Here’s an update from Rebekah onMao Mao, who did “age-out” of the system without getting adopted, but her Little Flower family has been with her all the way.
Mao Mao was born with spina bifida and had been living in an orphanage in Shanxi province. She joined one of our group homes when we first launched the project in 2005, when she was 8 years old. Today, she is 25 years old and works in our Beijing office as our bookkeeper.
Rebekah: What do you remember about those first days at Little Flower?
Mao Mao: I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I first came to Little Flower… at some point, I came to Beijing for surgery and from there I went straight to Brent and Serena’s (founders of Little Flower) home for about 2 years. I don’t know exactly how it happened but my life changed when I joined Little Flower.
I remember one day, Brent introduced us to two sets of group home parents. We spent some time getting to know them. Afterwards, Brent talked with us to find out which set of parents we liked and would like to live with. This was a big decision. My mom looked friendly and was plump. But I was scared of my dad. He wore sunglasses the day I met him. I talked with my friend, who was also going to join a home with me, and we decided to pick my mom and dad together.
Rebekah: Please share a memory you have growing up in your group home?
Mao Mao: In those first years, I remember celebrating Chinese New Year together with all the other group homes families. It was such a lively and special time – all the parents cooked, the children played together. We received hóngbāo (red packets with a monetary gift traditionally given during holidays and special occasions) and we watched fireworks together. So many good memories.
Rebekah: What about your education? Where did you go to school?
Mao Mao: Initially, we were homeschooled. Then, from 4th grade onwards I went to school. I went to a few different schools including a private school and then a public school. Eventually, I enrolled in a vocational school.
Rebekah:How did you decide on your career?
Mao Mao: My parents had a big influence on my career choice. They helped me think through my options and interests. Due to my medical history, it’s important for me to be able to sit during the work day. As a bookkeeper, I can sit and work on my laptop easily. In 2018, I needed to do an internship for my degree and asked Li Ayi (our accountant) if she could be my mentor. It was a great opportunity for me as I could learn from someone I respect and also continue to be part of the project I benefited from. I graduated in 2019 and took up a full time position in the Beijing office.
Rebekah: What do you like about your job?
Mao Mao: I like learning about the rules and regulations we need to follow in accounting and making sure that we comply. I am detail oriented and like breaking down my task into smaller steps. This way of thinking also helps me with my daily life outside of work. If there is a problem, I use this style of thinking to break down the issue and think of each step.
Rebekah: Where are you living now?
Mao Mao: I live with my dad (Mao Mao’s mom passed away in 2020). I am the only “child” from the group home that still lives at home. I am still in touch with all my other siblings from the home, even the ones who got adopted and now live in the US. I meet up with the ones that are still in China regularly and they still come over for the holidays.
Mao Mao with her dad in 2022
Rebekah: Outside of work, what do you like doing in your free time?
Mao Mao: I like spending time with my family. Watching television, eating, going out. Doing all of these things with my family.
Rebekah: What are your hopes for the future?
Mao Mao: I love to learn and want to continue to learn about doing public welfare here in China. I want to help more people and become better at what I do.
Rebekah: Lastly, any other thoughts you would like to share?
Mao Mao: I am so thankful to have my family. A family is so important. When you need to make a decision, you have parents and siblings to help you. It’s very different to living in an orphanage, as often there isn’t one specific person caring for you. But a family looks after you.
I am very thankful to Serena and Brent and Little Flower. They will look for what you need and help you fix your problems. I think that if you don’t have a family, life is difficult.
As with Mao Mao’s dad, each of our foster parents has come to realize that this is more than a “job” caring for children. It is a vocation, a calling… one of the hardest and yet most beautiful and rewarding “careers” anyone can imagine. And we have seen over and over again, the impact of being part of a family does truly last a lifetime! Thank you to all of our supporters who made this possible for Mao Mao, and who continue to do so for each of the children currently in our family model of care.