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Community Care Brings Hope to the Children

——AIDS orphan community-based fosterage and care in Yingjiang County of Yunnan Province

Yunnan Women and Child Development Center  UNICEF


The project of AIDS orphan community fosterage and care in Yingjiang County depends on the Women’s Federation system, bases on the community and mobilizes the women cadres of the grassroots communities to go among the counties, towns and villages, attaches importance to fostering the participation and social psychological diathesis of the children in the activities of the project and pays attention to the improvement of the support capability of the households and communities, to enable the children affected by AIDS of the communities to get effective support and assistance. Through years’ of the activities of the project, the communities and relevant sectors have been mobilized to establish a relatively stable community care network basing on the women federation as the main body and caring team, as well as the pattern of orphan care on the basis of community household fosterage, which lays the groundwork for continuous development of the future work and provides effective experience and patterns for other areas to launch the care work for the children affected by AIDS.

Yingjiang is located in the west border of Yunnan Province, the special geographic location and a large number of the drug-taking populations incur the increase of the HIV infections year by year. Since the first case of AIDS was found in 1990, so far the infections have expanded to 19 villages (towns) and one farm and four partial fields affiliated with the county, most of them centralize in the minority and the married population. During recent years due to the deaths of AIDS patients, most of their children become orphans. In Yingjiang County, AIDS orphans are mainly distributing in 14 villages of 8 towns such as Taiping, Xincheng, Nongzhang and so on, therein 31 of the 50 orphans are studying in the elementary schools, one in junior middle school, and 18 of them are unable to go to school or discontinue their study. They are confronted with many problems in life and education and due to the bad economic conditions, it is difficult for the local government to provide fund support to them.

After Dad had got infected with HIV due to drug-taking, my life became very miserable. My classmates s discriminated me, the relatives and friends looked down upon me. We are too poor to afford enough food and sometimes even a meal cannot be afforded. Because we have no money, I cannot go to school and have to do the farm work at home.
—— One 14-year-old child

After my father passed away due to AIDS, there were some difficulties in my family, because only Mom work alone. At that time, I had been nine years old. I saw Mom working, sometimes she could not do so much work and my uncle came to help her and then Mom had to let me stop my studying. I worked with Mom every day for nearly one year, but not long before Mom also died.
—— An orphan of 14 years old

1. Findings, tracing, needs analysis and comprehensive social psychological support to ensure survival, development, protection and participation rights of AIDS orphans

(1) Find and reflect the problem
In July 2002, the young headman (also the head of the village) of Katong Stockaded Village talked about the new problem arisen by AIDS orphans, when staff of HIV/AIDS prevention and control came to the village.

When leaving the stockaded village we came across a girl. The village head made an introduction that the father of this kid passed away due to AIDS when she was 11 years old and her mother also got married again and left her alone at another place. She had an elder sister and a younger brother and was currently living with their grandfather, who, whereas, had lost the capability to work, and they were mainly supported by their uncle. They were thinking of learning more information from this girl, while a very common question—’how was your life’ made her melt into tears, even could not say a word. In order to calm down her feeling, the staff were lightly giving her a pat on the back. She intermittently stated the current situation of her family…

The head said that the village would have the kids alike in the future, and there were quite a few of such kids in other village too. Since the villages were located in the poverty county and the finance in the county and towns was not enough, they had no the capability of helping such kids.

In 2003, the staff of Yunnan Women and Child Development Center went to the villages to conduct the household survey for comprehending the circumstances of the local places and the real needs of the target population and holding the current situation of the life, study and health of the orphans. Through the survey they found that most of the children who became orphans due to AIDS were living in the remote villages quite dispersedly. After their parents died of the morbidity, they were left without someone looking after them or took care of by their old grandparents or other relatives, which, nevertheless, added a lot of burden to the foster homes without any doubt in such border poverty areas. There was not any guarantee for the healthy development of physiology and psychology of these orphans.
(2) Determine the system and resources for solving the problems

In Yingjiang, the women federation has the working system in-depth into the villages and communities. The staffs of women’s federation are the core strength of the women and children supporting system in the villages. After the problem concerning orphans incurred, some female cadres of the villages had initiatively begun to hold the activities to help such kids, hence the women and kids all trusted in them.

