China’s orphans capture Daniel Island resident’s heart

China’s orphans capture Daniel Island resident’s heart

Lynn Cobb also instrumental in developing Park Day into a day of giving

***image1***In the green mountains of Guilin, China, a group of young children gleefully frolic on a newly built playscape just outside their orphanage. Not long ago scenes like this at China’s Social Welfare Institutions were rare at best. Today, nearly 3,000 orphans are getting quality playtime outdoors, early education and nurturing thanks to a special program called Half the Sky and a Daniel Island resident who wanted to do more than sit on the sidelines.

Lynn Cobb, who moved to Daniel Island in 1998, traveled to Guilin and Chengdu, China, last fall to participate in building two outdoor playground areas for Half the Sky (HTS) and now serves as the Foundation’s Southeast Volunteer Coordinator. The organization gets its name from the Chinese adage, "Women hold up half the sky."

"Half the Sky is a charity that really struck my heart," Lynn said. She shares a common bond with the orphaned children of China in that she too was once given up for adoption. The loving woman who adopted her into her family passed away when Lynn was 21, but still serves as her greatest inspiration to help those less fortunate.

"My mom was a very giving person," Lynn reminisced. "She did lots of things anonymously. Around Thanksgiving, we would drop a whole bunch of turkeys off to people on their doorsteps without them knowing."

She also remembers when her mom paid for a friend to go to Europe for a class trip because her parents didn’t have the money. Lynn quietly absorbed all that her mother’s selfless actions taught her. Once she heard about HTS, and read the book "The Lost Daughters of China" she knew she had to take action.

"I’ve read so many books on China and seen so many pictures," said Lynn, "but I just had to go and see these children for myself. I knew that Half the Sky was a small organization doing a world of good."

According to the HTS website, there are several hundred thousand children in China’s welfare institutions waiting to be adopted. A great majority of the orphans are girls, due to what Lynn describes as generational favoritism towards boys. Males are preferred, she adds, because they tend to stay in the household after they’re married, thereby contributing to the family’s income. Girls, on the other hand, leave the home after they are married and go to live with their new husband’s family. Thankfully, Lynn explained, China is working to change this altered way of thinking with a public relations campaign aimed at promoting girls.

"China does really care about its children," she says. "They do understand they have a population problem and are trying to do something about it."

"Despite the concern and the importance that China attaches to the welfare of all of its children," HTS website explains, "those living in state-run orphanages remain for the most part overlooked."

Workers overwhelmed with providing care to so many lack the time and or tools to adequately care to babies who desperately need their attention, Lynn said. The result is often physical and cognitive delays in the children’s development.

Half the Sky was created in 1998 by Jenny Bowen, a California resident who adopted her own daughter from China. As a result of Bowen’s initiative, indoor and outdoor work/play places have been created at many orphanages. The goal of HTS, Lynn explained, is for each center to be completely renovated to include both living and educational spaces for the children. In addition, HTS places specially trained local women ("nannies") at each site to provide the children with physical contact, loving nurture, stimulation, and an essential bonding experience.

"The results have been phenomenal," Lynn beamed. She was able to witness the effects of HTS firsthand when she traveled to China to do her part. That very first day on the job, she knew it would be a challenge well worth the effort.

"It was overwhelming to arrive at our worksites and find mounds of red clay and rock," Lynn said of her work on the outdoor play structures, "but we got started and were able to build two playgrounds from start to finish. Some of these kids had never seen a sandbox before! We were able to create special spaces for the nannies and children to enjoy each other."

Lynn said the most common question she gets is "How did you leave without bringing a child home?"

"It wasn’t hard because I know the adoption process in China is very strict and doesn’t allow you to pick or choose a child to take with you," she says. "And it’s comforting to me knowing Half the Sky is there doing such a great job with these kids."

Would she go again? Traveling so far away did present some logistical issues for Lynn, like lining up childcare at home on Daniel Island for her two sons, Reid and Trevor. She is quick to credit her husband, Chris, for making the trip a reality.

"I couldn’t have gone without my husband saying he would take care of the kids for two weeks while I was gone," says Lynn. "Not many husbands would let their wives leave for 17 days!"

Now back on her home turf, Lynn continues to seek out opportunities to do more for those in need.

"It’s who I am at heart," Lynn says. "I have had such good fortune in my life that it is my duty…to take care of others the way I have been taken care of."

In addition to her HTS work, she serves on the International Missions Committee at Mt. Pleasant Presbyterian Church. She is also spearheading a project (along with fellow Daniel Island resident, Jennifer Roberts) that would secure temporary housing on Daniel Island for Hurricane Katrina victims. And Daniel Island’s famously fun "Park Day" will now be known as "Park Day and Daniel Island Day of Giving" thanks to Lynn’s efforts.

"I believe Daniel Island has a lot of resources," she says. "We spend so much time thinking about our kids, caring for our kids, and yes, spending a lot of money on our kids. I thought if each family could bring just one charity into their homes, our community would be a lot better off."

Park Day will now feature information booths dedicated to many area charities, including HTS

"There are so many areas for us each to plug in," Lynn explains. "I really think we can learn from families like the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers. They made ‘charity’ a part of their family life. That’s what I want to do for my kids. Not just tell them kids in China don’t have food, but be a part of the solution."

Unfortunately, it’s often not until something catastrophic happens that we ever do something about it, Lynn said.

"So many of us think ‘tomorrow’ I’ll do it. But you know, there is never going to be a good time to do it. There are a lot of people who need us now."

Thank goodness help didn’t "wait" for the daughters of a country some 8,000 miles away from the shores of South Carolina. The orphaned children of Guilin and Chengdu, China, may not remember the smiling American woman who rolled up her sleeves to make their lives better. For Lynn Cobb, their happy faces and laughter are more than enough reward.

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555


Breaking News Alerts

To sign up for breaking news email alerts, Click on the email address below and put "email alerts" in the subject line:

Comment Here