Note: This blog is a follow up to http://blog.cnib.ca/archive/2011/09/02/bethel-china-blind-orphanage.aspx
As mentioned in my last post, it was fitting that we visited the Bethel Orphanage outside of Beijing on Oct 13, 2011, which was World Sight Day. I am pleased to share with you that the Bethel Foundation is a world-class organization that has brought together dedicated specialists and volunteers from around the world to support their mission in China. The Beijing facility currently has 50 children living, learning and growing with them. Their influence extends throughout China with the outreach of low vision training they offer to government run orphanages around the country to provide support to the approximately 1 in 20 children in the system that are low vision.
The facility is housed on 20 acres of land, leased from the government. The motel originally purchased to start the orphanage has been supplemented with generous donations from around the world. The foundation has created a cul-de-sac community on the property that includes log-home housing for the children, with a playground in the center. Each home has an adult volunteer and varied age of children living in them. The homes are powered with solar energy.
Each morning they go to school with children from the different homes which stimulate their social interactions. The school is well organized and boasts a well stocked music room, artistic room, entertainment room and several classrooms. Older children get experience offering tours to the 100+ visitors they receive per year as well as looking after specific areas like their retail store where they sell crafts made onsite. Christina, the girl pictured in the pink and blue top, was our tour guide for the day. She speaks Mandarin, English and is currently learning French.
The team there focuses on sustainability and self-sufficiency. They farm their own corn and other crops, raise chickens and goats and market extra products for sale in town. They had just completed their corn harvest and a part of the driveway had been devoted to drying the corn for future use. We asked if birds or other animals ate the corn while it was drying and they said they don't lose very much to birds but Sam, one of their pet dogs was sure enjoying his share. Sam proved this by joining us with an ear of corn in his mouth. They were excitedly awaiting the completion of a pool and the arrival of a horse that have recently been donated to the foundation. Matthew, pictured below is a staff member, originally from Holland. He lives and works onsite, and is the program and volunteer coordinator for the facility.
To ensure we didn't disturb the classes that were in session, we didn't take pictures of the children in their studies. To see pictures and profiles of the children of Bethal and to learn more about their organization, please see their website at www.bethelchina.org
I can't thank my parents, the staff of CNIB, all of the individual donors, corporate donors from Alberta, and the Branksome School for Girls enough for their support of this initiative. We emptied 3 suitcases of donated items and each child received a gift bag which included a personalized letter to them from one of the Branksome girls, their own slate & stylus, Canadian treats, school supplies and money to turn into Bethel Bucks which they can use at their school canteen. Items donated by the CNIB arrived at the facility this past weekend and they are delighted with our generous support.