The holidays are a time to be with family, but what about those who have none? Charitable organizations, volunteer groups, and NGOs are often the only source of care and comfort for orphans and critically endangered babies. There are several ways to help: volunteering, donating, organizing a fundraising event, or simply spreading the word. Read on about five local organizations that support sick, disadvantaged, or orphaned children. Give the gift of warmth, education, medical care, and a full belly this Christmas to those who need it most.
Little Flower Projects
Notable projects: Providing critical medical care to babies is Little Flower’s priority. The charity also offers group foster homes for physically disabled children who are unlikely to get adopted, hospice care for children with incurable medical conditions, long-term care for physically and mentally disabled children, and help for special cases – such as children from poor families with medical or educational needs.
Organization size: Little Flower has a bit over 100 employees and volunteers. Though the organization may care for just 75 children at a time, they are looked after on a 24/7 basis. To manage the workload, Little Flower organizes three shifts per day.
How to volunteer: Volunteering is critical to Little Flower’s efforts, but the charity prefers serious volunteers who are willing to commit their time. Children are welcome, but they may need to be accompanied by their parents.
There are three types of volunteers: Care Volunteers, Team Volunteers, and Resident Volunteers. Care Volunteers go through a training program and are expected to make a regular time commitment. Little Flower usually has one full-time staff member for every two to three children; Care Volunteers are the ones who step in when this standard ratio cannot be kept. They comfort, feed, and care for the children, as well as provide play and stimulation. They usually live near Little Flower’s project sites.
Team Volunteers don’t necessarily live in China. They have specialized skills and take on a special role within the organization. It sometimes involves interacting with children, but it can also be a purely administrative or communication role. Team Volunteers must sign an agreement with Little Flower.
Last but not least, Resident Volunteers are those who have made a minimum time commitment of six months and actually live at a Little Flower project site. They care for the children, and also perform administration and communication tasks.
Other ways to help: Little Flower encourages interested parties to visit their project sites and see how they can help. Since the charity is a grassroots organization, it relies on the community for financial support. Though money donations are appreciated, Little Flower urges people to become a "fundraising machine" for them by hosting fundraising events and spreading the word about their mission.
Most pressing needs: Money to cover basic running costs like caregiver salaries (Little Flower’s biggest expense), medical costs, utilities, rent, transportation, and repairs.
English-speaking staff? The training program is offered in both English and Chinese, and there is always someone on the project sites who speaks English.
Little Flower Projects
Office: Assunta (Beijing) Culture Development Co Ltd, Rm 1748, Hyundai Motor Tower, 28 Xiaoyun Lu, Chaoyang District
Packs of Hope
Packs of Hope operates out of the River of Grace Church near Sanyuan Qiao. The group provides backpacks filled with school supplies, toiletries, clothing, and small gifts to children in need in both Asia and Africa. Their projects in China focus on packpacks and used clothing distribution. Packs of Hope also collects donations and regularly sends containers to Africa for orphans and impoverished rural families. For a complete list of drop-off locations for backpacks, visit the church’s website.
Notable projects: Packs of Hope has distributed over 4,600 backpacks and gifts to disadvantaged children since their first donation drive in 2005. Since 2007, the charity has also sent three containers to Africa and is getting ready to send out another 40-foot container by the end of the year. In the past, Packs of Hope has also built a school for an orphanage in Liberia, Africa.
Organization size: Packs of Hope is one of several charity projects run by the River of Grace Church. It’s not an NGO, but rather a seasonal or project-based organization. There is no full-time staff, but several volunteers work on Packs on Hope every year.
How to volunteer: When large donations come in, Packs of Hope gathers volunteers to pack and sort through the goods. Older kids are welcome to join.
Other ways to help: Packs of Hope encourages people to organize their own backpack drives. The church can supply empty backpacks for the applicant’s school, group, or company to fill. Backpacks can be stocked with school supplies, clothing, toiletry products, and small gifts.
Most pressing needs: In addition to filling backpacks, Packs of Hope needs donated clothing for its charitable projects. They are currently looking for winter clothes, blankets, and other supplies for the families of children who receive backpacks.
English-speaking staff? All of the organizers speak English.
“I came to the River of Grace Church in 2007. It was then that I first heard about the Packs of Hope project. That year, I was asked to help sort and pack backpacks so they could be sent to needy children. Several months later, we got pictures of the children receiving their donations. I was so touched when I saw their smiling faces. They were so happy to get new clothes, mosquito nets, school supplies and lots of other things they needed. It really touched my heart, and I realized that I’m able to do more to help these kids.”
– Ibrahim Abdi, Somalia
The River of Grace Church
The Great Hotel, 2/F, 1 Zuojiazhuang Lu, Chaoyang District (6466 1680, 131 2690 5684, email@example.com) www.theriverofgrace.com 朝阳区左家庄路1号，北京贵国酒店2层
Bethel China Foundation
Bethel is a national organization that provides training, education, and services to blind and visually impaired orphans in China. The charity was founded in 2002 by a French couple, Guillaume and Delphine Gauvain. Bethel is comprised of a foster home in Liugudao Village and a newly opened charity store in Shunyi.
