Wednesday, August 13, 2008

China's Forgotten Children and Children's Hope International

After our visit to the Great Wall Melanie, Dan, Ethan and I went with our guide to visit the China headquarters of Children's Hope International and talk with Melody, the director.

There are 573,000 orphans in China and probably more in reality. Only 69,000 are cared for by the state. The state system is not able to take more so there are young children living on the streets. Some are lucky and go to orphanages like the one CHI sponsors.

We visited the orphans. All of them at the Beijing site have disabilities which is the reason their parents abandoned them. Infants are left on a door-step or on the street. Parents are either unable to provide medical treatment or they do not want their one child to have a disability and therefore be a liability. (Children in China are the "social security" for elderly parents and are abandoned if they will not be able to work.)

All of the kids we saw were infants except a six year old dwarf who took a big liking to Dan. One child had hydrocephalus, "water on the brain," and was unable to hold her head up. One very cute little guy was born with "flipper feet" and no knees. His appendages will one day be amputated and replaced with prostheses.

There were several that Children's Hope had sent to America and to Shriner's Hospital. The Shriner's give operations free of charge to children from all over the world. Here we saw the results of their charity. Orphans were treated to open heart surgeries and clef pallets were repaired.

The severest of disabilities was an infant girl who was blind and deaf at birth. Her future will depend on many hours of help. I can't imagine braille in Chinese. I suggested she be taught to learn in English. Bilingual, Melody agreed that would be easier.

I was so proud of Ethan who at only seven was playing with he kids and helping them smile. What a great experience this was for him. Melanie, too, held the babies and asked Dan about adopting a special needs child. They already parent my grandson, Drew, who is autistic.


Adoption is not an option for most of these kids. I know there are many of us who criticise bureaucracy here in WA. But, it is much, much worse in China. Because these kids are abandon they have no paper work and therefore the government has nothing to process for the adoption!

And besides the huge numbers of orphans, there is no children's protective serve in China. It is very unlikely that any action would be taken against an abuser. There is no child abuse hot-line or any reporting network.

Children's Hope works in China under state sponsorship and the name of China Association of Social Work. They serve medical needs, work for adoptions, and give vocational training for older children.

There is much more to do in China and around the world for children. If you are a retiring baby-boomer this might be an area of service in which you have interest. Please call me if you do.

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