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The bright side

By Raymond Zhou and Huang Yiming  (China Daily)

08:00, April 24, 2012

John and Maggie Davis take care of children who live with autism, cerebral palsy and other disabilities in Hainan province. Huang Yiming / China Daily

An elderly US couple touches many hearts by taking in a growing litter of children with mental disabilities in Hainan province. Raymond Zhou and Huang Yiming report in Hainan.

In 1993, John and Maggie Davis were working in Qionghai, Hainan province, when they got a call from a local doctor. They were asked if they wanted to take a look at a baby girl who had been abandoned on the campus of the local college where they taught. The 8-month-old turned out to have many problems. She had cerebral palsy, scoliosis and autism, but Maggie could not let go. She made frequent visits to the hospital.

"Her parents wanted her to live," Maggie reasons.

"She was wrapped in a clean blanket and left in a place where many would pass by."

In 2002, after living with them for almost a decade, Qiongjian was legally adopted by the Davises.

"Officials from the provincial office of the Ministry of Civil Affairs came to assist us in the adoption procedure," Maggie says.

In a way, the daughter's name tells much of the story: "Qiong" is short for Hainan, but "jian" poses a special problem. In Chinese, there are two words for "jian" that are so close in meaning they are often misused.

"It is not jian as in 'pick up', but jian as in 'select'," Maggie, who speaks fluent Chinese, emphasizes.

"We selected her. God gave her to us as a special gift."

Qiongjian is now 18 and noticeably small for her age.

She has not uttered a word, nor can she walk upright - and that's after multiple operations, one of which inserted a rod in her back to correct the curvature of her spine.

The Davises hired two full-time caretakers to tend to her daily needs. Maggie would hold her in her arms and talk to her.

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