Prairieville couple reach out to orphans in China

Michael Tortorich
Pat Sigur and Karen Haley-Sigur of Prairieville traveled to China on a mission trip through their church, Bethany World Prayer Center.

For Pat Sigur and Karen Haley-Sigur of Prairieville, their recent trip to China fulfilled a purpose.

“We were able to bring Christmas to children at two orphanages in China, thanks to the generosity of many people,” Karen said.

Both have been active in their church, Bethany World Prayer Center, on a local level. Their mission to China was their first trip to the country and they hope to go back to continue the work they’ve started.

Home of Hope is in the process of opening a third location in the country, and the Sigurs are hoping to go back and help in any way they can.

The couple was originally set to go on a mission trip in Beijing, China through their church, but they had their visas denied since the Olympics were going on at the time.

With the help of the head of missions at their church, they were able to go to China in December to help with Home of Hope.

The Sigurs had already looked into adopting from China, so they were eager to go to the country and help.

Karen said they chose to reach out to China because they feel fortunate to live in the United States. When her second grandchild, a grandson, was born Feb. 5 they were confident their grandchildren would be raised in a free society where they would be able to get an education, choose their own careers, friends and start a family.

“They will not live in fear of homelessness, hunger, abuse, abandonment or rejection,” she said.

The poverty she witnessed in China was unlike anything she had ever seen in the United States, she said.

In one of the villages she went to, she found that a common home was a hole dug out of the side of a hill or a mountain. The people had no heat despite the cold temperatures, and they encountered bathrooms that were merely holes in the ground covered by a ceramic plate.

She said they were told not to drink the water because it is not treated as it is in the United States.

She said education is free through middle school, but costs to attend high school.

Government programs do not exist and the poor and needy have a tough time finding refuge, she said.

The couple arrived in China Dec. 17 and spent a few days in Beijing sightseeing before heading to Gongyi in Henan Province to the Home of Hope where more than 60 children of all ages had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of their two foreign visitors.

The Gongyi Home of Hope is one of two locations, with the other in Xuzhou, JinangSu Province.

The Gongyi home, founded in 2000, was the first to open. The Zuzhou home opened in 2005.

The orphanage is owned and operated by the Next Towns Foundation Inc., a not-for-profit organization.

Each child at the orphanage has their own story. Despite their circumstances, Karen said the children are happy and well adjusted.

Beau Xiong Zhuang, a 2-year-old boy whose name means strong, was abandoned at the front gate of the orphanage and in need of surgery. He was born with no ear canal openings and can only hear muffled sound, making it difficult for him to learn to communicate.

Another orphaned girl, 2-year-old Rachel Xiong Xin, was also abandoned at the front gate of the orphanage. She is in need of several surgeries to correct a severe cleft lift and cleft palate.

Karen gave credit to Nathan Bell, who founded the home. He started it in 2000 with the hope of offering abandoned and neglected children a chance at a new life.

Home of Hope is one of the few foreign-run orphanages in China. It depends solely on private donations and sponsorships to care for all of the needs of the children.

Without the home, the children would have to fight for their own survival.

They are given food, clothing, shelter and an opportunity to get an education.

Medical needs are met and surgeries are provided based on financial availability.

Each child costs about $92 in U.S. currency a month to provide rental of the house, utilities, food, healthcare, education, clothes and personal expenses.

The site also features a pen pal program. The staff screens and translates e-mail for the children.

About 20 people are on the staff, including teachers, drivers and nannies.

Information on donating is available at their Web site,

Karen Haley-Sigur interacts with some of the orphans at the Home of Hope orphanage in China.