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How one little girl got lucky (and the people trying to help 600,000 like her)

Each Friday, Robbie Briggs, president and CEO of Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty, writes about luxury, trends, business and more in the advertising pages of the Mansion section of The Wall Street Journal. Below is his letter of January 29, 2021.


Around this time, for the past two years now, our family celebrates Gotcha Day — or as we affectionally call it, Pearl Day. Gotcha Day was the day that our eldest son, Ben, and his family adopted a beautiful, 2-year-old Chinese girl. They named her Florence Pearl Briggs, after two favorite role models: Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, and Pearl S. Buck, the author of The Good Earth, the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel about life in a Chinese village. Ben, his wife, Jenny, and their three naturally born children live in Xiamen, China, where Ben and Jenny met and have lived for 17 years.

Pearl’s story is one far too familiar in East Asia. A few days after her birth, her parents — probably feeling overwhelmed by her special needs — lovingly left her near an orphanage’s front door, with the hope that somebody else could give her a better life. Indeed, the orphanage found and cared for Pearl for her first two years. She is a beautiful, dear young girl with hearing difficulties: Pearl has no hearing in one ear and marginal hearing in the other. Through medical attention and modern technology, her condition has significantly improved.

Pearl, front and center, and her family, in a photo via Ben Briggs' Facebook

Pearl is very fortunate. The ladies at the orphanage were so kind and caring and held her nonstop. When our family first received her, she wanted to continue to be hugged and loved — and she, in turn, wanted to show her love for everyone. Pearl is the best-natured child, with a contagious smile and laugh. Ben’s three older children welcomed her beautifully and now we can’t imagine life without her.

It has been reported that there are now more than 600,000 orphaned children in China, with a full 98 percent of them having special needs. While my wife, Nancy, and I and our two youngest daughters lived in Beijing, from 2006 to 2008, we were introduced to and got involved with many great organizations that address this terrible situation.

One such organization, the New Hope Foundation, was founded by Dr. Joyce Hill and her husband, Robin. While practicing family medicine in China, Joyce saw a number of babies abandoned due to medical needs, so she began bringing them home and finding medical care for them, either inside China or back in the United States. This work began in 2000 and, today, the New Hope Foundation has helped hundreds of children who were severely disabled and not expected to live. Their goal is “to comfort always, to relieve often and to save sometimes.” They are well worth checking out. Take a look at newhope.foundation.

Another amazing story is that of Robert and Elizabeth Glover, two Brits who, in 1998, founded Care for Children in China, which has now placed more than one million babies in China and beyond. Robert, a British social worker, has been awarded the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for this amazing work. Today, Care for Children helps children in China, Thailand and Vietnam. For the whole story, go to careforchildren.com.

And, for a true picture of how amazing people help children across Asia, watch The Drop Box, a 2015 documentary about a South Korean pastor who takes in orphaned babies through a box equipped with a motion sensor, heat and light. It is programmed to notify the pastor when a baby is placed inside. Since its establishment in 2009, more than 600 abandoned kids have been placed in loving homes.

All of this is to say how blessed the Briggs family is to have received the wonderful gift of my dear granddaughter, Pearl, two years ago, on Gotcha Day.

Robbie Briggs

President and CEO

Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty


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