Beijing Charities That Need You
It’s that time of the year again, when families who have much to be grateful for look for ways to give back, and there are plenty of places to do so, even when you’re far from home. Feel the need to help those less fortunate but aren’t sure what you and your family can do here in Beijing? Read on for ways in which you and your kids can lend a hand to others this holiday season.
Roots and Shoots
These days, children come home from school worried about global warming and the environment. It’s a big problem, sometimes seeming too big for kids to find solutions. What to do? At Roots and Shoots, “We’re helping children to implement environmental projects they’re interested in,” says Erika Helms, the executive director of the Jane Goodall Institute in China, which oversees Roots and Shoots. “If young people can start small-scale projects, they’ll see they’ve made an impact. And they’ll grow into adults who change behaviors and work on a larger scale.”
Roots and Shoots is a worldwide environmental organization. They have been active in international schools in China since 1994, and they’ve been working in local Chinese schools since 2000. Here in China, they work with young leaders at schools, helping them to identify projects and lead volunteer groups. By empowering kids to act, says Erika, “we are changing not just their attitudes, but their behaviors.”
Roots and Shoots has branches at BCIS, ISB, WAB, BISS, Dulwich and a few other international schools. Their office also runs teacher training sessions at local schools, as well as organizing activities for Chinese students and translating documents into Chinese for use by local schools.
For 2008, explains Erika, “our goal in general is to expand our reach throughout China. Specifically, we’re trying to secure funding to expand into rural Sichuan. There are villages in the areas that border the Baishuihe National Nature Reserve, an area where golden monkeys and other endangered animals are found. We want these villagers to learn to be proud of their region so they will work to conserve it.”
Roots and Shoots works with children from kindergarten through college. Here in Beijing, kids can join Roots and Shoots groups at their schools, or they can start new groups in their neighborhoods. Ask a teacher at your child’s school who the contact person is at that school, or contact Roots and Shoots directly. Adults are needed for financial support, translation assistance, grant writing and business relations – perhaps you can convince your company to sponsor an event? Roots and Shoots is also in need of computers, printers and projectors. A web-savvy kid or adult could even help redesign their website.
Habitat for Humanity
Oh, I definitely want to keep building houses when I go to college,” enthuses Young Jae Park, a native of Korea who is a senior at ISB and the president of her school’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
Habitat for Humanity has been active in China since 2000, though they didn’t complete their first house until 2003. ISB started its own chapter in 2004 which now they have more than 120 members, mostly in high school, though Young Jae notes, “Next year, we are starting a separate middle school branch, and we want to start an elementary school branch as well.” The ISB branch has already accomplished a lot: Last year alone, they raised RMB 135,000, and they have sent students on eight building trips since 2005. They have also worked to educate the community about poverty and housing issues in China.
Habitat for Humanity is an international organization focused on providing housing to families who otherwise couldn’t afford it. They provide both financial and technical aid to “home partner families,” who are expected to help build their own houses with assistance from a cadre of volunteers. The home partner families are given no-profit and no-interest loans in order to purchase their houses; when they repay these loans, the money goes into the construction of other Habitat homes.
It takes about 40 days to build a house in southern China. Several times each year, ISB students are selected to go on five-day building trips, where they work on building projects with other volunteers and future homeowners. According to Young Jae, the ISB chapter hopes to raise about RMB 100,000 and sponsor two more building trips in conjunction with ISB’s China Link program before the school year ends.
ISB students are welcome to join the school’s chapter and participate in fundraising and educational events. Members can serve on the board and apply to join building trips. If you don’t go to ISB, you can always support the ISB chapter financially and help them to reach their fundraising goals. You can also start your own chapter of Habitat for Humanity – visit Campus Chapters – Habitat for Humanity International to find out how.
We’re just a couple of friends who wanted to help,” says Natascha Prigge of Crazy Bake, which she and fellow expat Yvonne Gerig founded to assist patients at the Beijing Chaoyang District Mental Health Service Center. Crazy Bake started out as Crazy Grow in 2002, when Natascha and Yvonne first taught the patients to grow and sell their own organic vegetables. “The patients loved it,” explains Natascha. “For the first time, they had something they could do on their own. We used the proceeds to improve their living conditions at the hospital.” When winter came, the friends began to look for something they could teach the patients to do year-round, and Crazy Bake was born in 2004.
