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Volunteer moms comfort left-behind children


16:21, May 30, 2013

BEIJING, May 30 (Xinhua) -- When Xi Jingmin first met eight-year-old He Shuoxin earlier this year in a village near the city of Dingzhou in north China's Hebei Province, the girl barely spoke a word.

Xi, an accountant who has a seven-year-old daughter of her own, came into He's life through "Volunteer Mother," a charity program sponsored by the local branch of the All-China Women's Federation.

Xi has used her spare time to take care of the girl, a "left-behind child" whose parents are living and working in another city. Rural areas of China have many such children, as their parents can provide for their families more easily by seeking out higher-paying jobs in urban areas.

"The girl is now very close to me. I do as much as I can to make her happier," Xi said.

The federation said in a report released earlier this month that there are as many as 60 million left-behind children in rural areas.

He's father is deceased and her mother works as a maid in big cities to support the family, leaving He at home in the village with her grandparents.

Shi Huimin, spokeswoman for the Hebei provincial branch of All-China Women's Federation, said the federation has created a database for all of the left-behind children in the province that details their personalities, as well as their financial situation, in order to help find suitable "volunteer mothers" for them.

"We put out advertisements through the federation's local branches and through public media to recruit volunteer mothers and introduce them to left-behind children living nearby," Shi said.

Shi said 80,000 volunteer mothers in Hebei have joined the program since it was launched in December 2012.

"There are no mandatory requirements for volunteer mothers. They can help the children in any way, either by taking care of their everyday affairs, giving them maternal care and comfort or helping them with their homework," Shi added.

Zhang Xiaopeng, a 12-year-old boy in Wuyi County, lives with his grandmother. Both of his parents work in Beijing and return home only once a year.

"Xiopeng is really sad about his parents' leaving," his grandmother said. "Sometimes, he feels as though he has been abandoned."

His volunteer mother Pei Supin has helped him rebuild his confidence by taking care of him when he is sick.

"I know this child misses good mothering and I'd like to treat him just like my own son. I wish him a happy life," Pei said.

In order to improve the program, the provincial women's federation is now planning to provide training to volunteer mothers to help them better understand child psychology and the importance of family education.

The program has also been piloted by women's federations in east China's Jiangsu Province and southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

"I think the program is an effective way to address the severe 'left-behind children' problem," said Wang Xueyan, a psychological consultant in Hebei.

However, Wang warned that if a volunteer mother ends up leaving the child she is aiding, the child may experience even more psychological trauma.

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