After their parents died, these three girls felt very fear and dared not sleep even in a small bed together, and then I came to string along with them every day.
—— One cadres of the village women federation

Mom did not feel well and Dad always wanted to sell the articles of my home, but Mom did not allow him to do so then he raised a hand to Mom. After Mom died, Dad sold out the boiler and bowls, so sometimes we had meals in the home of my aunty. People dared not help us until Dad died. I worked in the county to support my two younger sisters. Aunty Mielan presented a small boiler to us and now we are capable of cooking by ourselves.
—— One orphan of 15 years old

The stockaded village is small so we understand each family very well. Sometimes women will get together and gossiped about the matters in the families, they also drop by each other’s house and help each other,
—— Female cadres

After comprehending the circumstances of the villages, the staff contacted with the county magistrate, the prefectural AIDS office and etc. 30 leaders of the member units to hold a conference for discussion, which finally determined to coordinate with the performance of the project of households and communities care for the children affected by AIDS by the various sectors according to their own duty on the basis of women’s federation. Women and Children Development Center also signed agreement on the project cooperation with the prefectural women federation, designed, revised and perfected the statements on basic situation of the orphan foster households, agreement on the project cooperation signed by and between the town health centers, central schools and women federation and the forms required in other activities of the project. As the standing committee of the county committee, the president of women federation irregularly reported the problems and achievements in the grassroots to the prefectural government of the county committee, discussed about them with relevant sectors and passed the documents to let the relevant sectors to carry out. The specific duties of the women federation included: finding the children who got such problems, finding specific problems through routine home visiting, analyzing and categorizing the specific problems, coordinating with the relevant sectors to solve the problems, meanwhile taking in charge of improving the household fostering capability, education capability and psychological support.

  Children were drawing together

(3) Comprehensive care for life, studying and psychology

The women’s federation promptly took actions after the duty was determined. Experts of the Provincial Women and Children Center and the female cadres of the county, towns and villages went from house to house to inquire about the situation and began the demands investigation to build archives for the children and their households and promptly provide the urgently needed assistance for the livelihood and study of the children. Meanwhile, through jointly negotiating with the education office, civil affairs authority, children and guardians, they analyzed the problems concerning the life, education, protection and participation confronted by the children, put forward the methods for solving the problems integrating with the local resources, and finally determined the support solution. Afterwards, they initiated the activities of daily follow-up survey and social psychological support in accordance with the solution.

Besides the daily home visiting and communication at any time for the children by the grassroots women federation, the kids were capable of amusing themselves, playing games, painting, dancing, singing songs, camping, doing handwork, and talking about their parents, AIDS, drugs in group activity held once a month, during which they could express their own thoughts, and relieve their psychological pressure and exchange effective countermeasures, as well as learn the folk arts.

One kid recalled: when I was in the third grade, I saw one classmate of mine wearing a very beautiful colorful skirt in the class, while my own clothing was worn, then after I got home I told Mom, ‘I want a new skirt.’ Mom said, ‘We are not rich, so just manage with it.’ Listening to Mom’s word, I felt depressed and put the bowl aside and went to school. When I went back home in the afternoon, Mom was growing vegetable in the yard. She asked me to go to the kitchen to have supper, while I neglected her word and ran into my room. But when I found that Mom had sewed a little flower in the place where the hole placed in that clothing, I was very happy. Mom asked me, ‘Is it beautiful?’ I replied, ‘Yes…’

Home is the basis for the children to survive and develop. In the interest of providing a sound household environment to the children and on the basis of daily home visiting and negotiation, the women federation would organize the trainings for the guardians every year to discuss about how to offer the household care to the children and the feasible household development projection. Through the revenue-increasing activities of keeping chickens, raising pigs, raising ducks and growing fruits, the economic situation of the households gradually turned better, which also laid the groundwork for providing the children with constant household support. Now, 120 kids were all capable of going to school, smile appeared in their faces again.

