It’s not something you can really understand or fathom until you have seen it with your own eyes.
Before I go too far, I want to be clear that our daughter’s orphanage, also known as Dorcas House in Iloilo City, has the most loving and selfless caregivers I have ever met in my entire life.
These women work 6 – 24hr shifts with one day a week off. They have families of their own yet sacrifice their entire lives to care for these kids who have been abandoned..
And you wouldn’t believe me if I told you what they get paid per month, but rest assured, it wouldn’t even last you through one trip to the grocery store.
So none of what I am about to say? Says anything about the way Janella was loved.
She was loved well.
And for that we are grateful. So very grateful.
But the resources they have to care for these children… is slim. And when I say slim, I am being generous.
So very different from they way we live here in the USA.
Below is a picture of our daughter’s old bedroom.
The wooden crib in the back was hers. She slept in the toddler room with many other children and a house parent. No blankets. No stuffed animals.
That’s how all of the children slept. And when I think about it, it’s the better option of where they could have been sleeping which would have been on the street, without parents or caregivers at all.
Thank you Jesus for the wooden cribs and the roof that protects them.
Almost all of the children (and there are a total of 15 kids) are boys. There was only 2 other girls that lived at Dorcas and one of them was an 8 year old and the other one was a 5 month old baby that was new to Dorcas House.
So to say Janella was the “queen bee” among the boys would probably be an understatement.
Let’s just say… she was prepared for brothers when she arrived at our home.
And she definitely knows how to hold her own with them. I am sure that comes from the fact that she had to fight for what she wanted when she lived in the orphanage.
The orphanage itself is very run down. The room you see above is an outdoor area where the toddler kids spend most of their days.
When we were there I never saw more than a handful of toys available and honestly, most of the time there weren’t any toys. Maybe a few balls, an old beat up ride-a-long toy and a few plastic trucks with string attached so the kids could pull them.
I want to also stress that I never saw any child crying. Not one.
They were all content and happy just being outside with each other.
Sure does make you think how we overstimulate our kids here in the United States by quite a bit.
The school aged kids would walk to school each morning. Walk back for lunch and then walk back to school. And then home for the day when school was over. Each time they walked up they would greet you with “Good afternoon” with a smile on their face.
Their joy was contagious!
There wasn’t a second that went by I didn’t think about the children who would be left behind.
The ones still waiting on forever families. The ones who are “stuck” because their mother won’t take them back, but also won’t sign over parental rights. The ones that aren’t considered “adoptable”, whether it’s due to lack of paperwork or medical reasons. The ones who have aged out of the system, meaning they are already 15.
Yes, at 15… children in the Philippines can no longer be adopted. FIFTEEN.
I can not even fathom being put on my own at age 15.
All of it. Heartbreaking.
Yet, they smiled and played and felt loved because these women truly treated them like they were their own, despite the lack of resources.
They don’t have clean water. They drink from a well. One that, they admitted to us, was contaminated.
There is no air. It’s nearly a million degrees there with ungodly humidity.
They eat mostly rice.
And like I already mentioned, they don’t have a gazillion and ninety seven superhero figurines like we do here at our house. And they sure the heck don’t have electronic devices. Or internet. Or cable.
Oh, or a shower or tub.
Yes, you read that correct. They don’t even have a working toilet.
Heck, one of the days we were there they didn’t even have electricity.
They had been showing Janella our family photo book daily since February and you could tell that she was very attached to the book.
She carried everywhere she went.
It was so funny because she would look at Jeff’s picture and say “da-da” and then kiss the photo… yet she wanted nothing to do with him in person. Haha!
I was so thankful we had the videographer there with us. NOT because we are bloggers so let me debunk that right now (I won’t tolerate any nonsense comments on that topic – ahem), BUT BECAUSE WE NEVER WANT TO FORGET WHERE OUR DAUGHTER CAME FROM.
We never want to forget the wonderful women she called “ma” before we could get to her. We never want to forget how blessed we are to live with so many privileges.
And we want to be able to show her the video one day when she’s a young adult… When she asks me “Mom, where did I come from?”
I want her to know how much she is loved. And was loved even then.
The orphanage director gave us permission and even encouraged us that bringing a videographer would be a great idea to be able to capture the memories of her home forever.
I can’t wait to see the finished video, they even interviewed her house mommy. I’ll be crying my eyes out when I hear what she says about Janella.
They had this metal swing area in the front yard (above) and it was such a precious moment because this was the first time she let both of us sit near her.
It didn’t last long before she wanted down, but we kept thinking “This is progress!!!”
At one point she needed down from a chair and she let me pick her up and set her down. The house mommies were yelling, “Hold her! Hold her!”
But I didn’t want to break her trust. I wanted her to know that she could trust me to do what she wanted which was to get down from the chair.
That’s how I spent most of my time… just patiently waiting for her to be ready for me.
You’ll notice that I have included pictures from 2 separate days (our different outfits).
The ones when Janella is in the striped dress was day 1… literally hours after we got off the plane. And the other pictures are from day 3, the day the orphanage staff cooked us lunch and we signed the entrustment papers.
Day 3 was the day we spent almost all day there.
Day 3 also brought with it some unexpected surprises…. one that I haven’t talked about much at all. Mostly because so many parts of it are private.
I met Janella’s birth mother.
It was single handedly the most amazing experience of my entire life. I can honestly say that.
I may elaborate on our meeting in the future, but for now… I am not ready.
I had no idea how emotional day 3 would be (especially after meeting her birth mom), but it was soooo emotionally draining.
Every single piece of it. The highs, the lows, the goodbyes.
Oh my, the goodbyes.
By day 3, when we visited the orphanage, Janella had spent the night with us once. She still barely new us. She had only been away from Dorcas for less than 24 hours.
Yet when we went back with her on day 3… she wouldn’t let me put her down. I was so fearful that we would go back to the orphanage that day and it would erase any progress we had made.
But I could not have been more wrong.
She wouldn’t let the caregivers even hold her. And as much as that broke their heart… it was good. It meant she was connecting with us.
But they cried. And it broke my heart.
Of course, they would try to sneak off and cry privately, but we knew. And we knew they were hurting.
They absolutely adored our daughter and I am sure it was bittersweet for them to see her leave with us, but it didn’t take away the pain they felt when having to say goodbye.
I am still in awe of how fast Nella has attached to us. It’s something that goes right along with my adoption theme — ONLY GOD.
If you want to help us support Dorcas House, we are selling our adoption tees for 3 MORE DAYS!!! We decided to do another round since so many of you missed out last time.
Thank you for seeing the value in lives of children you’ve never met. Thank you for trusting us when we say they are in need. Thank you for opening your heart and loving us through all of this.
You all make a difference in our lives… and we are so grateful.
To read more about our journey you can check out our ADOPTION PAGE and also read about the rest of our trip…