy Place, Point of Stillness, Avanti Center and some wonderful schools.  In every facility we toured, two things were always stressed:
* Children learn through play.  
* Inclusion and mainstreaming children is best for everyone.
These are concepts that are new to China and by the end of the trip our friends really understood why we in the US incorporate these ideas into our education system.  
Question:  "Doesn't it make the child with a special need feel bad being included with typical children?"  Answer:  "I think you're mainstreaming in the orphanage without realizing it.  How do the children with no obvious special need, such as a repaired heart react to the child who who has a more visually obvious special need such as a missing limb?"  
The staff acknowledged that, "The children accept them very well." 
You see we are the same all over the world, and education is the key to helping adults realize what children instinctively know.  
Here is a photo of the ladies playing in the lycra climbing gym at Point of Stillness Therapy Center in Hudson WI.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Our friends

It has been a packed 2 weeks for our friends from Hangzhou Children's Welfare Institute.  We've just left them at the airport, boarding passes in hand after yesterday's flight cancellation because of the typhoon in Japan. Now they're on a different flight with a small stopover in Detroit and then non stop to Shanghai.  What a wonderful learning opportunity it was for all of us as we were priviledged to tour so many schools and therapy centers in our area.  I will attempt to summarize their whirlwind trip through Wisconsin and Minnesota with photos along the way.  

Thursday September 8th:

I found out recently that the UWRF and Hangzhou University have an exchange program.  Our delegation from China was able to tour the University Communicative Disorders/Regional Speech and Hearing Clinic as well as the Early Childhood Lab School.  It was great to be able to interact with the preschool children and see how creative the teachers are.  As we are always trying to find resources for the orphanage in Hangzhou it is very helpful to know that UWRF has a strong presence in China.  What a small world we live in...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Delegation from China

Our delegation from China has been here for 4 days now and the jet lag is subsiding.  Yesterday was a busy day touring Little Adventures Day Care Center in River Falls and Avanti Center in Hudson.  The team was able to observe a typical American daycare in action.  They were very intrigued with all the creative ideas and took lots of photos and lots of notes.  The afternoon was packed at Avanti Center in Hudson observing several therapy session of children with varying special needs.  The ladies are enjoying their experiences here in the US and hope to take ideas back with them to work with their children in the orphanage.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Delegation from Hangzhou arriving 9-5

We have exciting news to report from Red Thread Charities!  A group of 7 ladies from the orphanage in Hangzhou will be arriving next Monday and will be visiting therapy centers in Wisconsin and Minnesota.  These are women who have embraced the training RTC has provided in pediatric OT and PT and have lovingly improved the lives of the children living in the orphanage.  They will be hosted by families in the area and will be touring Avanti Center, Point of Stillness, Little Adventures Daycare, Gillette Children's Hospital, Childrens Home Society, Fraser School, Cornelia Elementary, The Therapy Place, Courage Center and the U of M.  We plan on sneaking in some fun evening events as well and of course, no tour to the Twin Cities would be complete without  a shopping trip to the MOA.  For most of these women, it will be their first time in America!  

Our charity will be purchasing special adaptive equipment such as pediatric walkers, bathing chairs and seating systems to send back with the delegation.  If you would like to contribute to this cause please visit our website at
Donations accepted online at

Monday, May 30, 2011

It's not what we do. Its why we do it.

In the early days, when we were conceptualizing Red Thread Charities, we believed that the lives of children living in Chinese orphanages could be improved upon by therapeutic intervention.  We believed that professionals would volunteer their time and money to go to China to teach nannies caring for the children techniques in pediatric OT, PT and special education.   We believed that the nannies would embrace the techniques and use them to help the children even after we left China and returned to our lives here.  We were right.  And now the concept is bigger than ever.   The nannies’ status has been elevated to therapists and teachers.  The lovely children have blossomed in their care.  Children who once could not walk are walking.   Children who were severely sensory defensive are opening up like flowers.  The children and the staff are becoming stronger and more confident.  Foster parents are being trained in the same techniques.  Other orphanages in Zhejiang province are taking notice and are asking what they can do to help the children in their care.  They are sending their staff to be trained by the people who we trained.  We at RTC believe in empowerment.  We believe that when people see how children’s lives can benefit though therapy they will understand its importance.  It’s not what we do… It’s why we do it.  If you are the type of person that believes in empowerment, visit our website at   