Crazy Bake converted some hospital rooms into a kitchen, complete with industrial ovens, stoves, mixers and supplies, and they set about teaching their patients to make rolls, bagels, cinnamon buns and other baked goods, which they now sell in places such as Embassy House, the Beijing Institute of Technology and NU2YU Baby Store. Thus far, they’ve used the proceeds to buy washing machines, dryers and air conditioners for the patients. They’ve paid to put a roof over the central courtyard and bought patio furniture. And, as Natascha notes with pride, “Last July we rented a small house near the hospital where five patients live and are learning to care for themselves. It is one of the first assisted living centers in all of China.”
Natascha and Yvonne have big goals for the coming year. “We want to improve the house so more patients can live there,“ says Natascha. “We want to train more patients to join our baking group. And we’re looking to start ‘Crazy Holidays,’ to teach the patients to make holiday handicrafts.”
Want to help? “Yvonne is from Switzerland, and I’m German,” says Natascha. “We’d love to have someone from another country teach the patients some of their country’s recipes.” Or, if you can teach handicrafts, you’d be welcome to share what you know. You could also set aside a few hours to come read to the patients, who range in age from 15-88, or talk to them about your homeland. The patients suffer from diseases such as dementia, depression, schizophrenia and mental retardation, but most receive no therapy, so Crazy Bake is looking for ways to fill their hours and keep them entertained. Kids could help by organizing selling points for the baked goods in their schools. A high school student with an interest in journalism could help with Crazy Bake’s website – they especially need new content, photos of their house and translations into other languages. To contact Crazy Bake, call Natascha directly or download the e-mail form on their website.
135 2089 3359
New Hope Foundation
When Robin Hill and his wife, Dr. Joyce Hill, came to China fourteen years ago, they had no idea they’d stay on so long. “We were living in Lido, working as expats,” explains Robin. “Around the time we were getting ready to leave China, we felt called to take sick children into our home.”The pair retired and established a home for children in southern Beijing. Five years ago, they moved to Shunyi District, where they built a place big enough to house 153 babies, and the Hope Healing Home was started.
The New Hope Foundation, of which the Hope Healing Home is a part, has a three-pronged focus. First, explains Robin, “we take babies under six months old who have physical problems we can fix: Heart problems, club feet, spinal bifida and cleft palates are typical cases. We get them medical treatment, and then we encourage their orphanage directors to put these babies up for adoption.” The New Hope Foundation also runs several Special Care Units in Henan province, to offer palliative or hospice care. “We take babies who have been diagnosed as terminal or severely disabled. About 50 percent of these babies do eventually die, but we save the rest, and we bring them to Beijing to try to heal them,” says Robin. Finally, the Hills run an “18-bed step-up step-down unit” out of the Shunyi home, in collaboration with another organization, Love Without Boundaries. Robin says, “We find kids who are too weak to undergo treatment. We bring them to Beijing and basically fatten them up until they’re ready for surgery. Love Without Boundaries facilitates the surgery, and then the babies come back to us until they are strong enough to return to their orphanages.”
The New Hope Foundation is especially in need of volunteers with medical backgrounds, as they are constantly called upon to evaluate the needs of each individual baby. “We also need volunteers who are able to assist in our kindergarten,” says Robin, “and we need people to come in the mornings just to play with the babies while they’re awake and expose them to different people.” In addition, the New Hope Foundation has a list of needed supplies on their website. The wish list includes double strollers and hand sanitizer, which are hard to find in Beijing, and diapers and wipes, which can be quite expensive.
New Hope Foundation
138 0135 1444
A Child’s Right
A Child’s Right is a relatively new organization, but they’ve already proven themselves to be overachievers. In the year since its inception, A Child’s Right has provided clean, safe drinking water to more than 14,000 children worldwide.
It’s not something most tbjkids readers may need to think about, as we all have access to bottled water and water filters, but children all over the world get sick each year because they drink water carrying diseases and other unpleasant organisms. Three million people die every year due to waterborne diseases caused by unclean water, and 90 percent of these victims are children under the age of five.
Eric Stowe, the director of A Child’s Right, explains, “Next year our goal is to provide potable water for more than 20,000 children who attend schools in impoverished regions or live in orphanages, street shelters or rescue homes around the world.”
Before joining A Child’s Right, Eric spent four years in China installing water systems in orphanages. Over the next ten years, the goal is to outfit every one of China’s state-run orphanages with a clean water system. It will take five years just to complete all of the installations, but by the end of 2008, they hope to have helped over 5,000 Chinese children gain access to clean water.
For the first few months of 2008, A Child’s Right will be focused on establishing their office in Langfang, just outside of Beijing, and on fundraising. “Each year of installations in China will necessitate raising USD 250,000,” notes Eric, so they have a daunting task ahead. In the spring, they will be looking for volunteers who can assist them not just financially, but with the actual work of organizing and installing water systems throughout China.
A Child’s Right
Eric Stowe, Director