Rather than hit the beach, go to Disneyland or visit her family in North Carolina, Stephanie Jewett — a senior communication sciences and disorders major and an opposite hitter on the Biola women’s volleyball team — has spent the past two summers at Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village in Tianjin, China, serving the physically and cognitively disabled.
During the summer of 2018, Jewett had the opportunity to spend every day of her three months in China with Leonard, a 10-year-old boy whose cerebral palsy has caused him to rely on the help of others his entire life in order to eat. Jewett was part of a team dedicated to helping Leonard gain the skills to eat all by himself by using a specially designed straw that allows a therapist to control the flow of the substance to avoid any hazard. Once he mastered this “honey bear” straw, he was promoted to a straw similar to a boba straw and was allowed to get his nutrients through protein smoothies.
“Every afternoon, I would make him a chocolate, peanut butter, banana protein smoothie,” Jewett said. “He loved it.”
Some days would be better than others, as there were big steps forward but also some setbacks. However, by the end of Jewett’s summer in Tianjin, Leonard was successfully using a straw on his own on a regular basis.
“It seems like such a small thing for us, but for a kid like Leonard who’s never been able to feed himself, it’s a huge step towards independence,” Jewett said.
Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village hosts foster children from all over China with a wide range of disabilities. Jewett also assisted children in wheelchairs with playing on the playground and other daily tasks that are often take for granted by those who are typically able.
“Being there allowed me to see a biblical view of disability being lived out,” Jewett said. “Here in America, there is a much more open view of people with disabilities. They are much more equal with people with typically able bodies. In China, that’s not the case. It was really cool to be able to love on those kids and remind them of their worth and value in Christ every day.”
After she graduates and pursues graduate school, Jewett hopes to return to the international mission field for a few years.
“The five months I spent there really ignited a passion for disability care and orphan care,” Jewett said.