The best method for solving the psychological problems of AIDS orphan was to make them gradually removed in a familiar environment. Practice showed that the community fosterage was a very good method to help the orphan children caused by AIDS through the strength of the society, which was not the same as that of welfare homes and orphanages. Fostered in a relatively suitable household, the kids could be able to have the necessary care in the aspects of education, health and livelihood. The kids were not necessary to leave their familiar environment but got feelings of families and care from the society, which was very conductive to the healthy growth of the kids.
—— President of the women federation

It seems as if I were another guy, for I was so weak in the past while very strong now. When I investigated in the community I found that the kids who did not have enough food and clothing in the past now are well fed and clothed and those who had to dropped out of schools had returned l and sit down in the bright classrooms. The guardians tell us that we ought to study by heart and requite the uncles and aunts for their help and care when we grow up in the future.
—— Orphan A

When I saw her in September 2003, she, who was usually quiet before and used to hanging her head, was singing a song, and when I went to her house again in March 2004, I found her completely another girl. She told us that she told her classmates about the experience of watching Tian’anmen, climbing the Great Wall, meeting with the leaders of the central committee and meeting the foreigners in Beijing after she attended the meeting in Beijing and came back. She said she was expecting to become a traveler in the future.
—— A staff of women federation

2. Participation and enpowerment of children

In order to continuously develop the project of communities-based fosterage and care for the orphan children caused by AIDS, foster the faiths of self-confidence, self-reliance and independence of the orphans and encourage them to be brave enough to face the reality and not yield to the challenges of the destination, the women and children development center and the prefectural women federation initiated the ‘activities of investigating the social capability and current demands of the children’ in the way of comprehending the demands of the children through their participation and cultivating their capability during the process of participating in self-solving their own problems.

The training was undertaken in three stages:

The first stage: enable the children to learn and know well the meaning of the children’s rights, the skills of the demand investigation, and the relevant information on AIDS through the training thus laying the foundation of conception for the subsequent activities and building the understanding and trusting relationship with each other. Due to the special experience, majority of the kids were in a low mood and overcautious at the beginning of the training. In the light of such circumstance, the trainer broke the deadlock by playing some relaxed and funny games with the kids and then formally began the training after they felt relaxed. With the training, these little trainees not only leant the knowledge on children’s rights, living skills and HIV/AIDS prevention but also mastered the skills of communicating with others. Meanwhile their capability of oral expression and teamwork as well as the consciousness of team had been greatly improved.

The second stage: survey practice. 30 trainees were divided into six groups, who would go to the households affected by AIDS to initiate the activity of research under the leadership of the cadres of women federation and instructors after they returned to their communities, to shoot large amount of photographs on the living environment of these households, communities, schools, mates and their own life from the view of children and write down relevant illustrations and a lot of interview records. The results of the research not only showed the colorful works and the elaborate arrangement of the kids but also displayed the endeavors of the cadres of local women federation and teachers, especially that of the kids in the second stage of field survey.

The third stage: on the basis of the first and the second stages, the kids had formed a good habit of studying in group and had some consciousness of team, which laid the solid foundation for the activities of the third stage and enabled the children to get rid of the anxiety and precaution to open their mind and spoke out their own thinking sincerely and naturally.

