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Starfish  Foster  Home:  Making  a  Difference  One  Child  at  a  Time    

"But  young  lady,  do  you  not  realize  that  there  are  miles  and  miles  of  beach  and  starfish  all   along  it?  You  cannot  possibly  make  a  difference."  The  young  woman  listened,  paused  and   then  bent  down,  picked  up  another  starfish  and  threw  it  into  the  sea,  saying,  "It  made  a   difference  for  that  one."  —  Loren  Eiseley  

  In  2009,  Patrick  and  Cindy  McLaughlin  had  just  sold  a  business  and  were  traveling   around  the  world.  Though  they  wanted  to  make  a  lasting  contribution  and  bring  home  a   few  memories  along  the  way.  There  was  one  thing  the  McLaughlins  never  expected  to   bring  home  with  them:  a  baby  girl.       It  was  by  chance  that  the  two  found  themselves  at  a  little-­‐known  foster  home  called   Starfish  in  Xi’an,  China,  run  by  Amanda  de  Lange,  a  six-­‐feet-­‐tall  woman  with  a  bushel  of   long,  thick,  graying  hair,  a  contagious  giggle,  and  a  passion  unlike  the  McLaughlins  had   ever  seen.  Upon  getting  to  know  Amanda  and  her  cause,  both  Linda  and  Patrick  were   compelled  to  help  her  further  with  her  quest  to  save  orphaned  children,  and  became   frequent  volunteers,  as  well  as  board  members  of  Starfish  Foster  Home.     Amanda,  a  native  of  South  Africa,  attended  school  at  Brigham  Young  University.  Though   she  remained  a  single  woman  well  into  her  40’s,  de  Lange  decided  she  would  not  let   that  define  or  hold  her  back.  She  promised  herself  she  would  live  an  interesting,  full  life   and  later  moved  to  Taiwan  where  she  taught  English  for  seven  years.  Afterward,  de   Lange  then  relocated  to  Xi’an,  China,  where  she  felt  inspired  to  start  her  own  foster   home  for  special-­‐needs  orphans.  Just  a  few  short  months  later,  in  2005,  she  brought   home  six  babies,  and  Starfish  Foster  Home  was  born.  In  collaboration  with  local   orphanages,  Amanda  took  in  sick  babies,  nursed  them  back  to  health,  fundraised  to  pay   for  their  medical  care,  and  eventually  found  them  “forever  families.”       It  was  only  through  de  Lange’s  fierce  love,  dedication,  and  passion,  as  well  as  selfless   service  from  individuals  like  the  McLaughlins,  that  Starfish  has  fostered  over  100  babies,   overseen  80  adoptions,  and  performed  nearly  250  surgeries  on  children  suffering  from   birth  defects  like  cleft  palates  and  other  various  diseases.  The  McLaughlins’  daughter,   Norma,  was  one  of  those  babies,  and  four  years  later  she  is  thriving  in  her  new  home.   “You  wouldn’t  even  know  that  she  had  a  serious  defect.  She  is  a  great  kid,”  says  Patrick   McLaughlin.       However,  in  January  2012,  tragedy  struck  Starfish  Foster  Home  when  Patrick  received  a   phone  call  from  a  hospital  in  China.  “That  was  the  first  I’d  even  heard  that  (Amanda)   thought  she  had  cancer,”  he  says.     “It  was  just  terrible.  It  was  our  worst  nightmare,”  Cindy  says.  “Amanda  was  the  kind  of   person  who  never  looked  after  herself.  She  always  looked  after  the  children  first.  She   would  always  say,  ‘I’m  like  a  weed—nothing  is  going  to  happen  to  me!’”    

Alison Moore 10/25/13 11:09 PM Comment [1]: I’m  not  exactly  sure  why  this   sentence  was  broken  up…  If  we  leave  as  two   though,  shouldn’t  we  remove  the  “though”  at  the   beginning  of  this  first  sentence?  

Alison Moore 10/25/13 11:11 PM Comment [2]: Spell  checked:  Xi’an   http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/54 2532/Xian  

Alison Moore 10/25/13 11:16 PM Comment [3]: Chicago  9.13  “foot”  is  more   colloquial  than  “feet”—just  depends  on  what  we   want.  