Monday, April 11, 2011

Nancy's Email from China

Good Morning Dear Readers. Nancy Lawton Shirley and Qiuxia Hu are in Hangzhou this week checking on the progress of RTC's program in Hangzhou. We are thrilled to get this update and we wanted to share it with all of you. Have a tissue handy!
From Nancy to Kiki about Children at Hangzhou – 4/11/11
Dear Kiki: I wish that you could have come to see the fruits of your hard labor! I had tears in my eyes all morning as I witnessed more transformation in all areas (baby, toddler, conductive ed, foster). Despite lack of adequate staffing numbers, they have found ways to support the children. Everywhere I went I saw happy children's faces, no shut down, children engaged. It may not be perfect, but what they understand about the children's needs has made a big difference. They understand environment set up, sensory needs, and the need for physical exercises and rehab. They bought boppies ( small rubber seats with trays), smaller high chairs, and corner chairs on their own for the baby unit!! The children looked great! What Nannies they have really have been well trained by the orphanage staff. I saw compassion and skill!

They LOVE the walkers!!! I saw the children using them–and demanding to use them! They have made a big difference for the two children–and they need more of that exact type. One girl who just arrived at the orphanage in Dec. is now walking short distances even without it!! (She didn't walk at all when she came--so the walker and the rehab have been a huge benefit to her!)  So your PT things are really being used! 

I am so glad you were able to be here for the last several years! Your contribution to this project is significant and the project really is VERY successful! Thank you!!!!

From Nancy to Cheryl & Jane about Children – 4/11/11
Hi! Just wanted to share more about today. I am pretty spent. The emotional intensity of things was so high today–for all of us. The realization that the orphanage is really moving towards better skills and programs was so moving. So many good things are happening here for the children despite the staffing shortages. The boy that broke my heart last Oct. unglued me today. Last October he had just been abandoned (at age 3) just the week before we arrived. He has cerebral palsy and had difficulties with his hands and legs. He was terrified and so sad–totally traumatized. And he was smart. I could hardly handle it. I was so afraid he would give up. I was afraid that he would disconnect from the world. Today I saw him in the special rehab preschool–and he remembered me! He was all smiles and he was obviously so happy to be in preschool! He has learned to belly crawl and his hand use is getting better. Clearly the staff has been working with him for rehab. Clearly he felt connected to those around him. He made every trip I have made to China worth it.

The stories like this one were multitude. One little girl came this December and did not walk or talk at age 5. She now walks with her new walker and is walking for short periods independently. She is beginning to talk. This is just the beginning of April…this means the orphanage staff is doing a great job!!!

Another child would cry and cry if anyone but her foster mom held her or even looked at her. Now she is playful and smiles and wants attention! She fully participates in the special preschool program–helping her classmates and participating with the teacher!

Another child was in foster care and didn't  show any awareness of his left arm and hand. We had trained the foster mom in brushing and joint compressions last March. Now he is using his left spontaneously during play! Foster moms are showing enthusiasm for their children and the rehab plans. They are showing nice skills with the children…and it is really showing in the children's progress. The model appears to be working!

My heart is amazed and so happy!!! Thank you Red Thread Charities for the vision of it all!!!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Boom Boom Pow...Table Tennis Wow!!!

Next Saturday join us for a fun Red Thread Charities fundraiser in collaboration with the U of M Table Tennis team! Volunteers are gearing up to make this a great family event! Mounds Park Academy is a gorgous facility and we already have almost 40 participants in the table tennis competition!  I can't wait to watch the action!  Check out the flyer and bring friends and family!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Brief history of Ping Pong

According to historic accounts, Chairman Mao loved Table Tennis, commonly known as Ping Pong.  He ordered cement ping pong tables to be built in parks all across China.  As a result, the Chinese people became very proficient!  The sport hit a zenith in 1971, when China invited Japan to a Ping Pong tounament and opened their doors to a group of Americans. They were the first group of Americans to be allowed into mainland China since the communist takeover in 1949.  Today, nearly every school in China has a ping pong table for the kids to practice on during recess. While traveling with another group of Americans...(RTC)... Kiki Dickinson snapped this photo at a school we visited in Beijing.  Oh, by the way...these kids were good...really good.  I sincerely hope you can join us on March 5th!  (See previous post)

Boom Boom Pow! Ping Pong Now!

Table Tennis? Yes,TABLE TENNIS!! Please mark your calendar for the first ever Table Tennis Tournament benefiting Red Thread Charities. We are teaming up with the University of Minnesota Table Tennis Team for an afternoon of fun! Come to watch the professionals play! Get some professional training and advice! Bring your own paddles to play like champions! It is an event for everyone in the family!!  Soup, salad and snacks available for purchase!  We'll be posting the flier soon!

Save the Date!!!    Saturday, March 5 2011 at Mounds Park Academy