SOS Children's Villages has been working in China since the mid-1980s. Our work developed rapidly all over the country and we have been present in Beijing since 2009. China has undergone many changes over the last decades, and yet the need to support vulnerable children and families is as pressing today as it was thirty years ago.
Beijing is growing at an alarming rate
Excitement at a village party (photo: SOS archives)
Beijing is one of the biggest cities in the world, with over 19.6 million inhabitants. As the capital city, it is an important political, cultural and economic centre. The city is growing at alarming rates; it is estimated that the population has grown by six million over the last decade.
SOS Children's Villages is located in Daxing, Huang Cu Town, the first satellite town of Beijing, which is south of the city centre. The town of Daxing is a common destination for people who have moved to Beijing in search of a better life for their loved ones. However the reality is very different and life is full of hardship. Many end up living in precarious homes with no access to basic infrastructure or services.
Children living in these conditions have a high incidence of sickness and malnutrition. Many are at risk of losing parental care. Some of these children can be found on the streets during the day, trying to scrape together some money to contribute to the family income. Others have been forced to leave their family homes permanently and now live on the streets. These children are very vulnerable as they struggle to keep safe, healthy and well-nourished.
Providing children with loving homes
In 1991, China signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and has since launched several programmes to improve the lives of children. With China's economy opening up to the West and more and more people migrating to the Beijing area, the need for child care facilities in and around Beijing became increasingly evident. As the number of children without parental care was on the rise, we decided to start working in Daxing.
What we do in Beijing
The children in our care are encouraged to be creative (photo: SOS archives)
In addition to advocating the rights of children at a national level, SOS Children's Villages is active in protecting children at a local level in Beijing. Children who can no longer live with their families can find a loving home in one of the 15 SOS families. The children grow up with their sisters and brothers in a familial environment full of love, respect and security. The children from the SOS families are well integrated into the community: they attend the local schools and partake in lots of events organised nearby. Likewise the activities we hold are also open to neighbouring families.
The SOS Kindergarten can look after up to 124 children, from both the SOS families and those from the community. Parents find this service very valuable - they can go to work or attend training knowing that their children are in our professional care.
As the children grow older they can join the SOS Youth Programme. With the support of qualified professionals, the young people develop perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions. They are encouraged to develop team spirit and build up contacts with relatives and friends, as well as with the relevant authorities and potential employers.
There is also an SOS Vocational Training Centre in Beijing where future SOS mothers and co-workers receive training.