A post from Anna! Our Shockwave rep!

Hey all! I’m Anna Meneely, an engineer on this year’s Go Baby Go Trip writing this portion of the Go Baby Go Blog. I am a captain from world renowned robotics Team 4488 Shockwave that helps the Go Baby Go Oregon and China Chapters with the more technical side of adapting cars and toys. China has always been an area of great scientific and engineering progress and it has been interesting to see the cultural difference when approaching engineering design. So far, this trip has been an AMAZING experience.

From Beijing and Chongqing to now Kunming, the trip has been full of fun puzzles and challenges. During our time in Beijing, I went to a local mall and bought a toy to adapt for a low vision specialty orphanage near the outskirts of Beijing. After checking out the inner workings of the toy, we were unable to modify the toy for switch accessibility but we did remove and modify some functions of the toy in compliance with toy requirements for orphans with vision impairments and other disabilities. Working (and playing!) in Beijing was a wonderful experience, the toy adaptation workshop went very smoothly and wonderfully. It is a beautiful city with a lot of diverse and great food! Matcha ice cream will always have a special place in my heart.

After dodging planes, trains and automobiles, we made it to Chongqing very early in the morning, which to my surprise had ever better food. So many mushrooms, water spinach, hot pot and pork noodle bowls were everywhere! I’m not sure how I can return to typical American food after this trip. Sorry Mickey D’s.

The day the Go Baby Go team was free in Chongqing, we travelled to the nearby Fuling Orphanage through the steep hills, muddy paths and flooded roads. While we there we met with all the kids and toured the facilities. We fixed walkers, wheelchairs and canes for the children, who were all so adorable. The kids were so eager to play! Running around, learning to take selfies, they were all so excited and happy. I think my photo album had 200 more memories at the end of the day. They had huge toothy smiles plastered on their faces at all times. Especially when we would pick a few of the children up, they would just be so ecstatic that someone new was playing and holding them and would fight you if you tried putting them down.

That day, one of the boys at the orphanage had needed an updated wheelchair. When we carried and placed him into the newer modified wheelchair, his face instantly light up. He was such a different person, giggling, laughing and smiling at everybody that waved at him. We would clip him in and and he would laugh, we would adjust the seat and he would giggle, he just spread so much delight.

Night time in Chongqing at the waterfront is astonishing. When the night rose, all the buildings lit up with pattern LEDs and HUGE screens. Despite shining with mosquito spray, I still managed to get bit all over. Seriously, it’s like the mosquitos eat Deet for breakfast here. Ow.

During the toy adaption workshop in Chongqing there was a bit of a mix up which lead to Bethany, Katie and I to run to the closest Walmart. We grabbed random toys from off the small aisle shelf that held baby toys and hoped would be simple enough to adapt. In the end we DID managed to adapt all the toys, from a 2 dollar peppa pig candy fans to baby seahorse nightlights and animal pianos. It was so much fun!

Now the team is in beautiful Kunming, Spring City, where we are gearing up for another round of Go Baby Go workshops. I can’t wait to see what this city has in store for us! We already have a few technical puzzles and mysteries lined up for us. This trip has been an engineer’s dream: working on a global scale to directly aid children with fun challenges and puzzles.

Fuling, Chongqing, now Kunming!

After Bejing, we flew into the epicenter of spicy foods, Chongqing… at a ridiculously early hour. The evening before we landed, we realized we had one free day before starting our trainings at the Chongqing Kindcare Genegrow Children’s Hospital. We decided that although we were pretty exhausted, we may as well do something productive with our free day, so we hired a drive in the morning to drive us a few hours to Fuling to visit the kiddos at the orphanage for the day. It was crazy, spontaneous, and wonderful – we loved seeing the kids. After we got back to Chongqing, Dr. Zhao spoiled us to the best hot pot in Chongqing!

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The next day, we began the real craziness. Sandra educated the therapists at the children’s hospital on Constraint Induced Movement Therapy, and in the afternoon we had a few kids come to the therapy gym where Katie, Anna, Malea and I had thrown together a bunch of activities to demonstrate CIMT to the therapists. It was even more successful than we had imagined and the kids absolutely loved it. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what CIMT is, it’s a rehabilitation technique that involves constraining the non-affected arm, forcing functional use of their weaker, or affected upper extremity. It aims to increase strength, control, and general usage of the arm. The therapists were very receptive to the training and Sandra set them up with a general protocol to follow for kids who are appropriate.

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We finished the day with the best pork noodle bowls in Chongqing (my favorite meal in all of China) followed by a massage, again generously spoiled by the wonderful Dr. Zhao. The massage involves a foot soak and a full body massage while you wear pajamas and watch Chinese movies. It also involves a belly massage, which is 100% as awkward as you are imagining.