Through this training I see a light in my future and will not worry about leaving the school. You’re the sunlight of the February shining on me, making the confidence of us orphans increased. Since my family was poor and I had no dream in the past. But now my dream is to become an flight stewardess, because we are living in the mountain areas and have never been to a further place before, we even have never seen an aircraft before.
—— Orphan B

Each time I feel honored to participate in the activities. My family was poor when I was a little child, therefore, we could neither go to school, have good meals, nor wear good clothes, additionally we lost our father. It is your support that warms my heart and it is you who lend a hand to help us go through. I hope I can come here to have classes; I must be brave enough to speak out and concentrate on the lecture. I will study hard and try to answer the questions asked by the teachers.
--Orphan C

Through revising the contents of the first stage, enjoying the achievements of the second stage, analyzing the current situation and demands of the children affected by ADIS and pleasantly talking about their worldly ideal and their hope and longing to their homes, communities, schools and mates, the kids were capable of seeing the hope of the future. They knew what they ought to do, what responsibility and obligation they had and what did they require the government and the other people to do. The kids truly spoke out their thinking. They hoped they could have the care of parents and warmth of homes as the kids in the ordinary households, have enough food and clothing, have the wide houses get more help from others, and finish their studies and etc.. From the ideal tree drew by the kids, the staff saw the ideal home, community, school and mates of the kids.


(2) Training on children’s rights and self-confidence construction

In order to enable AIDS orphan to understand the rights that they ought to have and protect their own legal rights and interest; getting rid of their inferior mentality and building the faiths of self-confidence, self-reliance and independence; encouraging them to be brave enough to face the reality and pursuing their happy future, the center and the prefectural women federation cooperated with each other to held the ‘training courses on children’s rights and building children’s self-confidence’, which had trained more than 30 orphans and the female cadres of the county and towns.

After trained, the kids got great changes, which were expressed in different forms and contents:

Giving water to the one who is terribly thirst can enable them to have a new life and be far away from the worry of thirsty. Sun shines on the trees and flowers, which enables them to be taken care of by the sunshine and become thriving, while these three activities do great favors to us. When I came here at the beginning, I felt very sorrowful, for neither did I have parents nor did I get a chance to go to school, I only saw darkness in my life, but with the help of you I went to school again. My parents will not be alive again, however, from now on I will neither feel blue nor be sorrowful, for as far as I am concerned, misfortune may happen in every place, but with the help of the other people, they will be far from the difficulties. The world is full of true feelings and true love everywhere.
--Orphan D

I’ve changed a lot. I’m bold and brave now with great courage. I’m not a frequently depressed and quiet guy any more.
--Orphan E

(3) Social mobilization of the children’s participation
In order to mobilize the entire society to lend a hand to them to solve their own problems, some orphan children caused by AIDS actively participated in some activities of social mobilization. On November 30, 2003, three representatives of AIDS orphan from Yunnan Province spoke out their problems, the influence of the social support on them and the hope of them to the leaders of the central committee and the media for the first time in the social mobilization meeting on the care for the children affected by AIDS. Their words attracted the attention of the relevant central authorities, which promptly went to give a field survey on the situation of such kids and began to actively offer the assistance.

3. Capacity building of the female cadres and relevant sectors
According to the demand research, all the staff thought that the household fosterage capacity and education capacity should be improved and the children were also in need of powerful psychological support, however, how to initiate these highly technical work became a problem. After explained by the experts of children psychology in the training courses, the women knew that the psychological problems of the children could be identified through observing the abnormal emotion and behaviors of the children, the demands of the children could be known through multiple languages and in nonverbal form, care and education could be given to the children by the common principles of being a parent, and the children who had been given a heavy blow in mind could be soothed through various actions including mutually discussing about the future with the kids. After participating in the training, I understand that the mental care is actually the common care, including embrace, stroking massage, consolation and encouragement, fulfilling their basic material demands, enabling them to feel the warmth of home, in addition, we can also show our mental care by the way of playing games with them, telling stories, painting, writing, singing songs and dancing, which not only enables the children to express themselves but is helping  us  knowing their demands.
 --Speech of a cadre of the town women federation in a training course on psychological social support 

Household, school, community and civil affairs and labor sectors play very important role in the livelihood, study and growth of the children, therefore, shall regularly or irregularly organize such supporting systems, hold meetings and initiate the trainings, as well as analyze the specific problems confronted by the children and search for effective solutions to create a better supporting environment for the growth of the children.
(Li Jianming Xu Wenqing)