It takes a Children's Village to give orphans hope for the future

Updated: 2012-06-11 08:14

By Wang Ru in Tianjin (China Daily)

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Guang Meitong, a 4-year-old girl from South China, was born with a cleft palate and is autistic.

It takes a Children's Village to give orphans hope for the future

Tim Baker cradles a child at the Shepherd's Field Children's Village in Tianjin. Jiang Dong / China Daily

She barely talks but loves being held by visitors and resting her head on their shoulders as she clutches their clothes.

Guang was abandoned by her parents at birth. But thanks to the loving care of a US couple, she has had surgery and is awaiting adoption.

Her saviors are Tim and Pam Baker. Four of their seven children have been adopted from China, with the first joining their family in 1992, four years after the couple arrived in the country.

It takes a Children's Village to give orphans hope for the future

The Bakers also co-founded the Shepherd's Field Children's Village, which has cared for more than 4,000 orphans like Guang. More than 3,000 operations and medical procedures have been carried out and 900 children have been adopted.

Construction work began on the orphanage in June 2003 and it is home to 86 children.

The compound was built and decorated in traditional Chinese style.

All the children receive education and are under the care of 100 workers, including teachers, Chinese nannies, Western doctors, volunteers and interns.

The village, in Dawangguzhuang town in Tianjin's Wuqing district, is a compound of 11 buildings, including five dormitories, a school, a workshop and a clinic.

It receives children from orphanages around country. The majority of them come from impoverished rural areas.

About 40 children are adopted annually, with most joining overseas families.

The village has a long wall covered with the handprints of orphans who were adopted.

"I want the children to remember where they come from, even though they will live abroad with their new families, speaking different languages," Tim says.

A vocational training center is under construction, which has been delayed due to funding shortages. Its completion will make the orphanage the largest of its kind on the mainland, Tim says. It will be home to 150 orphans with special needs.

The 55-year-old from Wisconsin and his wife first arrived in China to teach English in Liaoning province's Fushun in 1988. They moved to Beijing to teach at a university in 1991. They volunteered at orphanages in their spare time.

An orphanage in Guizhou's provincial capital Guiyang cared for a 5-month-old girl who was born with serious congenital heart disease and always waved at the couple.

In 1992, the couple took the 50-hour train ride to Guiyang and adopted the girl.

"We changed the lives of our adopted children, and they also have huge impacts on our lives," Tim says.

"We just realized there are still many orphans who need help and an opportunity to change their lives."

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