Quilts, winter clothing, schoolbags and books piled up the small campus of a school for migrant workers' children in Haidian District in northwestern Beijing as the Spring Festival, or the Chinese lunar new year is drawing near.
"This is going to be a most memorable Spring Festival," a schoolboy said at Wednesday's donation ceremony held at Xingzhi School for Migrants' Children. "We hope we'd be able to repay your kindness some day."
More than 500 people were present at the ceremony, including migrants' children, their teachers and donors.
At the back of the merry crowd was a teacher who kept choking back her tears. "Some of my students never had a cotton-padded coat," she said, giving her surname as Shi. "They remind me of my own childhood bitterness."
Shi said one of her students is a junkman's son. "All his shoes and clothing came from the garbage bin."
The donation was part of a citywide campaign to extend new year greetings to migrants' children who cannot go home for the Chinese New Year, or the Spring Festival, that falls on January 29. The campaign was launched by China Youth Development Foundation, Beijing Youth Development Foundation and Beijing News, a metropolitan newspaper.
By Wednesday, the organizers had received donations valued at 480,000 yuan (US$60,000), which they would present to 5,100 children from several migrant children's schools in the city.
"We can do very little to help the migrant workers' families," said Lin Yu, an employee of Kerry Oil and Grain Business Development Co.," but we hope the campaign will arouse the sympathy of the whole society and more city dwellers will voluntarily help the migrants."
Lin's company has donated 2,000 barrels of soybean oil to the migrants' families in Beijing this year.
Besides the material donations, China Youth Development Foundation has opened a special bank account to receive cash donations for migrants in poverty, said an official surnamed Xiang.
Liu Yulan, a Beijinger living in the US, was the first to make a cash donation, Xiang said, adding "she donated 2,000 yuan (US$250)."
The foundation will request schools and parents to acknowledge receipts of the donation and each child will mail the donor a greeting card to ensure all the donations have gone where they target, said Xiang.
The foundation completed a survey among 360 migrant children in Beijing prior to the Chinese New Year, and the results are "appalling", said Tu Meng, the organization's secretary-general.
It found many migrant families in Beijing are in poverty: about 6 percent of the children surveyed live in slums; one out of every 10 children feel cold at home and most families cannot even afford a quilt for everyone.
Of the 360 children surveyed, at least 240 said they will not go home for the Chinese New Year, either because their parents have to keep working or because their families cannot afford the trip.
Though 70 percent of these children were happy to stay in Beijing, at least 22 percent said they feel miserable because they cannot afford the delicious food, lovely toys and appealing tourist destinations that are so available to local kids.
The foundation also encourages urban families to take migrant children home for the holiday, as 90 percent of the children surveyed said they wish to make friends with their city peers.
It has started receiving applications at its website www.cydf.org.cn and at its service hotline 010 6404 9500.
According to statistics from the fifth national census in 2000, China has 19.81 million migrant children, nearly 20 percent of the total migrant population.
(Xinhua News Agency January 27, 2006)