Rutgers China Care Club raise funds, recognition for underprivileged children in world's most populous country
The adversity confronted by underprivileged children in China may not be a principal concern around campus, but a student group at Rutgers is striving to change that.
When the Rutgers China Care Club came into fruition last fall, its members set out to draw attention to the hardships that orphaned and disadvantaged children experience in China. Through fundraising initiatives, they hope to contribute to OneSky – an international non-profit organization – and its efforts to help these youths.
The organization’s president, Blair Donner, has been involved with OneSky and other similar programs since her days in high school. She was eager to use her experience and establish a chapter on campus.
“When I came to Rutgers, I realized that there were lot of clubs here that focused on charitable ventures, but there were very few that focused on China or Taiwan,” the School of Arts Sciences junior said. “This is why we founded the club.”
Originally established as Half the Sky in 1998, OneSky focuses on China’s vast orphaned and disenfranchised child population. Through educational and nurturing care, the organization hopes to prepare these at-risk children for their eventual transition into Chinese society.
The group’s approaches are individually modeled for youths of different age ranges. For instance, toddlers are fostered through a pre-school like and hands-on education, Donner said.
“Through the different programs that they have, they can really reach (the children) and have a meaningful impact in their lives,” said Dahlia Nelson, director of communications for the Rutgers China Care Club and a School of Arts and Sciences senior.
The orphans – who are commonly viewed by sections of China as a financial burden – should be regarded as a worthy and ethical investment, according to the club’s website.
“It is very difficult for disadvantaged children to move forward in their goals,” Nelson said. “We try to give them that support that they may otherwise not have.”
China’s substantial number of abandoned and orphaned children stems from a combination of social, economic and political dynamics present in the Asian country, she said.
The strict regulations imposed by the Chinese government limit the life opportunities that orphans receive, as they often lack birth certificates and proper documentations, Nelson said.
“China has a humongous population,” Donner said. “I think it is a very big challenge for their policy makers to manage this.”
Chinese youths with disabilities are often denied education and forsaken in orphanages, according to a report by the Human Rights Watch.
The recently abolished infamous one-child policy and other reproductive parameters implemented by the authoritarian state have increased the number of so called “baby hatches” – safe places for dropping off unwanted children.
Financial uncertainty in a fluctuating Chinese economy has also contributed to the country’s broken child welfare system. Parents are often forced to give away their children because they find themselves unable to afford their care, according to The Globe and Mail.
Nevertheless, the number of abandoned children has dwindled recently because of efforts by OneSky and other international volunteer groups, Donner said.
The president of the newly created University chapter said supporting non-profit and transnational organizations like OneSky is an effective way to improve and consolidate America’s relations with China.
“As we move forward into the 21st century … we want to show that we can have a constructive relationship with China,” Donner said. “Doing joint community projects is one way to establish friendly relations.”
Moreover, Donner said students should attempt to participate in global and charitable initiatives.
“Rutgers has a long history with Chinese studies … and we have a lot of Chinese international students who come here and who are part of the community,” Donner said. “We want to show them that we care about their causes.”
Although it is easy to maintain an attitude of indifference towards seemingly foreign and distant concerns, Nelson said everyone should attempt to care about what occurs outside their own lives.
“If we as a generation are unable to look beyond our social media, its not going to be a promising future,” she said. “There is much reward that you get from learning about someone else’s culture and values.”
Camilo Montoya-Galvez is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in Spanish and journalism and media studies. He is a correspondent for The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @camiloooom