Children try their hand at Chinese calligraphy with the Mother’s Bridge of Love charity. Photo: Lucy Edwards
Below right, Yintong Betser
Published: 27 January, 2017
by ALINA POLIANSKAYA
FOR the Mother’s Bridge of Love charity, children and China are at the core of all they do. Their work is all about building bridges: between adopted culture and birth culture; between the rich and the poor; and between China and the rest of the world.
The charity was set up by author Xue Xinran in 2004. After going on a worldwide book tour she realised just how many Chinese children had been adopted by Western families, particularly in the 1990s. She wanted to help these families find answers to any questions they may have and develop further understanding between their cultures.
The charity’s work aims to reach out to Chinese children and their families all over the world. Volunteer Yintong Betser, who works alongside Ms Xinran, said: “She realised these children probably don’t have much opportunity to get to know China. I share her belief in cross-culture understanding. Adopting children in China – the system is quite complicated. I see the adoptive parents and you have to respect them. You have to be really determined to adopt a child in China, you have to go there many times. When they finally get these precious children, they usually try to find any opportunity they can for them to be in touch with their birth culture.”
The charity has helped many Chinese children get to know their roots, but they also organise events to introduce Chinese culture to all people. This Chinese New Year, they will be putting on a fun-filled day of activities at the V&A Museum of Childhood on February 11, from 11.30am to 4.30pm. Children can come and create Chinese opera masks, try calligraphy and learn to speak a little Chinese. There will be a traditional Chinese tea ceremony and the chance to try on a range of Chinese clothes. There will also be a performance by the Orzu Arts Theatre group.
Ms Betser said the event is all about diversity. “It is a fantastic opportunity to introduce Chinese culture to children based in London,” she said. “China is a very big country, it has 56 ethnic groups and languages which contribute to its rich and dynamic culture. It is impossible to know all about China, so if they can just learn one thing I am happy.”
While this event takes place in Bethnal Green, much of their work is far wider reaching. With bases in China, as well as London, they also help those living in poverty in Chinese villages. The charity has set up more than 20 libraries in the villages abroad so far as part of their Books for Kids project.
They also connect young people in the UK with these projects, for example arranging for students on their gap year to get involved with work at the libraries.