How to Get "Likes"

Sunday, April 27, 2014

My goal is not to get “likes”, but I have discovered how to. If you don’t have a cute baby, grandbaby, puppy or kitten, just make a fool of yourself. Gladney has been in the height of our event season for the last 2 months and I have been asked to do several “out of my comfort zone” activities, capped off by my rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” at last night’s fundraiser in Austin.

Before I began, I retitled the song “Everybody Loves a Train Wreck”, the train wreck being me performing. Which brings us full circle: “likes” can be equated with train wrecks.

I must confess that I have enjoyed stepping out of my comfort zone – modeling, singing, running a 5K. I’m ready to do it all again next year. In fact, I didn’t want to give up the mike last night. I offered to do an encore, but there were no takers.

Acknowledging Change

Monday, March 10, 2014

If I knew a friend’s child when he was 8 years old, but haven’t seen him for 10 years, I am surprised when he looks and acts 18, because the image in my mind still has him as an 8 year old.

In similar fashion, if I visited orphanages in China several years ago when they were under-resourced, the images of the quality of care that the kids were receiving back then sticks in my mind as reflective of the present.

But this is not the case. Sure, there are orphanages in China where the quality of care suffers, just as there are everywhere. However, on this trip, every orphanage facility we visited in China was either new or refurbished. More importantly, the child to caregiver ratio was low at each one. Generally speaking, these children were receiving holistic, nurturing care.

Of course, this still pales in comparison to the permanent love of a family, whether Chinese, American or European.

Building Bridges

Sunday, March 9, 2014

I love the cross-cultural challenge of my job – eating strange foods, drinking “local liquor”, making what I hope are culturally sensitive comments and asking culturally sensitive questions. Finding the right mix of deference and candor. Not coming across as the American with all the answers, but instead recognizing that we have a lot to learn from each other and that each country, each province, each agency and each orphanage takes pride in what they've accomplished.

Friday night at dinner with 8 Chinese provincial officials, I inquired about the increasing number of young people seeking to join the Communist Party, based on an article I had read on the flight over. They confirmed this and that led into a brief discussion of communism. Then the senior official offered a toast (one of several with the local liquor) to me in Chinese of course. So I asked if I just toasted to communism. After my question was interpreted, everyone laughed. I guess we’ll find out soon enough if I triggered an international incident.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Orphanage – The word conjures up a variety of images depending on one’s experience. The quality of care varies greatly by country and even within country. The variable is not the compassion and dedication of the caregivers. (Just about all are compassionate and dedicated.) The variable is resources.
We saw both ends of the spectrum in the Philippines. At the positive end is Samaritan’s Place, which provides nurturing love, holistic care, spiritual foundation and a family-like environment (husbands and wives as house-parents) for the kids in their care.

At the other end was the government-run orphanage, where in one room a single caregiver was watching over 24 boys, some with special needs. She was doing her best, but her task seemed nearly impossible. And yet she had been there for 20 years!
Somewhere in the middle was a private orphanage for mentally-handicapped kids. Certainly under-resourced, but creative with what they had. As an example, we witnessed a very moving scene which takes place at meal-time where the mildly-retarded feed those who are more severe. The “feeders” are very intense about their task. It was apparent that they felt a sense of dignity from handling this important function and it was touching to watch.

There is an ongoing debate in our field – build more orphanages vs empty the orphanages. It’s not hard to understand the legitimacy of both positions when you’ve had the opportunity to see the extremes.


Friday, February 28, 2014

Gladney is so blessed to have the partners we work with in Taiwan and the Philippines, men and women who have devoted their entire adult lives to care for the orphans and vulnerable children of their countries by helping them find forever families and by their nurturing love for those who won’t have the opportunity to grow up in a family. Mrs. Gao, Sister Rosa, Mark and Marilen Morris and Dolce – these folks are my heroes.

The Little Things

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

When I’m traveling overseas, I look for the little things. These are what create lasting memories rather than the typical bus tour through the city.

In Taipei, for me this included a China and Taiwan history lesson from our own Gongzhan Wu. I now owe him for at least a semester credit in terms of what I learned.

Another little thing (but not so little) is the kindness of Mr. Yeh (pronounced Yay!), our driver and jack-of-all-trades in Taiwan. He took us to a hole in the wall for lunch (good food). After watching me struggle with chopsticks for a while, he disappeared and came back about 15 minutes later with a fork he borrowed from a restaurant a few blocks away. He didn’t want to see me starve!

Later, Gongzhan and I were wandering around the city and ran into a demonstration. Very glad to have Gongzhan with me to interpret the scene.

Most important, we had wonderful discussions with our orphanage partners. More to come on that.

Nicholas Kristof's Offer

Monday, January 6, 2014

In his column in yesterday's NY Times, Nicholas Kristof invited readers to suggest neglected issues for coverage in 2014 and post them on his blog (, so I did. Here is my submission:

Every child should have the right to grow up in a family, an opportunity to thrive rather than just survive. One might expect that this sentiment would enjoy widespread support and one would be wrong.

I applaud you for raising the question of neglected topics. There is no more neglected topic than the fate of 143,000,000 orphans around the world. These children have no voice; they epitomize the word "neglected".

Those of us in the field of international child welfare believe that the cause of the orphan is among the most compelling of our time. Yet we have been unable to raise public awareness and elevate the global orphan crisis as a priority issue in Washington.

Perhaps the biggest barrier to confronting this crisis are the misguided policies of our own Department of State. Interestingly enough, legislation has been proposed by courageous Congressional leaders (co-sponsored by a bipartisan coalition) to make changes that would result in our government being an advocate for, rather than a barrier against, the rights of children to grow up in families.

Our government is not the only barrier. We witnessed this a year ago in Russia when the orphans of that country were used as political pawns in a game of chess with the U.S. Who were the losers in that game? Children who are still stuck in orphanages when good, caring parents were poised to adopt them.

While Russia's shutdown of international adoption was the most overt move of its kind, it's really become the norm as nationalism trumps what's in the best interest of children almost everywhere.

My hope is that those working against the right of a child to grow up in a family are exposed in 2014, that public awareness of this global tragedy becomes outrage, and that the outrage produces real change on behalf of millions of children who today are without hope.

(It appears that you can go onto Kristof's blog and there is a readers' choice tab. Perhaps if enough people choose this topic, he'll investigate it and write about it.)