Bethel China is getting ready to celebrate 10 years of working with orphans with visual impairments! On the 13th December 2003, Guillaume and Delphine Gauvain took 3 blind orphans into their home in Beijing, China.
The Bethel family grew and grew, moving into larger homes, establishing a primary school, homes in the city to encourage independent living, a safe space for children with multi-disabilities, a home inside a government orphanage and educational outreach training for parents and orphanages across China.
From just 3 children, over 140 children have now been a part of Bethel China’s family in the past 10 years. We continue to see life transformation happen on a daily basis, as children learn to grow in a safe and loving environment.
Whether you have been following Bethel every step of the way or just became a new sponsor in the past year, thank you for your support for Bethel China. We could not be where we are without the individual contributions of so many people. Stay with us as we journey on through the next 10 years!
If you are in Beijing, don’t miss our 10 year anniversary party!
Read all about Our Story on Bethel’s website.
As children become teenagers, it is even more important that we treat them as individuals.
Dong Fang (Eric) is a 12-year-old boy who has been in Bethel’s care for three years. He is very clever. He had never learned Braille before coming to Bethel, and after just a few weeks, he could read! He was one in the first group of children who started going to the Beijing School for the Blind.
Dong Fang’s first year at school was a struggle. As he is very clever and picks things up quickly, he was often bored in class, and he chose to push the boundaries of what he could get away with. He frequently ran away from his school classroom and his teachers were very angry. They resorted to asking his ayis to always stand outside the door to catch him on his way out.
Eventually, his ayis and teachers realised that whenever Dong Fang ran away from class, he headed straight for the elevator. He has a very technical mind and he loves anything to do with engineering. He kept asking questions about how the elevator worked.
At the beginning of the semester in March this year, Dong Fang was told that if he stayed at school during his classes, worked hard, and passed his exams, then he would be able to visit an elevator factory for his birthday. Thinking of this reward was the motivation that he needed. He worked hard, and during the summer holidays, he was allowed to visit the Schindler Offices in Beijing.
The Schindler team were wonderful! They spent some time giving the kids a presentation about the electronics behind elevators, and told them about the fastest and strongest ones in the world. Their presentation was fun, interactive and creative-perfect for children who are blind.
After the presentations, they took the kids to the escalators and elevators to see how the theories are put into practice. The whole day was very hands on and educational.
Dong Fang loved it! At the end, the Schindler team gave him a hat for his birthday.
The kids that we have at Bethel are like any other child. Each one is very different, they need different motivations, goals and rewards, and they need to be treated as individuals. It was a wonderful experience for Dong Fang’s caregivers and teachers to see him so excited to learn about different engineering projects. He is such a sweet boy!
Thank you for supporting Bethel’s vision to see every child with a visual life life to the fullest. We believe that children like Dong Fang can grow up to be an engineer. He has the mind, and the drive, and the determination to do so. It is our job to give our kids the opportunities to learn about different careers that they can work towards.
We have expanded our vision to support children with visual impairments in China, not just orphans, but also children who still have parents. Bethel has found that that the parents of visually impaired children are often isolated, feel alone and don’t have the resources to teach their children how to grow and learn and live life to the fullest.
During the last week of June, Bethel’s Project 555 held a workshop on how to care for and educate young children with visual impairments. Over 20 parents (and grandparents) who have young children with blindness, 10 participants came from orphanages, foster homes and schools attended the week of training workshops.
We were happy to welcome many parents and grandparents to the training so that they could become better equipped to meet their children’s needs. In China there are special schools for children with blindness who are of primary school age and above, but it is difficult to find a pre-school or kindergarten. Bethel hopes to fill in the gap by providing training and other resources to parents. By the end of the week, everyone on the team had got to know one another. Having a community of people in the same situation helps everyone realise that they are not alone.
The workshop covered many topics, including early childhood development, low vision, braille, fine motor skills, self-help skills and sensory integration. 8 of Bethel's teachers from our school taught the classes.
During the workshop week, participants were taught how to guide a person who is blind, how to use an adaptive mobility device, and how to use a white cane. They were blindfolded to try all of these skills. By having these experiences with the blindfold, participants will be better able to help their children learn the skills.
