The spring issue of ChinaSource Quarterly looks at people with disabilities in China and the role Christians play in serving this often forgotten segment of society. Here we talk with Kerry Schottelkorb, Director of Advancement for Christian Action Asia (CAA), about their work with a special group of children on the Tibetan Plateau.
1. Tell us about the children you serve.
According to provincial statistics, Qinghai province has 8,000 orphans and 28,000 “at-risk” youth. CAA currently serves 744 children and youth (mainly Tibetan) in five children’s homes across the plateau and helps to facilitate placement of an additional 75 children in foster homes, most of whom also have disabilities.
In the capital city of Xining, there are about 120 children with mild to severe disabilities, at the children’s home we serve. Most of the children are Han Chinese. Over the past 18 years nearly 200 children have been adopted overseas, all of whom have disabilities. In addition, the rehabilitation center in Xining is drawing a growing number of families in the community who are bringing children for treatment, suggesting an increase in the number of families choosing to keep their children who have disabilities.
2. Why do you work among these particular children?
CAA Executive Director Cheung Ang Siew Mei was initially led to serve in the mainland through a dream in which the Lord spoke to her about the critical needs of children there. Later, she researched Qinghai province and discovered it is among the poorest in China. She sensed the Lord was telling her to go to one place and to go deep, rather than trying to go everywhere. CAA’s first project involved building 462 houses on the Tibetan Plateau to provide shelter for struggling families with small children and elderly grandparents and widows, at a time when winters were very harsh. This later led to the opportunity to serve the children.
3. How do you feel the Christian community is uniquely positioned to serve those children?
Our calling is not only to serve but also to go the distance. We seek to serve with excellence and to keep our promises; not just doing the minimum but doing our very best. We have been there so long because there is a real desire to follow through on agreements we have made.
We believe Christians should make good partners. We have a solid partnership with the Qinghai Provincial Government. Our Christian community life allows us to teach friendship, character, and virtue through life example. One of our tenets from the beginning has been that we would treat each child as if he or she were our own son or daughter. Even though we serve within an institutional system, we strive to make the children’s homes as much like being at home as possible.
Xin Ning Court, adjacent to the Xining Children’s Home, comprises four apartments. In each one a local couple is matched up with four children and provided training by a social worker on how to care for them.
In our Bridging Program those over 18 live together in community; some have jobs. Our long-term goal is that we would be able to prepare our aged-out youth to live with a local family.
Currently, about 30 people from a local church are being trained to provide massage therapy for children with cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, who need such therapy on a daily basis. In all these ways the Christians in the home and in the community are playing a unique and vital role in the lives of the children.
For more on the challenges faced by people with disabilities in China and those who seek to serve them, read "Disabilities in China," the 2016 spring issue of ChinaSource Quarterly.
Image credit: STC_3177 by Jason Sanders via Flickr.
Brent Fulton is the founder of ChinaSource. Prior to assuming his current position, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding US director of China Ministries International, and from 1985 to... View Full Bio