Notable projects: The Love is Blind project gives education, foster care, and medical services to students at Bethel’s training centers in Beijing and Zhengzhou, Henan. The Beijing location covers 17 acres and produces its own eggs, fruits, and vegetables. The foster home’s self-sustained model allows children to garden and raise animals independently. Bethel also started a national initiative, called Project 555. It provides resources, professional training, and medical screenings to partner orphanages throughout China.
Organization size: Bethel has about 90 employees from all over the world. The organization has two to 200 volunteers at any given time, depending on how much time people have to contribute. Volunteers range from large group that help out on the farm for an afternoon or an individual who spends a few hours teaching a child a new skill.
How to volunteer: Bethel currently needs expert volunteers in fields like translation, education, and fundraising. In addition, Bethel is always looking for groups, organizations, and companies to help with physical projects like harvesting corn or building greenhouses. For details on how to contribute, visit the “Get Involved” section on Bethel’s website.
Other ways to help: Besides volunteering, people can also donate money or items, sponsor a child, or buy something from the Bethel charity store. Those interested in sponsoring a child can do so directly through Bethel’s website. The Bethel charity store carries original products made by groups like the Beijing Guild, a local handicraft club. Depending on the product, 40-100 percent of the proceeds will go to Bethel.
Most pressing needs: Bethel needs staple items like toilet paper, cooking oil, rice, paper towels, and diapers. Some of their children require ongoing medical attention. Other general health costs include vitamins, common medicines, and yearly check-ups for the students.
English-speaking staff? The entire administration and education staff speaks English. The children are taught in both English and Chinese; some can even speak a bit of French or Korean.
“The first day I was there, I remember tearing up as I sat in on a class and being painfully aware of the children’s’ disabilities. It did not take long at all to realize that the children, in spite of all of their difficulties, were happy. While I do believe that I had a large impact on them, I think that they had a larger impact on me. The memories I have of my time there and the people I met will forever have a warm spot in my heart.”
-Lynelle Chen, 19, US
The Love is Blind Project
Liugudao Village, Doudian Township, Fangshan District (8031 0383, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.bethelchina.org
Bethel Charity Store
Store hours TBD. 3 Jingmi Lu (between Laiguangying Donglu and Xiangjiang Beilu), Shangpin Township, Shunyi District (8031 0383, email@example.com)
Roundabout is a not-for-profit organization that acts as a bridge between people in need and those who’d like to donate to their cause. Roundabout supports around 48 charities in the Beijing area, as well as others throughout China and Mongolia. The group is well-known to the expat community for organizing charity book fairs in partnership with international schools. Roundabout doesn’t currently have a physical address, but they will continue to do charitable projects as they look for a new location.
Notable projects: Roundabout has helped fund life-saving medical surgeries for children; provided warm clothing, blankets, and food to elderly men and women in Hebei province; sponsored three elderly men to stay in safe and warm group homes; gave coal to heat several orphanages in Shaanxi and Hebei; and sent clothing to areas like Qinghai province that were struck by natural disasters.
Organization size: Roundabout has a paid staff of four local women and around 20 volunteers.
How to volunteer: Volunteers can help with fundraising, marketing, assisting with the store and merchandising, sorting donated items and books, and lending a hand at book fairs. Children can also help by leading their classmates in fundraising efforts; many high school students also get community service hours by working at the store or organizing fundraisers.
Other ways to help: People can donate good quality items they no longer need, such as books, toys, games, furniture, household foods, decorative items, baby products, and bicycles. They can also organize clothing drives at school or at work; Roundabout can help with sorting and transportation. Financial donations, sponsorships, and partnerships with specific organizations are welcome. Roundabout can also match organizations, families, or schools with specific interests to a relevant charitable group.
Most pressing needs: During the winter months, Roundabout’s priority buys coal for poor orphanages in Shaanxi and Hebei Provinces, and providing clothing and blankets to children and the elderly. At other times, it depends on the specific needs of the organizations supported by Roundabout. However, the team does provide school and art supplies to many migrant schools and orphanages.
English-speaking staff? Most of Roundabout’s volunteers are English-speaking.
(firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com) http://roundaboutchina.com
New Hope Foundation
New Hope Foundation was started by Americans Joyce and Robin Hill to provide care and medical attention to abandoned infants with physical deformities. Their children’s home in the northeast of Beijing takes in babies under 6 months of age and helps them find foster homes in the area. The foundation also works with local children’s welfare institutes to raise awareness of the children’s plight and ensure a future for their infants.
Notable projects: New Hope Foundation has helped thousands of people over the last ten years. They currently have five units caring for 300 babies from all over China.
Organization size: The foundation has four volunteers and 540 local staff members.
How to volunteer: There are limited volunteering opportunities in Beijing. Instead, people are encouraged to visit the home and see how they can help out.
Other ways to help: The foundation is always in need of financial support, food, and clothing.
Most pressing needs: The children’s home needs a range of medical supplies: over the counter medicines, creams/gels, prescription drugs, nutrition products, and more. They also need baby items like winter clothes, bottles, bibs, and double strollers in any quantities that people can provide. For more details, visit New Hope Foundation’s website.
English-speaking staff? Yes.
97 Zhongxin Jie, Guojiawu Village, Beiwu Township, Shunyi District
(6142 4156/76, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.hopefosterhome.com