Orphanage helps China's blind come out of the dark

Thu Oct 2, 2008 10:45am EDT
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BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - Many blind children in China, often abandoned by parents seeking "perfect" offspring or fearing social stigma, have few chances at a relatively normal life, but a Beijing orphanage is hoping to change that.

Located deep in the capital's rural suburbs, Bethel orphanage caters especially for the blind and visually impaired.

The students, who would most likely receive little or no education in other orphanages, take lessons in everything from Chinese and English Braille to how to interact in society.

Bethel, which says it is the only orphanage dedicated to the blind, also provides training for staff at regular orphanages in how to deal with blind and visually impaired children.

While many of China's blind go on to find work in the country's countless blind massage parlors, Bethel's schooling aims to prepare students for a variety of careers.

"This kind of school helps blind people in a lot of ways, for example they can study, and can come into contact with other people in society. So I think it's very important," said Li Ying, aged 19, and currently Bethel's oldest student who came to the orphanage three years ago from rural Henan province.

Opened in 2003, Bethel, a licensed international charity which is run in conjunction with local Chinese non-governmental organizations, receives most of its funding from foreign, private donations and corporate sponsorship.

The orphanage is almost totally self-sustainable, growing its own food and raising its own animals on 17 hectares (42 acres) of land. It now has 35 children, the youngest aged a few months.

"The environment here is really good, and there are a lot of friends to play with, and I can learn a lot of things," said He Chunbing, an eight-year-old student.   Continued...