Reaching out to young sufferers

2008-05-21 01:30:17 GMT       2008-05-21 09:30:17 (Beijing Time)        China Daily      

Premier Wen Jiabao comforts a 12-year-old girl in Mianyang on May 13. The girl, who was believed to be orphaned at the time, has now found her parents. Her elder sister has survived the deadly quake, too. Yao Dawei

Many TV viewers were moved to tears on March 13 when Premier Wen Jiabao was seen comforting a crying girl, who was believed to be orphaned by the Sichuan quake at the time.

"The premier held her hand tenderly and told her not to cry, that everything would be okay, and that the government would take care of her. He was not a political leader at that moment, but an amiable elder consoling his grandchild," says Pan Xulin, a journalist in Beijing and father of an 18-month-old boy.

"The girl didn't say anything, but sobbed the whole time. I could see in her tearful eyes horror and despair. My heart was broken," Pan said.

"I am so grateful that my son is safe and here with me."

The journalist is one among many reaching out to children who have lost their parents in Sichuan quake.

Having donated money and clothing to quake-hit areas, Pan has also decided to subsidize a child victim of the quake until he or she finishes school and becomes independent.

Pan also intends to bring the child to Beijing, where the orphan will stay with his family during summer and winter holidays. He has pledged to do his best to take care of this child.

The administrations of civil affairs have not yet published the number of orphans and children who have lost contact with their parents and siblings in the quake zone.

While those who want to adopt orphans of the quake need to wait until rescue work has been completed, many people such as Pan have expressed their desire to adopt these children or subsidize their living expenses and education.

Government departments are reportedly receiving queries on how to help these young victims, while online forums are filled with postings of adoption requests by netizens.

The Beijing News, Beijing Community Service Network and China Children and Teenagers' Fund (CCTF) have also jointly launched a "Love-heart Parents" campaign and are looking for temporary foster parents in Beijing for quake-affected children.

Zhang Hefeng, director of the communication center for the CCTF, said these 1,000 to 2,000 children, below the age of 15, are orphans, or have been separated from their families in the quake.

They are now being cared for at the provincial women's association of Sichuan and will arrive in Beijing, probably by early next month, once local authorities complete registering their basic information.

More than 500 families have shown interest in the campaign since organizers opened three 24-hour hotlines two days ago. Most applicants live in Beijing, with others from Jiangsu, Anhui and Henan provinces.

A number of interested parties, such as companies and orphanages, are reportedly willing to take more than two children each.

Zhang said he was impressed by a young couple who visited his office with their 10-month-old son.

"The mother said she was so sad about those poor children that she has not been eating much these days," Zhang said.

"She promised to do her best to take care of the foster child, and they would drive the child home to reunite him or her with parents and maintain a long-term relationship with the family."

The center said it will thoroughly assess applicant families. The children orphaned or separated from families by the quake are supposed to stay with their foster families for at least two months before being sent back to Sichuan, depending on how soon and whether their custodians can be found.

The center will also visit the foster families from time to time to ensure these children are well taken care of.

Zhang adds that many applicants do not have children and want to adopt one. Such requests would be given priority when the adoption process starts.

Mr Li, a 40-year-old Beijinger who works for a foreign company, is among the many applicants unable to get through CCTF's busy hotlines.

Li, who did not want to give his full name, says he and his wife have been a DINK (double-income-no-kid) family for several years, as they wanted to spend more time on their own pursuits rather than raise a child.

A friend, who has just come back from Sichuan, told him about the young victims of the quake. The couple have changed their mind and now wants to adopt two victims between 5 and 13 years old.

"It is time we put our own interests aside and step up to do something for our nation," Li says.

"We are financially capable and we will give as much love and care as we can to the children."

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