Wednesday we did our Go Baby Go car and toy workshop! Although it felt like complete mayhem because there were very few English speakers to translate in the group and over 30 therapists, we ended up with 6 completed cars and 3 kiddos to try them out with. The kids cruised around, the cars worked great, and then we took a break for lunch. At lunch, we realized the toys weren’t ordered for the toy workshop, so in a panicked frenzy, Katie, Anna and I booked it to Walmart and bought all of the toys we thought might work while crossing all of our fingers and toes. While in the car, we disassembled the toys and hoped for the best. Luckily, all of the toys worked out and it was a success! Early this morning (and I mean EAAAARLY) we hopped on a plan and flew to Kunming where the LIH Sky City Rehab team welcomed us once again. They gave us a tour of the hospital and soon we will be going to dinner with the dean of the Kunming Medical University Rehab Department and Dr. Sun (the chairmen of LIH). We kick off tomorrow with another NICU conference and prepping for our next Go Baby Go workshop! More to come soon!

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Back At It Again!

Here we are back in China, less than a year later, to keep the mission of Go Baby Go China alive. This year we kicked off our trip in Beijing and have spent the past week here. On our first day, we introduced our new team members to China in the best way possible, by going straight to the Great Wall. After taking a very sketchy ski lift to the top, we hiked five towers of Mutianyu. This area of the wall has been renovated for maintenance so that tourists can hike around, with as minimal amount of modification as possible. At the end of the final tower, you can see the “Wild Wall”, or areas of the wall that have not been renovated. It’s really fascinating to see how nature has slowly taken its course, with vegetation growing all throughout the footpath and trees peaking out through old watchtowers. Although Beijing had hazardous pollution that day, we lucked out an had bluebird skies outside the city. We took a toboggan ride down, which is even more fun than you could imagine.

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On our way back to the city we stopped by the Jade Factory, where we were shown some incredibly intricate pieces and told all about the Chinese culture surrounding jade. Jade is sacred in China, and is quite expensive, therefore is often counterfeited. In Chinese culture, it is believed that jade is “living”, aging beautifully, with colors becoming more vivid with time and wear. Some also believe it to be an elixir, and to wear a piece of jade is to supply yourself with an additional life, therefore any bad occurrences will be taken in by the jades life, sparing your own. In the 2008 Summer Olympics held in Beijing, the medals provided to the athletes contained a jade ring to show their pride of the beautiful stone.

Beijing’s city layout is in rings, all surrounding the 1st ring, where no buildings are taller than those in the Forbidden City at the center. On Thursday, our group split while Katie, Malea, Tiffany and Anna all went sightseeing with our trusty tour guide, Nancy. They explored the 1st ring and saw Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, Mao’s Mausoleum, the drum tower, the Temple of Heaven, and explored the hutongs around the area. Sandra and I were taken around to a few hospitals where we discussed current NICU practices in the area and toured the NICU of Peking University, which is on of the best NICU’s in China. Currently in China, there are no official distinguishing factors that segregate OT, PT and SLP. Rather, they have more generalized therapists at this time, although a number of people are advocating and lobbying to have this changed.  In addition to differing views of the therapist’s role, they also do not have therapists in NICU’s currently. A big part of our visit was to explain the therapist’s role and the benefits it would provide the medical teams and infants development. We explained that we understood that nurses and physicians already have enough on their plate in terms of keeping these neonates alive and focusing on medical stabilization, but consequentially, aspects of care such as positioning, preparation for feeding, sensory modulation and environmental modification are often put the backburner, which can lead to complications down the road such as developmental delays, improper development of tone, and feeding difficulties. The teams were receptive to our discussion and plan to make some changes in their current practices.

Wednesday we kicked off our Go Baby Go work in Beijing. We held two workshops for therapists at LIH Olivia’s Place, an outpatient pediatric clinic. LIH Rehab has phenomenal pediatric clinics in Beijing, Kunming, Shanghai and Shenzhen, and has an incredible model for providing these kids with optimal care in China, something that is currently more difficult to find than in the states. They distinguish OT/PT/SLP as separate fields and employ highly skilled clinicians, both foreign and native to China. We taught these therapists how to switch adapt toys with a hands on workshop, followed by a review of Go Baby Go (we introduced the project to them last year) and taught them a new and updated version of our car adaptations. Last year, we flipped two cars with the team and it was wonderful to know that both cars belong to children and are being utilized.

