Qiqihar is an industrial town in north-east China, close to the border with Russia, and it has seen rapid economic growth over the last few decades. Nowadays it is a major hub of economic and cultural activity in the region.
As with China's economic growth more broadly, progress has predominantly come from industrial expansion, which has benefitted from Qiqihar's proximity to the Russian border. However, farming and timber production continue to make up a significant part of economic activity in the area.
As Qiqihar's economy has grown, so too has its population, as people from the countryside migrate in search of the opportunities that life in the city offers. Sadly, most of these people have failed to achieve the success that they had hoped for and now live in slums throughout the city.
Conditions in these areas are often unsafe and people have almost no access to important public services like sanitation or electricity. Though the government has been working to improve the situation, many still live in poverty.
The massive social change that has occurred over past few decades has undoubtedly brought improvements in well-being for people throughout Qiqihar. However, it has also destabilised people's livelihoods and led many families to struggle to make ends meet.
A worryingly high number of children do not receive the regular nutrition they need and, even when they do, they still struggle to access education that would help them fulfil their potential. In the worst cases children live without parental care, either due to death or simply because the stress of poverty led to family breakdown.
Supporting children in Qiqihar
We started our work in Qiqihar in 1992 and since then we have worked closely with local people and authorities to support children during this time of rapid social change.
Sometimes children are unable to stay with their parents, for whatever reason. When this is the case, children in Qiqihar are able to find a loving home with one of 15 SOS families at our Children's Village here. These offer a loving and permanent home where they can grow up within a happy and stable environment.
All children in SOS families attend local schools and are able to build strong ties with other children in the area. When they are old enough, they can join the SOS youth programme. In the programme they are given shared accommodation whilst they undertake further education or training. Our expert counsellors help them to begin shouldering responsibility and take their first independent steps into adulthood.
Qiqihar is also home to our SOS vocational training centre, called the 'SOS Hermann Gmeiner Technical School'. This centre has already provided training to thousands of young people, many of whom received a scholarship to study, and we work closely with local companies to help them secure work afterwards.
We hold the hands of toddlers through to teenagers as they grow up in a loving SOS family. Sponsor a child in Qiqihar today, and spread hope.