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But  six  months  after  her  diagnosis,  Amanda  went  into  diabetic  shock  and  passed  away,   leaving  her  babies,  volunteers,  and  four  grief-­‐stricken  board  members  wondering  how   they  would  keep  the  organization  alive.  And  unfortunately,  Amanda’s  passing  was  not   the  only  trial  the  Starfish  community  would  have  to  endure.       According  to  Starfish  Foster  Home  board  member  Deborah  Coffey,  there  was  a  fire  in  a   Chinese  foster  home  (unrelated  to  Starfish)  soon  after  Amanda’s  death  that  killed  seven   children.  As  a  result,  the  Chinese  government  made  stricter  rules  on  foster  homes  and,   devastatingly,  took  most  of  the  Starfish  babies  back  to  local  orphanages.  Their  hearts   were  broken,  but  all  board  members  worked  with  the  Chinese  government  to  adapt  to   their  changing  rules,  develop  their  business  model,  and  ultimately,  keep  Amanda’s   legacy  alive.     “Very  few  people  in  my  life,  after  they  have  died,  continue  to  be  a  part  of  my  daily   thinking,”  Patrick  says.  “The  inspiration  Amanda  has  given  me  is  that  she  has  helped  a   stubborn  51-­‐year-­‐old  guy  continue  to  fight  the  good  fight  on  behalf  of  the  kids.”   However,  Patrick  still  admits  that  keeping  up  Amanda’s  energy  will  continue  to  be  a   challenge.  “We  will  never  match  her  passion.  There  aren’t  many  Amandas  walking  the   face  of  the  earth.“     Despite  Amanda’s  passing,  thanks  to  hard  work,  tireless  nights,  and  sheer   determination,  the  foster  home  is  nearly  back  on  its  feet.    The  members  of  the  board,   which  includes  the  McLaughlins,  have  visited  China  countless  times  so  that,  as  they   rebuild  their  business  model,  they  are  able  to  comply  with  China’s  standards.  Coffey   says  the  new  Starfish  will  likely  be  a  collection  of  apartments  that  house  up  to  six  babies   at  a  time  instead  of  one  large  home.  “We  are  keeping  (Amanda’s  mission  and  values)  in   the  forefront,”  she  says.  “It’s  going  to  have  to  be  a  little  bit  different  now,  but  you  move   forward  with  that  because  the  most  important  thing  is  the  babies.”     In  the  meantime,  Starfish  is  working  on  securing  a  location  for  their  new  home  and   meeting  the  government’s  standards  so  they  can  foster  children  again.  Patrick  says  as   long  as  they  take  it  day-­‐by-­‐day,  there  are  great  things  on  the  horizon.  “We  have  survived   the  past  two  years,  which  is  the  main  thing.  We  are  about  to  open  up  and  blossom  into   something  new.  The  future  can  be  bright,  but  we  are  going  to  take  baby  steps  first.”       Through  and  through,  no  matter  the  business  plans  or  sufferings  in  the  past,  all  agree   the  priority  will  be  and  always  has  been  the  welfare  of  the  children—who  are  now   walking  miracles  and  witnesses  that  one  person  can  make  a  difference  and  one  lonely   starfish  still  matters.            

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How  do  I  volunteer?   • Starfish  is  always  in  need  of  volunteers  to  help  keep  their  cause  alive  and   ensure  the  babies  always  have  loving  companionship.   • Visit  www.starfishfosterhome.org  to  learn  how  you  can  help  volunteer.       What  do  volunteers  do?     • Volunteering  at  Starfish  Foster  Home  (located  in  Xi’an,  China)  would  give  you  the   opportunity  to  serve  in  many  different  ways,  including  holding,  feeding,  playing   with,  entertaining,  and  teaching  the  babies.  You  may  also  be  asked  to  help  with   their  health  and  physical  development.  Other  tasks  include  maintenance  around   the  home,  painting,  interior  design,  administrative  work,  and  cleaning.     What  can  you  expect?   • Starfish  will  be  able  to  accommodate  all  volunteers  in  dorm  rooms  for  $9  each   night  (including  a  Chinese  lunch).  Other  amenities  are  also  available  courtesy  of   the  foster  home.     • The  minimum  stay  is  five  working  days,  and  volunteers  are  required  to  work  at   least  five  hours  each  day.   • In  your  spare  time,  there  are  plenty  of  historical  sites  to  visit  near  Starfish,  like   the  famous  Terra  Cotta  Warriors.   • Walmart,  Starbucks,  McDonald’s  and  KFC  are  all  also  short  distance  from  Starfish   Foster  Home.       What  will  I  need?   • A  tourist  visa   • Health  insurance   • A  round-­‐trip  plane  ticket   • For  a  more  extensive  list  of  items,  visit  www.starfishfosterhome.org  and   download  the  Volunteer  Handbook.        

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Starfish