Thursday we were warmly welcomed to tour Bethel Orphanage, an orphanage on the outskirts of Beijing’s 7th ring where they serve children with a variety of visual impairments, oftentimes paired with other medical complexities such as physical or cognitive disabilities.  Bethel was founded by a French couple, Guillaume and Delphine Gauvain,who after moving to China years ago visited an orphanage to find numerous children laughing, singing and playing together, but found that there were a few outcast children that were being left out. They came to the realization that each of these little wallflowers was blind. They decided to start an orphanage that would serve children with visual impairments, and Bethel was born. Ally, one of their staff members, toured us around the facility and told us all about their mission. To say it was moving to see an orphanage that served these children with such love and passion was an understatement. The children held their dress rehearsal for a dance they would be performing the following day for National Children’s Day. It was an adorable and clear demonstration for the love the staff had for these kids. For more information about Bethel Orphanage, check out bethelchina.org.

Friday and Saturday, Sandra lectured while I assisted her at a NICU conference hosted by LIH for physicians and nurses that serve children in NICU’s, and therapists interested in helping in them. The conference focused on proper positioning, feeding techniques, reading stress signals, and how to modify the child’s sensory environment for optimal development and comfort. Katie, Malea, Anna and Tiffany all stayed the second day of the conference to switch adapt some toys to provide to Bethel for the children they serve. The conference ended with a big dinner of traditional Beijing hot pot.

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, we head to Chongqing for our next adventure! Thanks to everyone for all of your support, and for those of you that read this far- I’m impressed! I’ll try to post more often so that all of the posts aren’t novels, oops!

That’s a Wrap!

4 weeks, 11 flights, 7 cities, and 2 countries later, we’re heading back home!

We have had quite the adventure, and find ourselves stumbling when asked what our favorite part has been because we have loved every aspect so much. We watched fireworks from the pier in the pouring rain in Hong Kong, were featured in newspapers that we couldn’t read, saw the intricacy in buildings over 600 years old, climbed the Great Wall, and watched a street turn into a river in 30 minutes. We ate crazy mushrooms, candied fruits on a stick, scorpions (okay, only Nick and Claire ate scorpions…), coagulated blood, and a whole lot of noodles. But most importantly, we were able to spread the amazing mission of Go Baby Go to a country that we hope will greatly benefit from it.

We met some truly amazing kids, with incomprehensible tenacity and resiliency against adversity and hardship. We learned just how universal play is, and that there is no language barrier when you’re having fun. We witnessed scenarios that broke our hearts, and quickly rearranged the pieces to get back to work the next day. We witnessed the sheer generosity of others that have dedicated their time and efforts to help these children, regardless of repayment or acknowledgement.

This trip has been far beyond what we had imagined or expected, and I think we can all agree that we will be leaving a piece of ourselves here. To everyone stateside who helped make this trip happen, shared our mission and supported us, donated money, equipment or even just good thoughts, and to everyone in China in Vietnam that translated our crazy ideas, helped us order food when we had no idea what we were doing, and showed us extraordinary generosity and hospitality…

Thank you. Xiè xiè. Cảm ơn.

Until next time.

Beijing Build

Today totally rocked.

We did a workshop with an outpatient pediatric clinic called Olivia’s Place, which is in partnership with LIH Rehab. It was a quicker version than the one we were able to do with LIH SkyCity Rehab in Kunming (our big two day workshop) but the therapists still seemed to love Go Baby Go and will hopefully keep it rolling! Sandra did a quicker version of her lecture and we jumped right into the manuals to adapt the cars. The therapists picked up on it quickly and eventually we had two cars ready to go!

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We had one little guy who was able to make it to the build day, so we plopped him in the car and he loved it from the get-go! His dad was able to join a team and help build the car, which was pretty awesome to have him participate and be so involved. His diagnosis is Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes hypotonia (floppy muscles and low strength). SMA typically does not effect a child’s cognition, and instead these children can be very bright and above average intelligence in some aspects. This particular kiddo was fabulous, and just like our first little guy with SMA in Kunming, he wanted the remote. So Nick adapted it again by removing the springs, we gave him a quick temporary cardboard lap tray, and gave him the remote for him to roam the halls. Claire began setting up some foam shapes for him to run into, and I feel like he would have done it all day long if we let him! He named his car his “Little Red Car” and kept yelling, “thank you so much!” throughout the entire day.

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Nick working with the child’s father
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Cruisin’ by Fengyi and I

At the end of the workshop, we took a big group photo, with our kiddo and his Little Red Car included. After the photo, he said “Now we’re all a family!” It honestly just about brought us all to tears. And right before leaving, he informed Fengyi that he would be driving his brand new red convertible home himself, take it up and down the streets, and he’d be the fastest kid in the whole neighborhood. I believe it.

