For the first time in their lives, 103 orphans at Beijing Guang’ai School lit fireworks on the Chinese New Year.

    "We used to worry about their food and lodging," said the school’s founder and headmaster Shi Qinghua.

    The school, at the foot of the Badaling Section of the Great Wall in northern Beijing, offers free meals, lodging and education to 103 street children.

    The 37-year-old Shi was formerly a government employee in the eastern Anhui Province. A firework explosion 10 years ago left him, his wife and their son badly injured. The family came to Beijing for medication, but soon ran out of money.

    For several months, the Shi’s were homeless on Beijing’s streets until a charity organization provided them with food, lodging and paid their medical bills.

    When Shi was finally able to provide for his family again, he decided he should do something for vagabond children, many of whom he had brought into his home and taught to read and write starting in 2003.

    More than 160 street children have stayed at his family school, about 50 of whom were taken back by their families.

    The school, financed largely by non-governmental charity programs and volunteers, often has difficulties making ends meet.

    Wider media coverage last year, however, drew flocks of volunteers and donations to Shi and his "children" ahead of the holiday.

    "We’ve got milk, candies, groceries, clothing, stationery and even medicine from businesses and individuals," he said. "I hope the children will learn to be thankful and grow up to be good citizens."


Gene ID cards issued to help Chinese street children find parents 2008-01-03 19:35:41   Print

    XI’AN, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) — With specially-made ID cards containing their genetic information, 14 street children in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province are likely to find their own biological parents sooner.

    Medical workers from the Fourth Military Medical University of Chinese People’s Liberation Army have issued 14 gene ID cards, the first such cards in Shaanxi Province, to the children accommodated in government-sponsored relief center in the provincial capital of Xi’an.

    "I know my parents will come to me soon and take me home," said Ren Weiwei, while holding his blue color gene ID card.

    A gene ID card, looking almost the same as a common ID card, contains the owner’s genetic information, in addition to his or her name, gender, photo, place where he or she was picked up and approximate year of birth, said Wu Yuanming, director of the medical university’s DNA Gene typing Center.

    The card, with 15 gene loci (gene locations), can represent the full biological characteristics of a person, and has no chance to be identical with another one among the 6 billion population in the world, Wu said.

    "As the first batch of gene ID cards issued in Shaanxi, they will turn over a new leaf in using biological means to find missing family members," Wu said, adding that parents can identify whether a lost child is theirs or not through making a comparison between their genetic code and the kid’s.

    Apart from finding missing family members, gene ID cards can also be used in identity confirmation after accidents, he said.

    Wu believes the gene ID cards will become more and more popular in the years to come though they are not widely used now in China due to high cost — about 600 yuan (82.2 U.S. dollars) for one card, much more than 20 yuan for an ordinary ID card.

    Similar gene ID cards have been issued for different purposes over recent years in Chinese cities such as Wuhan, Chengdu, Chongqing, Nanjing, Zhengzhou and Shenzhen.

Editor: Jiang Yuxia

Kelly Road grad doing research in China

(News) Thursday, 10 May 2007, 04:00 PST
by  BERNICE TRICK Citizen staff    
Karin Borzel.jpg - 1542591

Karin Borzel, a Kelly Road secondary alumni and University of Victoria doctoral student, poses for a photograph outside the Imperial Palace in China. (Submitted photo)

Seventeen years after graduating from Kelly Road secondary, a former Prince George student has captured a rare opportunity to research problems facing a large population of street kids in China.

Karin Borzel, 35, has received a Canada-China scholar exchange scholarship to conduct studies and research at the China Youth University of Political Science.

Borzel, who’s a PhD student in child and youth care at the University of Victoria, left Tuesday for Beijing, where she’ll be based for more than two years to do research and write her PhD dissertation.

It will be familiar territory for Borzel, who was employed for eight years in the Asian region, but this time she’ll spend most of her time in research and writing rather than on the job.

With a senior scholar status, she’ll be able to freely utilize the university to look at issues and challenges around thousands of street children — a subject near and dear to her heart.

"Officially, it’s said the numbers of street kids in China range from 150,000 to 4 million, but we know it’s in the millions. There are 150,000 in Canada alone," she said.

A lot of her research will be done on the streets where she’ll get to know the people and the street children before she begins writing her dissertation the following year.

She said the majority of street children are males. Many are children of migrant workers who’ve become lost in job shuffles, some have run away or been pushed out of their homes, others have been sold or stolen, and many are orphaned due to parent deaths form disasters like floods and drought.

"The vast majority of street kids in China pass through child protection centres where the focus is on detain-and-return home, but they are not long-term. More than 80 per cent of time is used looking for kids’ families."

Borzel’s past years in China have enabled her to speak Mandarin, integrate into the community and establish solid relationships with government officials, researchers and academics as they related to her research on health and wellness of street children in the country.

She has faith that conditions can be improved for homeless children in China.

"You have to be able to have hope. If you didn’t believe in positive potential, you would feel like you were drowning," said Karin, who’s breaking new ground in this type of research.

