Across China: Volunteer moms caring for left-behind children rises

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LANZHOU, May 12 (Xinhua) -- When Li Dan first met Chenchen (pseudonym), a left-behind child in the fourth grade, she felt as if the memories of her childhood came flooding back.

"Her eyes were full of shyness, different from her peers," the 29-year-old civil servant recalled. "She looked like me 20 years ago."

Chenchen, 9, grew up with her grandparents in Jinta County of Jiuquan City, northwest China's Gansu Province, as her parents had divorced years earlier and her father had gone to work in different cities throughout the year.

Over the past decades, China's rapid industrialization and urbanization have led hundreds of millions of rural residents to flock to large cities in search of work, leaving the underage children in the care of grandparents and relatives.

These left-behind children can face academic difficulties, psychological problems, and safety risks when they lack proper care from capable guardians. The issue has triggered widespread concerns.

This year, the All-China Women's Federation launched a three-year caring campaign, recruiting female volunteers nationwide to serve as volunteer moms for left-behind children.

Due to similar childhood experiences, Li signed up for the program as soon as she saw the recruitment notice and was matched with Chenchen by the local women's federation.

Their first meeting two months ago did not end well. Li brought snacks and a new school bag as gifts, but Chenchen refused to talk. "She just sat there all afternoon. She was so quiet and sensitive," Li said.

Her heart ached for the girl, as she understood that children growing up in this kind of incomplete family often have a tough time trusting and communicating with strangers.

From that day on, Li became a regular visitor to Chenchen's home. She brought her new clothes and books, helped her with her homework, and took her to amusement parks.

After weeks, the efforts finally paid off when Chenchen shared with Li her school gossip and love of dancing. "I was so happy to see her change. It was like healing the young version of me," Li said.

According to the Gansu Provincial Women's Federation, the total number of registered volunteer mothers in Gansu has reached more than 42,000, caring for more than 46,700 left-behind children.

Professionals in the fields of legal aid, psychological counseling, and special education have joined the team to offer their help.

Li Weirong, with decades of experience in education and children's psychological counseling in Lanzhou, capital of Gansu, provides free training classes and psychological support to left-behind children.

"Using my expertise to help more children is the most fulfilling thing for me," the 53-year-old said proudly.

Regular training courses organized by local governments at various levels help volunteer moms gain experience and develop skills.

Chen Wenxia, a high school teacher in the city of Wuwei, has received special education and child psychology courses training and can now better communicate with her "son" Xiaowei (pseudonym), a 9-year-old boy with intellectual disabilities.

"The growth of each left-behind child is a marathon, requiring accurate and professional care and the participation of the whole society," said Chen.

"I hope that we can help them find more love and that love will be their lifelong companion, always nourishing them," said Li Weirong, sending her best wishes to left-behind kids on this year's Mother's Day on Sunday. Enditem

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