Life Inside the Caves of Northern China

Through Holt’s child sponsorship program, dedicated sponsors create pathways for orphaned and vulnerable children to escape poverty and chase their dreams — an especially rare opportunity for children living in caves in northern China.

China child sponsorship — Pei
If 15-year-old Pei ever hopes to escape the poverty and stigma associated with living in a cave, she will need to stay in school as long as possible.

Only the poorest families still live in caves.

Some families use the dusty, mountainside rooms as animal pens to protect their sheep or goats from the freezing winter cold. Others store grain or farm equipment in their cave, and live nearby in a more modern brick or concrete home.

Until she was 4 years old, Huan Yu Pei had never lived in a cave. She didn’t face the stigma cave families feel as the bottom of society. She never felt the draft from the makeshift door.

In the cave-dwelling community where she grew up in China’s Shaanxi province, Pei’s family was considered middle class.

Her father worked in a factory and her mother cared for the house. Pei’s grandfather spent his days harvesting their large plot of land, where they grow sweet apples. Their life was comfortable.

Then, in 2006, Pei’s father was in a motorcycle accident on his way to the printer manufacturing company where he worked as a machine operator. His leg was badly mangled and broken. In this rural, underdeveloped region of northwest China, there were few hospitals and none that Pei’s father could afford without health insurance. The injury never fully healed, and Pei’s father needed crutches to move. He lost his job, and the family fell into poverty and debt.

China child sponsorship — Pei's life.
A view of several cave homes in Ruicheng, an agricultural region about 450 miles from Beijing, China.

Soon after they moved into the cave where they still live today, Pei’s mother vanished. Continue reading “Life Inside the Caves of Northern China”

Sponsors in China Become Friends, Mentors and Change-Makers

When a group of professionals from Beijing began sponsoring children in their own country, they soon learned that their impact could go far beyond a monthly gift. What ensued was a genuine relationship with their sponsored children and the possibility of changing China’s culture of philanthropy. 

On a cold winter day in a rural community in northwestern China, an unlikely group of people gather together. Ten of them are deemed among China’s most successful professionals from Beijing — businessmen and women, bankers, university scholars and government officials. The rest of the group, numbering about 30, are made up of 12-to-16-year-olds — most of whom have grown up in critical poverty.

They pull their chairs into uneven circles and sit facing each other — the young students listening intently to what the professionals have to say. And the professionals just as eagerly listen to the teenagers. Although they have never met before, the group bonds quickly over a mutual care and interest in each other’s lives. This connection transcends their differing backgrounds, ages and ways of life.

This group is made up of Holt-sponsored children and their sponsors —meeting for the first time.

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Here, two exciting and groundbreaking things are taking place. For the first time, Chinese sponsors living in China are sponsoring children in their own country. And as these sponsors and sponsored children meet and talk, they begin to build a deep, lasting, in-person relationship. Unlikely events, both. But perhaps even more unlikely is how it all came about.

Continue reading “Sponsors in China Become Friends, Mentors and Change-Makers”