"Only one other person has done this type of research there, and they didn’t have the support of government officials," she said.

More important than the monetary value of her $10,000 scholarship "is the fact the Chinese government is agreeing to and supporting the research I wish to do," she said.

During her growing years in Prince George, Borzel, who returns home to visit parents Ken and Myrna as often as possible, was a candidate in both the Miss Teen Prince George and Miss Prince George pageants.

Although she didn’t capture top place in either, she remembers them as good learning experiences.

Man joins beggars to learn cruel story about street kids

Man joins beggars to learn cruel story about street kids

MOTIVATED by the plight of injured street children, a man became a beggar for two months in Shenzhen to learn about their circumstances.

In a 20,000-word investigative report of his observations circulating at the highest levels of the government, he said the handlers of the kids often intentionally injured them to increase the kids’ fundraising value. Further, loopholes in urban management have failed to prevent many cruelly injured children from begging in the streets of big cities, he said.

Cao Dacheng, 76, who lived in the city of south China’s Guangdong Province, pretended to be a beggar to investigate the issue beginning in late 2005, the Outlook Weekly reported yesterday.

Cao’s report was handed to Premier Wen Jiabao in August, raising central government officials’ concerns.

Cao said he saw a little boy crouching on the ground to beg one day in November last year near the Shenzhen Gymnasium. When Cao tried to awake the boy to learn his story, a woman hiding nearby stopped him.

The woman told him the boy suffered from a brain disease and could not be awakened, asking Cao not to meddle in their affairs.

Cao soon found many begging children were unable to move or talk, and could only sleep on the ground.

For his investigation, he disguised himself as a beggar, carrying a wooden stick and a bowl for alms.

Most beggars haunting the downtown area came from central China’s Henan Province. Cao said he once stayed there and could speak Henan dialect, which helped him become an acquaintance of the beggars soon.

He visited a man, who was considered the richest beggar in Shenzhen. The man always controlled three to four sick or handicapped children, intimidating them into begging.

Cao said the man broke arms or legs of the children he had abducted to make them look miserable. The more miserable it looked, the more people would give to these children, the man believed.

When the children turned seriously ill, they often disappeared mysteriously and some new cruelly injured children would appear, Cao said.

He was told the man could earn 200,000 to 300,000 yuan a year, noting the Shenzhen Funeral Home cremated 286 abandoned dead children last year.

He once reported what he found in the investigation to authorities, but what he received most were uncaring responses, he said.

Baoji Xinxing Aid for Street Kids

Paul Brockmann’s Update Journal: Daytripping with Friends from Baoji

(blog entry)
"…Remember the Baoji Children’s Center? MSF ended our management of the project March 31, and it was reborn as Baoji Xinxing Aid for Street Kids, to our knowledge the first domestic NGO serving the needs of street children to be registered and recognized in China."

Not scorned, street kids get new life in imitation family

Not scorned, street kids get new life in imitation family

HOME meant anything but warmth to Wang Qi when he, then 12 years old, was rejected by his divorced parents four years ago.

But an imitation family program is reshaping the boy’s idea, if more, perhaps, his life.

The boy left his parents in Xi’an, capital of northwest China’s Shaanxi Province in 2002.

When he was picked up three years later by a street children’s center in Zhengzhou, a city 500 kilometers away in central China’s Henan Province, the poor waif was ‘somber, sensitive and extremely defensive,’ according to Lu Jinwei, his ‘father’ in his new family.

‘He stared blankly at the corner of the wall, seldom talked to anybody and never did his share of the housework,’ said Lu, a former high school teacher who joined the experimental program launched by the United Nations Children’s Fund and China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs in 2003.

Wang Qi is one of 84 children who have been taken in by five imitation families in Zhengzhou, where social workers function as parents of street children in households. These children are given room and board, as well as education and training.

However, they would have faced discrimination three years ago as they were often considered ‘children to be moralized.’

They were treated in the same way as adult vagrants: gathered and sent back to possibly broken families by relief and administration stations.

Thanks to the UN-China program, the situation has begun to change in Zhengzhou.

The boy, once controlled by a gang and trained to steal, now works at a beauty salon as an apprentice.

Under the arrangement with the center, Wang Qi received a few months’ vocational training after he told his ‘father’ the wish to become a barber last year.
The teenager, who remained silent almost for a month to his "parents" and his four "sisters" and "brothers" after he joined the family, now likes to initiate conversation with his customers, most of whom are stylish youngsters, the boy said.

His customers do not know about the dark past of the energetic, handsome boy.

"We are helping them with a renewed ideology on street children," said Wang Wanmin, director of the Zhengzhou Street Children’s Center.

China to set up aid centers for street children in cities

China to set up aid centers for street children in cities 2006-05-17 22:51:49

    ZHENGZHOU, May 17 (Xinhua) — China will set up more aid centers for street children in cities, a senior official has said.

    As one of the most vulnerable groups, street children need special care and protection so that their rights are better safeguarded, said Zhang Mingliang, head of the Social Welfare and Social Affairs Department of the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

    Zhang made the remarks on the sidelines of an ongoing national workshop on civil affairs that started Monday in Zhengzhou, capital of central China’s Henan Province.

