Helping a songbird spread her wings
"I always knew my family was different. I was afraid when people asked about my parents, fearful of the parent-teacher meeting. I was even scared when my best friend said she wanted to visit my home. I did not know who to turn to when bullied at school; I would hide in my room and cry. "
Yan is eight-year-old and lives in a remote village in Suichuan County, Jiangxi Province. She grew up in a very stressful environment. Her family has eight people: her grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, two younger brothers, and an older cousin sister. Her grandfather is immobile and suffers from arthritis in his hands. Her father is deaf, while her mother has intellectual disabilities. Her uncle passed away due to illness, and her aunty remarried. Her cousin sister, who studies at a boarding school, would therefore live with Yan's family during the weekends. The family depends mainly on subsidies given by the government for rural folks.
Yan's grandmother handles all the household chores, while her grandfather manages the finances. All expenses, big or small, have to go through her grandfather. When her school had a food fair, he did not allow Yan to bring some food to school, which made her feel ashamed.
"Grandpa is very fierce. Everyone is afraid of him. I do not dare speak to him. I always have trouble understanding what my father says. I have tried asking my mother, but she does not recognize me. Whenever I see other children hugging their mothers, I wish I had a normal mother." Yan's grandmother is her primary caregiver, and so her grandmother is often the person who attends parent-teacher meetings. She also enjoys spending time with her cousin on weekends when they can chat and play with dolls.
World Vision and our local partners were concerned about Yan's situation. Every Sunday, staff from our local partners would speak to Yan to check on her studies and daily life. Yan was hesitant at first and did not say much. But the staff continued to care for her, helping her cut her nails, praising her for her clean room, and helping her with her homework.
"They brought me notebooks, a pencil case, markers, a water bottle, a jumping rope, and a hula hoop. They also bought a ball for my younger brother. What I really like is the second-grade reading books that are needed in school. My grandpa scolded me when I told him I needed to buy the books. I was sad at that time. But I am glad I have these books now," Yan told us.
Her two younger brothers, three and four years old, cannot attend kindergarten because the nearest one is almost half an hour away by bike. "I look after my brothers when I return from school. We spend a lot of time together. I would read to them, teach them new words, or spend time drawing together."
| Staff from World Vision’s local partner visit Yan often to check up on her condition.
Our local partner's staff would visit Yan regularly and counsel her on overcoming her daily challenges. They encouraged her to speak to her grandmother and cousin more often, write down her thoughts when she is lost for words, or spend time drawing and playing to help her destress. They also spoke with Yan, highlighting Yan's positive qualities, encouraging her grandfather to use a different approach and for her grandmother to spend more time with Yan. Her grandfather finally commits to changing his tone and attitude when interacting with his grandchild.
"Yan has suffered a long time from the lack of family love. We spoke to her father, encouraging him to be more affectionate with Yan and let her interact with her mother during periods when her mother is mentally fit. I played skipping rope with Yan once, and she laughed so much. Maybe she felt the warmth of a mother from me at the moment," shared Lihong, a staff member of World Vision's local partner.
Yan's favorite pastime is skipping ropes. After school, she would bring out the rope gifted to her by our staff. Her hands are swift, and her hops are light as she plays quietly in the garden, jumping and shaking off all the growing pains and looking towards and carefree and happy childhood.