When she’s not at her desk, you might find Leslie Dobias, one of WACAP’s staff members, surrounded by a sea of children’s blankets and clothing, folding and sorting them into neat piles. To her left are stacks of knit hats, Band-Aids, baby formula, bottles and diapers. To her right is a large duffle bag called a “grow bag,” in which each item eventually finds its place. Leslie, an adoptive mom and a 20-year volunteer for WACAP before coming to work for the organization for the last five, shares why “grow bags” continue to bring her to work … and also pull her away from her desk.
Filling a Need With Grow Bags
In talking with orphanage officials in the countries where WACAP works, our staff often hears about the immediate needs of the orphanage and of the children who are waiting for families — so we know firsthand about the need for medical supplies, personal care items, blankets and bottles … and more. And fortunately, with the donations we receive and the support of staff and families as they travel, we’re able to respond to this need using “grow bags.”
Every year, we receive 30 to 50 crib size blankets made by hand by the grandmother of two adoptees from China. That’s just one example. We have so many wonderful donations that people bring to WACAP or supplies that companies send us. Each year, one or two senior projects focus on hosting a drive where the students raise money or gather donations of clothing, toys or medical items. At annual WACAP events like Family Camp, our attendees similarly concentrate on bringing one needed item. (This year, they brought packages of underwear — over 1,000 pairs — that we were able to send to children in orphanages abroad.)
Of course, the cost of shipping items overseas is always a huge challenge. But, by having grow bags packed and ready to go, staff who are traveling internationally and sometimes families who are traveling to bring their child home can carry these bags with them as part of their luggage … and deliver them directly to the orphanage.
I’ve been to orphanages overseas many times and I’ve seen the items I’ve packed in the bags being used. Caregivers and orphanage officials are thrilled to receive them. And with no cost to send them since the grow bag is traveling with staff or with families, the impact is huge. Where it would not be possible for WACAP to ship 50-pound bags regularly because of shipping cost, traveling with the bags makes it possible to get these essential supplies where they’re needed and to the children who need them.
Although looking around weekly at the piles of items to be sorted or checked for nearing expiration dates can sometimes feel overwhelming, getting the filled bags to families and WACAP staff — it’s the best part of the process. I enjoy knowing that everything is going to be used where it’s needed. As I pack the bags, I always remember, this is something I can do … and the difference it makes is something I have seen with my own eyes: a little boy is warmer in his blanket and a group of toddlers have the age-appropriate toys they need. Caregivers have more of what they need to help the children develop and learn; children are getting better because of medicine I’ve sent and the donations we’ve received.
It’s exciting to consider that WACAP has sent over 700 pounds of supplies over the last year. I know what a difference it makes. If you are interested in helping with supplies for our grow bags, donated to orphanages in countries where WACAP worksas well as to children living in Washington state foster care, please contact me or click here for a list of needed items.