Another workshop topic was art, taught by Teacher Yang, a teacher at Bethel’s Doudian Center. In the art class, participants had a paper with a raised line shape already on it, such as a flower. Using tactile materials such as tissue paper with glue, they could create a tactile picture that they could feel and enjoy later.
Our kids who live at Bethel receive great care and education, but they are still orphans, without a family to call their own. To be in a family is still the most important aspect of a child's development, and so we hope that in reaching out to parents, we can help to reduce the number of visually impaired children in orphanages, in a small way.
We hope that everyone left the training feeling equipped and encouraged!
Bethel’s City Life Project is arguably Bethel’s most important project in terms of preparing kids for independent living in Chinese society. Our 9 children in this project have thrived on the daily routine and structure of a public school environment and we are blessed to say that they do all love school (apart from their endless piles of homework)!
Outside of receiving a high-quality education, the kids live in their own homes with caregivers who act as a parent, teaching practical life skills such as how to cook, buy groceries, run a household, but also how to share, be generous, and other moral and social principles. Like a parent, their caregivers also have to discipline them, giving them appropriate punishments for bad behaviour.
Without this project, these children (growing up into teenagers) would most likely still be living in institutional care, often with 20 plus others, with little access to education and stimulating activities. None of the nine children in this project had received adequate education before Bethel. After the children turn 14, they lose the opportunity to be adopted into a family, and so we at Bethel are committed to being their family for the rest of thier lives.
Those who come into contact with our kids are impressed and amazed by their characters, knowledge and social skills. They are far from being perfect children, but we are so proud of them for achieving what they have considering their difficult starts in life.
Here is Pan Pan’s story:
Pan Pan came to Bethel in 2009 when he was seven years old. He had been attending a school for children with visual impairments close to his orphanage, but he didn’t have good enough self-help skills to be able to stay there, having not been taught to orient himself and walk, go to the bathroom or eat by himself.
When he first arrived at Bethel, his teachers focused his whole first year’s education on self-help skills. After a while, he learned how to read Braille. He is a very good student, he loves singing and music, and last summer had the opportunity to go and sing in an event in Qingdao…and go to the beach! He will be 11 years old this year. He is a lovely boy and we are so proud of his progress.
Thank you for your continued support to Bethel!
Help us to spread the word:
We are looking for new sponsors for the school year starting in September 2013. We’ve found that having a number of sponsors for each project makes things much more sustainable, and so we’re trying to find 15-20 new sponsors, who can each contribute around $5000USD for the year, which together will add up to comprehensively cover the costs of this project.
Although nine children may seem like a small number, our vision is to see life-transformation for each and every visually impaired child in China. If you are interested in partnering with us on this project (or know an individual, company or foundation who may be interested), please email info(a)bethelchina.org.
jump over to our facebook page www.facebook.com/bethelchina.loveisblind to see more...
At Bethel China, we try to keep our supporters updated with the ups and downs of our organisation. We think that it is important that we highlight both the successes and challenges of our work.
There are a few ways in which you can keep regularly updated about Bethel's work. You can subscribe to the updates that are written by Bethel's founders, Guillaume and Delphine. Click here to subscribe on our bethelchina.org website.
As well as email updates, you can also keep connected through social media on facebook and weibo.
Below is the latest email update about Bethel from our founders in the Philippines.
Thank you for your support!
Before we left China I told you that we wanted to take you all on an adventure with my family as we embark for Cebu island and see how we can be of help. The beginning is what I call the “birth pains”. You are getting ready to start something, but not sure exactly what, somewhere you don’t really know! It’s a lot of unknown to take in! Some find it is a recipe for an anxiety attack, some feel like “let’s go baby! let’s do this!!!”.
Our experience in China comes handy sometimes to put things into perspective. When we started Bethel, it took a year and a half before we received the first children. It is so frustrating to have an idea, a plan, a heart and feeling like you are stuck in the starting blocks. But that’s when you get thick skin, you learn the ropes. Vision falls flat to the ground without good old determination. An organization is people. The first of whom is its founder, the pioneer. The way he sets things up will set the tone for the organization’s culture for years to come. That’s why if you want to change an organization you have to fire the founder or send him to a far away tropical island like Cebu !!! :) (I can hear the Chinese staff from here:” Fire him, fire him!!! :-)
Unlike China, everybody speaks english here. It is tempting to by-pass learning the language because you can communicate but there is something special that happens when you take the time and effort to learn the people’s language. First of all it gives them a smile up to their ears! but most importantly it puts you on the same level, or lower for that matter, since you speak like a baby. Language carries more than information. Specially in the context of a colonized country, language also carries history which can get in the way.
