The city of Urumqi, meaning ‘beautiful pasture’, is the capital of the Xianjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in Northwest China.
Once a region whose economy largely depended on agriculture, it has changed dramatically since 194,9 and oil and petrochemicals industries are now responsible for approximately 60% of its capital. Since the 1990s, that economic development has further accelerated so that it now plays a significant role as a trade and transport hub for Central Asia and further afield.
Religious tensions and ethnic discrimination
The development of the region has resulted in significant immigration of Han Chinese, and with it tensions arising from feelings of discrimination and marginalisation by Uygurs. This in turn has led to clear anti-Han movements since the 1990s, which has fuelled violence and riots in recent decades.However, religious differences are not the sole cause of the region’s instability.
The government has attempted to resolve the area's economic problems by providing funding to improve and build more schools, hospitals and roads. There has, undoubtedly, been a rise in income, especially in the countryside, where many Uygurs live. However, a harder issue is the ongoing discrimination against Uygurs in the job market, despite the government’s efforts to prevent.
Young people suffer exploitation and deprivation
Child-trafficking has also been a problem but the authorities in the Xinjiang are actively trying to crack down on this appalling crime. Police, who speak both Mandarin and Uygur, are sent to the provinces to assist in the prevention of the crime and the prosecution of offenders.
Where single mothers are unable to provide sufficient care for their children, these children are often forced to work as garbage scavengers in the Uygur slum. The Juvenile Education and Research Centre is tackling this problem by providing job skills training to the mothers so that they can better support their children and, importantly, the education of their children.
What are we doing to help?
SOS Children's Village Urumqi is located in the western part of the city and offers care and a safe environment for children.
There is also an SOS Nursery, which has four group rooms and some additional rooms. The SOS Nursery has capacity for about 120 children, and many children from the local community also attend. As such, it plays a crucial role in providing daycare and pre-school education to families in the neighbourhood.
For children who exhibit talent in a particular are or have special interests, the school offers special classes to nurture them further.
Our Village in Urumqi harmonises difference by placing children together with children of the same ethnicity, while sharing the Village with families from different backgrounds. In an Uygur family, the SOS Mother is Uygur and teaches the children about Uygur traditions.
Older children enter our Youth Programme. A youth leader organizes many kinds of social activities designed to develop these children into capable young adults. These include diverse exercises such as basketball, mountain climbing, and hiking, are designed to help them develop their personality and social skills as they prepare to take on the responsibilities and challenges of adult life.
In Urumqi, we provide a loving home for children from every background. With the support of an SOS Mother, we aim to create a bright future for every child in our care.