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The Team

Beijing

The past couple days we have been exploring what Beijing has to offer! We had a pretty rough day of travel to kick things off, with a total of 7 hours in delays for both flights and a sweaty run through the airport so that we didn’t miss our connection, only to land and find out that our luggage didn’t make it. Our hotel is only a block away from Tiananmen Square and is an old Hutong, which is a very old and traditional way of living in Beijing. A Hutong is a a mini neighborhood, typically down a small alley, with a bunch of families living in their respective apartments that surround a small courtyard. Below is a picture of the courtyard in our place.

Our Hutong Courtyard

Our first full day in Beijing, Sandra ended up going to the hospital to train therapists on some NICU practices for a course she has been working on for a while. Nick, Claire and I checked out Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Tiananmen Square is the site of many historical political protests. There is a large entrance gate that separates the Square from the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City was the imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the Qing dynasty and is in the center of Beijing. The city is designed in rings surrounded the Forbidden city. There is an ordinance that no building in the first ring can be built higher than the Forbidden City in order to ensure that it is not dwarfed by anything. Constructed in 1406, it was the home of emperors and the location of many ceremonial and political events for nearly 500 years. It includes 980 surviving buildings and 8,886 rooms.

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Tiananmen Square

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Forbidden City

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Forbidden City
Outside of the gates and through Tiananmen Square is Mao’s Mosoleum, which oddly enough holds his preserved body on display. We weren’t able to go inside to see him because there is a large renovation currently going on until September. Interestingly, the preservation of Mao’s body was against his wishes. He actually wanted to be cremated, and strongly believed in cremation, however the people of China decided to follow suit with other communist countries such as Russia and Vietnam in the preservation of their leaders, like Lenin and Ho Chi Minh. Mao rests in a crystal sarcophagus for visitors to view in a very, very large and spacious Mausoleum at Tiananmen Square, which is quite ironic since a pillar in the structure of communism is a lack of societal class. Mao’s body is typically out for viewing most of the year, with a wax replica used for days when additional preservation efforts are needed. Then at night, he is placed in a giant refrigerator and lowered deep underground into an earthquake proof chamber.

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Mao’s Mausoleum
Today we went to climb the Great Wall of China, the Mutianyu section. We took a chair lift up to the top and hiked 6 towers down, to the end of the reconstructed portion, then back. We were able to look beyond and see the “wild wall”, which is basically just portions of the wall that they have not attempted to preserver and have left in it’s original form. We then rode a toboggan slide down, which was pretty awesome! This evening we met up with the therapists from Olivia’s Place/Elliot’s Corner, which is an organization that provides pediatric therapy in Beijing and Shanghai. They are also associated with LIH SkyCity Rehab, which is where we did our first big build in Kunming! Tomorrow we have a workshop with the team where we will get rolling on Go Baby Go one last time before we head back to the states on Sunday!

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The Great Wall of China

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The team with Ben, our guides awesome son

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The Great Wall of China
The toboggan ride we took down

Hạ Long Bay

For the past two days we have been on a mini-cruise through Hạ Long Bay. Hạ Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The bay includes around 2,000 islands that are primarily made of limestone that took over 500 million years to form what it is today, making it quite a geographically unique area. Although Vietnamese people have inhabited it for quite some time as a fisherman’s village, the French found the area while Vietnam was their territory and realized the touristic value in it’s beauty. They made a few “cruise lines” which were basically glorified fisherman’s boats and opened up cruises to French citizens only. Eventually, this expanded and all tourists are allowed (obviously), and there now quite a few more cruise lines that offer the trip. We kayaked around the islands and eventually up to an island where we were able to swim for a bit. The water is a perfect temperature, much warmer than the Oregon Coast! We were also able to roam around a few caves on one of the islands. It was beautiful, the pictures below absolutely do not do it justice.

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Hạ Long Bay
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Hạ Long Bay
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Hạ Long Bay
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Floating Fisherman’s Village
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Hạ Long Bay

This evening we were able to meet up with currently Vietnam’s only high school robotics team, GreenAms 6520, based out of Hanoi-Amsterdam High School. Although it sounds like a private school with Amsterdam being in their name, it is a public school. The team showed us their first robot, and Nick and Claire were able to chat it up with 7 of their around 40 member team. It was a lot of fun, although Sandra and I have no idea what they were talking about the time, ha! We all went out for dinner afterwards and talked about what the next season of Robotics will be like for Shockwave and GreenAms. We found out that although they do have faculty guidance, it’s somewhat minimal and the team was able to have a successful rookie year somewhat on their own. Nick is thinking he’d like to set up some type of mentorship between the two teams if possible and create more of a lasting relationship, which would be awesome! Tomorrow morning we fly out to Beijing, our final stop on the trip before heading back state-side. Vietnam has been amazing, and I think we can all agree that it’s a country we hope to return to some day!

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GreenAms Team outside of Hanoi-Amsterdam High School
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First Robot

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