Our retreat for 29 children with disabilities and their parents (and grandparents) concluded yesterday, and we are still catching our breath from the weekend. What a whirlwind of fun activities, meaningful discussions and educational opportunities for all of us.
Let's contrast these two photos. Above: In the lobby shortly after our arrival when our friend Leo (who we know from our Saturday English classes) wanted to take a picture together. Hudson has a death grip on my leg. And below: In the lobby shortly before our departure on Monday with Nathaniel, the leader of the California team and our children's new best friend since he spent considerable time with them discussing VeggieTales. (This is Hudson's love language.) We all loved Nathaniel's enthusiasm!
Clearly, our kids warmed up and had a great time. This is the third Family Retreat that Kevin has led since we've moved to China, but the first one the kids and I joined from start to finish. It was such a memorable and meaningful experience! The whole weekend had a close-knit feel, and joy was evident on faces all around. Children's activities were planned for each morning and afternoon while the parents/grandparents were attending health and wellness seminars, having one-on-one therapy consultations and discussion/support groups for encouragement.
There was an island theme for the children's activities and songs. Even the adults learned the motions to two songs and had fun dancing around between seminars.
Since I knew the kids were well taken care of and having so much fun, it was easy to focus on my role as leader of one of the women's groups. From the very first session, I clearly saw how important this weekend was to the families involved. As the women met one another and simply began introducing themselves, you could sense their burdens lifting as they were finally around others who understood their daily challenges.
Each night after dinner, there was a special group activity. Friday night was the carnival, and it was a hit! Kids received stamps after playing each game (everything from bowling to bean bag toss to kicking a goal with a soccer ball) and could redeem them for a present from the prize table at the end. This isn't as common in Chinese culture as it is in America and everyone had such fun. Hudson woke up Saturday morning asking to do it all over again. (For their prizes, Hudson chose the monkey and Molly picked Snoopy.)