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    You are my Sunshine
Xing Yangjian
2005-12-30 10:20

With turkey and gifts, the children of the Sun Village had an early Christmas last Wednesday.

"Each of the children has got a gift they wanted for Christmas, and we have also received gifts for our students at the Xi'an Sun Village," said Zhang Shuqin, founder of the Beijing Sun Village Research Institute for Helping Special Children.

Affiliated with the China Charity Foundation Relief Aid Department for Special Children, the Beijing Sun Village was formally established in Banqiao, Shunyi District of Beijing in December 2000. Another three Sun Villages were set up in Shaanxi and Henan provinces.

Today, the Beijing Sun Village supports 115 children between the ages of one and 18 years old, coming from Beijing as well as several other provinces within China. They all have one thing in common: they are the children of incarcerated parents.

With the four villages, Zhang Shuqin hopes to provide more than a real home rather than a refuge for them to grow up emotionally and physically healthy.

In the Sun Village, children are living in nine 'friendship cabins' that can house up to eighteen children each. The arrangement of cabins and combination of children collaborate to create a comfortable family atmosphere. Murals decorate the outside walls, slippers are piled at the common room entrance, and nine "Aixin Mama" (caretaking aunties) tuck the children into bunk beds at night.

Upon arrival at Beijing Sun Village, the children begin attending local kindergarten, elementary, and middle schools, eventually graduating from the Shunyi Education Centre high school. Every year the children's tuition, textbooks, classroom materials, school uniforms, and necessary vaccinations must be provided by private contributions.

"We have got one university student from our Xi'an Sun Village," said Liu Zhiyong, a caretaking aunt working at the Children's Department of the Village. "If they study really well, they can continue their study into universities. We will find sponsorship for their schooling then."

The idea of setting up the Sun Villages for children of convicts was born in Zhang Shuqin's mind more than 10 years ago when she was working for the Prison Police in Shaanxi Province. Rarely outside the prison grounds, she often came into contact with children of inmates and developed a profound concern for their welfare and safety.

She found that many children are left to wander homeless or beg on the streets, while others suffer continuous abuse while being passed between relatives. Nearly all are deprived of education.

"If these children continue to be neglected and treated as outcasts of society, their traumatic experiences could lead them to build up resentment toward, and even hatred for, society. They could end up committing crimes just like their parents," She told the media.

"Love and care for the children could help to break a cycle, and help their parents to reform more willingly."

As an NGO, the Sun Village does not receive any government funding and relies solely on private contributions. Luckily, they can always get some support in time to get over their difficulties. Donations include school materials, food, clothes, cash, and more.

Rotary Club International just bought several tons of coal for the village to get over the freezing winter and also introduced two experienced psychologists to help the children get out of the shadows in life.

"Communication is truly important," said Regula Hwang, a member of the Rotary Club International and a long-term volunteer at the Beijing Sun Village. "People should treat them as normal children, chat with them, ask about their needs, and not make them feel they are different."

When she is in China, Regula visits the Sun Village every other week, teaching them English and sometimes taking them out for sightseeing or hiking.

"If more people can get involved instead of just visiting, we can surely give them a better future."

For the coming Spring Festival, the Sun Village plans to send about 30 students back to Xinxiang in Henan province to spend the holidays at their homes. Now, they are expecting a donation of bus services for this tripany ideas?

Tel: 6044-3523


(China Daily 12/30/2005 page16)


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