Feature: A glimpse into summer camp for vulnerable children

(Xinhua) 09:33, August 24, 2022

11-year-old Binbin (front) teaches other kids sign language during a drama performance activity at a summer camp in Beijing, capital of China, Aug. 1, 2022. (Photo by Xiao Zhengyu/Xinhua)

BEIJING, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- In everyday life, 11-year-old Binbin (not his real name) communicates with his hearing-impaired parents using sign language. While in a summer camp in the suburb of Beijing, he shares the tongue with more than 40 of his peers.

"Difficulties in life are hard to avoid, but I am glad to have your company," says the lyric, each word shown by Binbin's hand gestures. Singing the song, other kids imitated Binbin's moves at a drama performance activity.

The summer camp aims to provide a scenario to help vulnerable children foster self-esteem and confidence, and contribute to their social adaptability when they grow up, according to Yao Juan, a social worker with Chunhui Children, the foundation that organized the event.

"I was a little embarrassed at first, but later I feel honored," Binbin said, adding that he was particularly delighted when other kids handed him stickers that could be exchanged for prizes.


Most of the children in the camp face family hardships such as financial distress, parents in prison or illness, or improper guardian care, and a few of the children live with some form of disability, said Yao.

Diagnosed with depression, 16-year-old Wenwen (not her real name), a student at a vocational school, participated in the camp with her twin sister Jingjing (not her real name) with cerebral palsy.

"I couldn't understand why my sister chokes every time she drinks water. In the camp, we leaned our heads up and kept water in our mouths," said Wenwen. "I finally realized how difficult it was for her to drink water."

The session Wenwen was engaged in was designed to let the children experience a day of people with special needs, according to Yao, saying that the intention was to help children respect and embrace others' differences.

"Eventually, we hope these children can have the courage to face difficulties," Yao added.

The twins' mother also came to the site to take care of them. Seeing the changes in Wenwen, the mother said, "I can feel that she is happier. Friends constantly chat with her, and she talks more."


Social workers from Chunhui Children have regularly paid visits to the twins' family of three living on subsistence allowances. The two girls have also been invited to play in the children's center in their neighborhood.

Once Jingjing's wheelchair was broken, the Tongzhou District social welfare institute in Beijing, also the co-organizer of the summer camp, soon brought a new one to her.

Liu Song, head of the institute, said the government and other public entities provide information for the social workers, who conduct home visits to learn and help with children's difficulties.

The workers also assist parents, with economic hardships or those unfamiliar with policies, in applying for subsidies, added Liu.

According to a guideline released last year by 14 departments including the Ministry of Civil Affairs, children welfare agencies can introduce social organizations to provide service and support in visiting, psychological counseling, community care and social integration for children.

Tao Chuanjin, a professor with the School of Social Development and Public Policy at Beijing Normal University, said establishing children centers in welfare homes or communities, or organizing temporary activities such as summer camps, can help vulnerable children build friendships and develop teamwork abilities.

"Everyone faces difficulties, but we should not let children face them alone," said Xiao Jin, a social worker. 

(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Liang Jun)


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