We are working on a permanent resident visa which is a lot of running around! The children are all homeschooled which keeps Delphine busy. In the beginning, one thing that is important I think is to ask a lot of questions, to many different people. It helps me to shape a clearer picture of the environment and to know where are its limits and averages... by that I mean that unlike the West where you have data for everything from what is the market price of a used 1997 ford with X miles to land lease low average and high price per square meter, here you have to go through friends of a friend. For anything you need or ask, there is always a friend who knows a friend... so it’s important to get your facts from several sources to find the average and make it your negotiation goal.
Mary (555 director), Nancy (Lighthouse Manager) and Liqin (who use to be one of Bethel kids and got an education in the US and now works for Bethel) came to visit us from China, for a few days.
We ate Jiaozi, lots of them! (actually about 100!!!)
We took them to the beach. Liqin describes the ocean has a big thing you can get into, with no end...
News from China
During that time, back in China were levels of pollution would make a chimney cleaner loose his sleep, life goes on. We decided to give the animals more freedom and it’s nice to see them roaming around, mowing the lawn.
Our poney is now good buddie with the sheep!
Tabitha built a nice blanket castle for the children. I love when these kind of things happen, it really makes Bethel feel more like a home. It gives memories to the children that other children will have in common with them later on.
A little 7 year old boy in our Zhengzhou project called Rong Fei came to Bethel on the 6th November this year. Just a few weeks later, he told his ayi that he had a bad headache, so she sent him for a scan in the hospital. Sadly, he was diagnosed with cancer of the eye at a very late stage, and he died on the 10th January 2013. We are very sad, we will continue to serve blind orphans in China to ensure that preventable eye disease is caught at an early stage.
The ZZ project now has 10 children with visual impairments, as you can see, during the winter they all have to wear hundreds of layers of clothing, so they look very round. In the past few months of this project, Bethel staff have loved and cared for the children, teaching them to speak and walk. They are in Bethel's care on weekdays from 8am-5pm and are eating more vitamins, fruit and milk. We are looking for a doctor to give these children a health check, if you know anyone in or around Zhengzhou, please let us know!
Bethel has joined together with a number of other organisations working with vulnerable children in China to work as a team to exchange experiences and ideas. Together, we serve just a small number of children in China, but his will be a great platform in the future for us to combine resources and build stronger mechanisms to reach out to more children across China in the future.
The kids and young people in our Changping project are doing well adapting to their new environment with structured classes and therapy. Here, they are learning about painting and visual art. They also have more O&M lessons and individual goals. Xin Ai has learned how to feed himself with a spoon in just a few weeks!
It was Christina's birthday on Friday 11th January. She saved up and bought a new handbag for herself, and she also opened up some lovely presents and talked to some sponsors on skype. As she is learning how to be responsible with her work, money and time, she got a little treat: a weekend in the city eating, having her nails painted, playing foosball and spending time with the girls in Bethel's City Life Project. She was pretty tired by the end of it! She still needs encouragement as she transitions into being a working adult and a member of the team at Bethel, but we are proud of the progress that she is making.
Our kids at the Blind School were featured in January's edition of 'Runner's World' magazine! This is great exposure and we hope that more people are inspired to run through the example of our kids. In the spring we will re-launch Bethel's running club and we hope lots of people will join us! It's a great way to stay healthy and to change misconceptions about what visually impaired children can and can't do.
A Scottish ophthalmologist came to our DD project last week to check our kids eyes and to recommend some of our children to wear glasses. She told us that for our kids who have some vision, we should harness that vision and give them the resources to be able to see more. She highlighted 8 children who will go to the hospital in the next few months to see if they can be fitted for glasses. She had some cool apps on her iPad that were interactive and the kids who have low vision were able to see them instantly and you could tell that their eyes were stimulated and they could see something. If anyone would like to sponsor a pair of glasses, please let us know.
Ok folks, that’s it for me!
Thank you for being part of this adventure with us!
Guillaume & Delphine
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