'We will always be with you'

Children are very precious in Chinese culture. However, many of them are facing difficult life circumstances. Amity strives for a better life and well-being of those children. Besides tangible material support, Amity follows approaches that get down to the roots of the trouble, including psychological counseling, public advocacy and the support for rural and migrant communities.

Nation-wide attention for China's left-behind children

The Amity Newsletter topics the floating population in 2002

During the last years the hardship and sad destiny of China’s left-behind children came into the public spotlight1 of the Chinese media, when four children in a village in Guizhou Province committed suicide. Big media agencies like Caixin or China Daily reported widely about the heart-breaking tragedy2 of a boy and his three sisters, who killed themselves by drinking pesticides. Before this incident, their father migrated to another province. Their mother had left the family years before. These 5 to 14 year old kids did reportedly not lack material poverty but died because of human neglect. The destiny of children without parents became a buzz topic and is widely discussed in China.

The problem of labeling

What is an orphan and what is a left-behind child? What is the difference? Various groups and countries define and identify orphans in a different way. Sometimes the parents are dead, sometimes they went missing and sometimes the children were abandoned. But after all, the situation remains the same for the kids. They are growing up without parental love, care and safety.

School kids are playing on the school playground of a deprived village. Most of their young parents migrated to the cities.

60 million children in China are growing up without parents

More than 60 million children in China are estimated to be left behind by their parents, who moved to the cities in the search for making a living. About 30% of all rural children3 are growing up without parents. Sometimes the children stay with relatives. Often they are on their own. The numbers are said to have alarmingly increased over the last years. It is difficult for migrant parents to take their children with them when they do not obtain the hukou. The hukou is an identity card that registers people as local residents and provides access to the local health and education system. There have been many discussions and several attempts to loosen the hukou system over the last years. Meanwhile migrant workers are encouraged to take their children with to the cities.

Migration causes multiple challenges

Students eating lunch in a village school in the impoverished mountains of Hunan

But a complete abolition of the system would accelerate the migration into the cities and the urbanization process would be unsustainable. Many Chinese cities are already pushed to its capacities and facing severe difficulties to keep up and maintain the supply of their residents. Furthermore, the situation in the countryside would worsen even faster. Because of the declining number of students, many village schools had been closed over the past years, leaving the aging village population and the left-behind children back in even greater despair. Those children are lacking of human care. Latest studies revealed that their risk of developing a depression4 is significantly higher than for children living in intact families. Latest studies also show, that left-behind children are in a high risk of turning criminal.5

Considering the various concurrent causes and effects, the Amity Foundation supports orphans in multiple ways and several projects, directly and indirectly.

Building harmonious and sustainable community environments in the countryside

 Orphan with her grandparents

Amity tries to meet the needs of this vulnerable group of left-behind children in various ways. A major focus of the Amity Foundation has always been rural development projects. Amity conducts integrated development projects in impoverished and underdeveloped rural areas for more than 20 years. The experience shows that when people migrate to the cities to earn money, elders and children are often left at home on their own. The Amity Foundation puts the people of the rural communities into the center of the development projects. This creates an environment that is family-friendly, sustainable and worth living in. Therefore, Amity provides capacity building , supports basic education and improves general living conditions and health care coverage in the villages.

Following a comprehensive approach

Tujia women association receive training in doing traditional handicraft

The whole society benefits from a sustainable development and empowered and resilient rural communities. Villagers will profit as well as the overburdened social systems of the big cities. Evaluation reports of Amity's rural development projects show people live in a more harmonious way when their environment improves. Especially the future generation will profit from intact family structures and shrink the number of children growing up without parents. By cooperating with relevant government bodies, institutions and beneficiaries, Amity follows a principle of three shares. This approach ensures sustainable development that involves all participants financially and physically. Furthermore, this practice can function as a model for local authorities and organizations in the future. That will support a comprehensive protection for children on a broad basis and in the long run.

Meeting the daily needs of the orphans

Besides this long-term approach, Amity also provides immediate relief and help for those children. Left-behind children and orphans in China are in numbers as many as the population of Italy. The pacing urbanization exacerbates the situation. Amity’s orphan project has been significantly expanded over the last years. The numbers of orphans supported by Amity have increased over the past year from about 7,000 up to more than 10,000. The Amity Foundation is meeting the children's material needs and daily necessities. Thereby, Amity ensures the essential right of basic education and nutrition for the kids and brings relief to their care keepers.

The importance of human affection

Amity's orphan summer camp 2016

The Amity camps provide joyful experiences for the participants

Amity organizes summer camps where orphans receive attention and experience joy. These camps boost trust and self-confidence of the orphans. Amity staff also organizes visits to foster the psychological well-being of the kids. Letters and visits from donors and small presents on celebration days comfort the children additionally. Considering the fact, that there was no material lack for the dead children of the village in Guizhou, it becomes obvious that human attention is as important as meeting the children's material needs. Amity staff has witnessed hundreds of heart-touching occasions between participants and orphans that verify this assumption.

Orphanages connect children with special needs to caregivers

 

Children at a migrant school playing games

Pfrang members visiting underprivileged children at their homes

Advocacy

The migrant population and especially the migrant children have been a focus of Amity for more than a decade. The young generation is the future of the society. Their education and social development is of highest importance. Therefore, Amity is supporting and rebuilding village schools to provide basic education in areas that lack education opportunities. Amity organizes conferences and workshops on childcare and children rights, cooperates with various organizations that help children and raise public awareness about migrant workers and their families. In Nanjing for example, Amity has established a long-term partnership with the Pfrang Association. This organization aims to support children in poverty with scholarships to save them from a life of crime.

Amity advocates for children's rights at

a consultation in Nanjing

A movie produced by Amity to raise acceptance for

migrant workers

Amity advocates for underprivileged children. The kids who are living without their parents must not become a lost generation. During an exposure trip, a supporter put it into the following words “Tomorrow will be better and we will always be with you!”

1Wang Xiaodong/Xu Wei (2015), Deaths 'expose plight of left-behind children'. ChinaDaily Online, 12 June 2015: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2015-06/12/content_20981227.htm

2Wang Jin (2015), Children of Migrant Parents Left Alone to Die. Caixin Online. 24 June 2015: http://english.caixin.com/2015-06-24/100821862.html

3Jia, Z. and Tian, W. (2010), Loneliness of left-behind children: a cross-sectional survey in a sample of rural China. Child: Care, Health and Development, 36: 812–817. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2214.2010.01110.x/citedby

4Bingyan He, Jingyi Fan, Ni Liu, Huijuan Li, Yanjun Wang, Joshua Williams, Kaishing Wong, Depression risk of ‘left-behind children’ in rural China, Psychiatry Research, Volume 200, Issues 2–3, 30 December 2012: 306-312. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165178112001849

5Daniel Ren, China's 'left-behind children' at higher risk of life of crime, study finds, South China Morning Post 23 May 2016: http://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/1951469/chinas-left-behind-children-higher-risk-life-crime-study-finds