Monday, March 26, 2012

Ronald's Apartment in Nanning, China

After living in the orphanages for more than two years, occupying whatever room they had available, Ronald finally got an apartment in Nanning. He married Gigi Gayo, who lives in the Philippines, September 24, 2011. They have spent some time in Hong Kong but this is the first time she’s received a VISA for China. She is coming to China for the first time on April 3rd but it’s on a one entry, one month VISA. In time, they hope to get her here full-time. We will be in Hong Kong when she arrives this weekend so it’ll be our first time to meet her. Her parents are coming as far as Hong Kong to meet us on this trip. It should be an exciting time for all of us since we were not able to go to the Philippines for the wedding.

Yesterday afternoon, we watched Ronald and Gigi’s wedding video. It was a very pretty wedding and we were so excited to see everything about it. We also saw a slide show of their times in Hong Kong and on the island of Palawan (where they honeymooned). The pictures were really beautiful.

Ronald chose Nanning as his home base because we have three of the orphanages in this Province. He can travel to any of these three orphanages in a matter of a few hours. Ron is trying to get registration for Agape in Nanning as our home office, which will eventually allow Ronald more freedom to do banking and other things.

His apartment is on the 32rd floor of a high-rise building. The view from every window is spectacular. From this height, even the slum apartment buildings do not look terrible. There are 12 high-rise apartment buildings in this complex with gardens and walkways in-between. Today the sun is out and it’s about 75 degrees. We walked around the complex and enjoyed seeing the beautiful gardens, manicured plants, pavilions for resting, lovely designed walks and the large swimming pool that is now empty. His apartment consists of a small laundry room (washer and racks for drying clothes but no dryer), a small kitchen, living room and dining combination, bedroom with king-size bed, bedroom with small bed and desk (where he does his work) and small bath (shower head on the wall in one corner). There’s no way to take a shower and not get the bathroom wet but keeping the spray low is the key to containing water mostly in one area and being able to mop the floor once you have finished your shower.

The apartment costs about $300 U.S. plus a small amount for utilities. He bought a small space heater for winter and a dehumidifier. There is an air-conditioning unit in the living room and a wall unit in the master bedroom. It does not get severely cold here in the winter. The apartment is furnished with simple but nice furniture. You might think it all came from IKEA.

It is a quiet apartment. We only hear the next door neighbors on this floor when they come in or go out and slam their door. Oh yes, we can also hear them chopping up their vegetables to cook in the apartment next to us!

It is a bit of heaven in the middle of China. Ronald says he can escape for a short time and not even realize he’s in China but then the difficult task of getting the work done brings him back to reality. We are very pleased that he was able to find this nice place for such a reasonable amount. We are relieved to know how he is living. When we return home, I can picture him in this lovely apartment with Gigi and feel proud.

Ronald’s job is very hard. Overseeing the six orphanages and making sure everything is run well, the children are being cared for properly and costs are maintained within budget, is a huge responsibility. He must spend time at the various care centers doing maintenance on the buildings, inspecting the buildings and grounds for future improvements and spending time with the workers and children. We are lacking in management-skilled workers. All of our workers are inexperienced, young and untrained but at the same time, they are difficult to manage. Ronald has developed a manual for every phase of operation so workers need only to study it and follow it to have a well-run facility. In spite of this tool, they have not yet learned to lean on our guidelines or on Ronald for help, rushing ahead to handle things their way, which is usually more costly and less efficient. We are told that our standards are too high and we are sometimes unreasonable in our expectations. We want our workers to do the best possible job so the children can learn a better and cleaner way to live. If we have high standards, the children will grow up wanting a higher standard for their lives than the poverty from which they came. Ronald has an on-going battle to keep things running well and handle various crises.

Ronald has developed programs to track cost of various things at each center and make comparisons to get a complete picture of how money is being spent. He spends a lot of time reviewing the petty cash expense reports from each center, approving them for accounting purposes. He also has to review and approve the monthly budget and request for the next funds to be sent to each care center. For six orphanages, it is a lot of work. We spend about $50,000 every month to care for the children, pay workers and overhead expenses. This is for six care centers caring for about 650 children. Twice a year, the budget will include extra expenses for tuition and cost of living expenses for the middle school and high school children that live at the schools and only return to the care centers on weekends. Sometimes, we have children in the hospital and more is needed for their medical care.

I really don’t know how Ronald will continue handling all of this and find time to oversee the construction of a small 12-bed hospital and clinic for Dr. Joshua to serve the poor people who cannot afford medical care. This building project will take him away from this nice apartment and he’ll have to find a temporary place to live in a remote area of Henan Province for about six to nine months. Overseeing construction is also very difficult. The standard construction is poor workmanship and use of improper building methods. It will be a huge task to have a good facility built within budget.

Tomorrow we will get up about 5 a.m. and go to John Connor Brown Christian Care Center in Tiendeng. In my next segment, I will give a report on our visit there and post some pictures of the children.

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