    Currently street children have access to food and accommodationat relief stations, which also provide help for adult vagrants.

    The street children’s centers to be established across China will offer not only room and board but also basic education.

    Civil affairs authorities help as many as 150,000 street kids every year. Experts estimate that there are a total of 1 million street children in China.

    Relevant authorities are carrying out probes and research to figures out the investment into the street children’s centers and other details.

    The city of Zhengzhou started cooperation with the the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) in aiding street kids in 2001. It is the first city that separated street children from adults in terms of public assistance.

Get street children into school

Get street children into school

Zou Hanru

China Daily
Updated: 2006-03-03 06:15

As dusk fell on the northern Chinese city of Zhengzhou, a 13-year-old boy huddled against the February cold on a steam grate, waiting for another aimless day to break. Without a place to call home, Zhou Ning made a bed out of a cotton quilt spread out on the pavement in front of the Henan provincial capital’s railway station.

When the street crept back to life amid the first horns of passing vehicles, Zhou got dressed, folded the quilt into a corner and relieved himself a few yards away in full view of the public. He then dodged the traffic and made his way towards a back alley foodstall for what he called breakfast a bowl of watery soup spiced up with chilli and soy-sauce and two deep-fried dough sticks, all at a cost of one yuan (12 US cents). Seemingly content with the meal, he swiftly fished out a pack of cigarettes from his pocket, lit one and puffed his way into another desperate, purposeless day.

This was a snapshot of a street child’s life as captured by a CCTV news programme on the plight of homeless children.

Zhou Ning is one of 150,000 homeless children roaming the country’s urban streets, according to a Ministry of Civil Affairs estimate.

Children leave their homes for different reasons. Poverty is presumably the greatest single cause of homelessness, with children of rural and migrant families escaping from the harsh conditions in the rural areas. Others are survivors of dysfunctional families, domestic violence and traumatic abuse.

Street children are exposed to violence, abuse, exploitation and poor sanitation. Many resort to crime like Zhou Ning, who survives on petty theft.

The traditional approach to managing street children has been to pick them up, place them in a shelter for a while and then send them back to their families. But many children end up on the streets again because their families are devoid of either the financial ability or sense of responsibility to care for them.

Assisted by the United Nations Children’s Fund, China has devised a comprehensive rehabilitation model for street children that comprises drop-in centres, university student volunteers’ out-reach programmes and residential and foster care projects.

Zhengzhou is one of the first few Chinese cities to introduce foster care families that house and feed street children and provide them with counselling and healthcare.

But to enable these children to grow up to become contributing members of society, we need to go beyond what we are now doing. The ultimate answer to the social integration of street children lies in education.

Every child on the street has the same right to education as every other school-age youth in this country. That is their fundamental right.

Given the developmental delays experienced by street children when compared to their peers in a normal schooling system, we should strive for an alternative regime that will create a nurturing environment in which street children could receive their education along with counselling, mental and physical health services and maybe even meals, clothes and other supplies.

Such schools could help reduce the stigma of homelessness seen in mainstream institutions, too, and prevent taunts and teasing from classmates.

Education may have different purposes for different people. For street children, the purpose of education should be to heal the wounds inflicted by homelessness, give them the knowledge and skills they will need in adulthood to earn a living, and instil in them moral and cultural qualities that are essential for them to become contributing members of society.

New measures help street kids find homes

New measures help street kids find homes:

"By Yuan Wu (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-01-24 06:01

Nineteen central government departments are joining forces to help homeless children, the Legal Daily reported yesterday.

The government’s focus is to prevent children from living on the streets, and to help those who are already there.

Children will be provided with the basic means of living as well as some psychological guidance. The departments also plan to crack down on groups of teenage criminals.

Increased funds will be used to improve the drop-in centres for street children, said Dou Yupei, vice-minister of civil affairs, according to the Legal Daily.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs is raising its standards for the drop-in centres, Dou said. New specifications will be set for equipment, services, management and staff qualifications.

The 130 nationwide drop-in centres will employ full-time personnel, with training in psychology, moral, cultural and legal education and professional skill training, the newspaper reported.

The conference was held Friday in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, and included the ministries of civil affairs, education and public security.

This is China’s first comprehensive document dedicated to the protection and management of homeless kids. The document clearly defines the respective duties for each department.

For example, local educational departments are charged with helping homeless kids return home, and will also provide financial support and special educational care. The local departments of labour and social security will offer free introduction and training programmes of employment to homeless kids above the age of 16.

Officials will be evaluated based on their ability to fulfil the new requirements of helping to protect and manage street kids. Officials proved incompetent will be punished.

In 2005, China had about 150,000 homeless children, according to statistics from the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The figure has remained steady throughout the past few years. Currently, there are 130 drop-in centres and more than 1,000 rescuing and management stations in China.

Among all drop-in centres, about 80 need urgent facility and personnel upgrades."