With Christmas upon us, it is time for the seasonal foods that
have become a tradition for the holiday season. These foods include
of course roast turkey, cranberry sauce, mince pies but also
mandarins, dried fruit and nuts and even things as simple as
Now, a charity has combined the festive season and the sale of
apples as a way to help orphans and abandoned children in some of
the poorest rural areas in China.
"Apples have always been part of the Christmas tradition in
Western countries, as a decorative piece, a gift, a drink (hot
cider) or food (apple pies, etc)," explains Marie Duval, a
volunteer for the Children of Madaifu.
"Selling the fruit is a win-win operation, for the children we
help, but also for the buyers who would have bought apples anyway
and who can now do it for a good cause."
The Children of Madaifu is a charity helping disadvantaged
children in provinces of Gansu, Shaanxi and Hubei.
Founded in 1999 by Marcel Roux, a former vice-president of
Doctors without Borders.
"It was originally named 'Datong,' then was renamed 'Children of
Madaifu' to pay tribute to its founder, who died in 2006. Madaifu
was Marcel Roux Chinese name, Ma for Marcel and Daifu for Doctor,"
"The children we are taking care of are not in traditional
orphanages but in what we call 'orphanages without walls,"'
explains the French expat.
"Actually, when children become orphans or are abandoned, they
are usually taken in by a relative, grand-parent or uncle. But
these relatives often cannot afford to feed another mouth, let
alone two or three more (if siblings are involved)."
In the poor rural areas where the foundation works, families
live on an average of 150 yuan (US$20) per month.
"What we do is give financial help to these relatives so that
fostering becomes possible for them. It also helps to maintain the
children in their villages, within their families."
The allowance consists of living expenses (food and clothing) as
well as tuition fees for high school and post high school
The Christmas apples come from the children's villages of
Tianshui in Gansu and Baoji in Shaanxi.
"They are bought by the association's local manager from local
growers. This year, we bought 2,700 kilograms, part going to
Beijing by truck, part to Shanghai by train."
Explaining where the idea to sell the Christmas apples came from
Duval continues, Duval said: "It all started in October 2004,
during a trip of the association's volunteers in Gansu to visit the
One of the volunteers noticed that a lot of apples were being
stored by peasants.
"When asked why, they explained they had too much and couldn't
sell them, so the association decided to organize a sale to help
Two months later, the apples were shipped to Beijing and sold at
the French School as a charity operation.
Now, it is the fourth year that the apples are being sold in
Beijing and the first year in Shanghai.
The apples have been sold in two schools locally over the past
week, the French School and Rego School, but now they can be
collected directly from the volunteers.
"Our houses are open on certain days for purchase and pick up of
the apples," says Duval.
Describing their wares, she continued: "The apples are Fuji
apples, grown by local producers."
Our local manager, helped by villagers, chooses only the best
ones, big, juicy and sweet. Just the smell is delicious, she
"Christmas is the time of giving and receiving gifts, of
generosity. People know that when they buy our apples, they also
help orphans and abandoned children and this makes a big difference
to them," she continues.
"Christmas apples for Madaifu have become a source of income for
local growers. Knowing that the apples will be sold in Beijing and
Shanghai is also a source of pride."
The money raised from this year's apple sales will be put
towards buying stoves and coal supply for primary school classes
and for taking care of the children.
The cost of one stove or one winter coal supply is 300 yuan.
The average cost of one child care for one year is 1,200
"The apples are sold for five yuan each. Of course, it is more
expensive than in a store, but it is a way to raise money to help
the children," she finishes.
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(Shanghai Daily December 12, 2007)