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The Land of Smiles

 

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Thailand or “the Land of Smiles” has a warm climate with endless sun shinning upon plentiful fruit trees. It’s a country known by it’s multitude of extravagent Buddhist temples and extrordinarily friendly people. According to Thai culture, hospitality to family is valued above everything else. Maintaining one’s independence in life is of a lesser importance than taking care of the family. It’s a common gesture to welcome anyone who needs food and shelter into the household.

The family system is strong as grandparents, parents, children, as well as aunts, cousins, in-laws, and other extended family members tend to live in the same house or home system. It’s seen as honorable for the parents to work even if that means they have to be separated from their children. They sacrifice time with their kids to give their children a better life than they had with the money they earn. This in turn earns the parents a merit (In Buddhism, a result of good deeds that carry over the person’s lifetime).

Children with parents away having the higher percentage of 25% with developmental problems.

“Every child has the right to grow up in a caring, loving, and safe environment” expresses the head of UNICEF Thailand.  A year studying the issue and findings are continuing to develop to show the effects of parental migration. In the first portion there was a 9% difference when comparing children with developmental delays. Children with parents away having the higher percentage of 25% with developmental problems.

3 Million, or about 21% of Thailand’s population, are left behind children being raised by extended family mostly in rural areas. 90% live with grandparents, most of whom have only a primary school education, and are at risk themselves of financial instability and mental health issues. These children are often behind in language skills in school and have behavior problems. Grandparents and young children have an age gap that often hinders their ability to relate to the pain they feel, which limits conversation and opportunity for personal growth.

See Video: http://www.bangkokpost.com/multimedia/vdo/thailand/419287/children-left-behind

Sources:

http://www.bangkokpost.com/lifestyle/interview/419215/separation-anxiety

http://www.unicef.org/eapro/media_22694.html

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A New Study Shows Left Behind Children are More Likely to Acquire Cardiovascular Disease

A new study conducted by Jinkui Lu, Xiaojian Yin, and Lihong Mao shows that left behind children are more likely to acquire cardiovascular disease.

It is commonly said, when referring to LBC, they are more susceptible to poor performance in the classroom as indicted by teacher accounts and test scores. Another pattern for LBC is they tend to have higher rates of depression and low self esteem.

What we neglect to consider is that the constant stress on the neglected children deteriorate their physical health. Results show that left behind children are more susceptible to increased heart rate and blood glucose levels than non-left behind children. There is also a correlation with life satisfaction, academic satisfaction, loneliness, and happiness scores.

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“Serious attention should be paid to effects of parental migration on the health of left-behind children, in order to provide a better societal environment to protect them from both mental and physical disorders in later life.” 

Later on in life, LBC are at a greater risk for cardiovascular disease. It is a potential health problem that could be reduced with attention and care to one’s emotional well-being. A Norwegian study found that depression increases the risk of heart failure by 40%. Our goal is to empower children with the tools and skills to combat any stress-related issues. Depression causes some to loose interest and become despondent, neither happy nor sad nor angry.

Loosing contact with a parent, a child takes it upon themselves to safeguard their emotional well-being by shutting down. It is a difficult task to be a child without a clear understanding of why they have to work so far away. Depression is a common characteristic in LBC, and with depression, cardiovascular disease typically follows.

What must happen is for these children to be educated and realize their full potential. They have so much to offer.

Sources: 

http://pubs.sciepub.com/jfnr/2/3/1/jfnr-2-3-1.pdf

http://www.chinasmack.com/2011/pictures/elderly-women-children-left-behind-in-chinese-rural-countryside.html

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/science/Depressed-people-at-40-higher-risk-of-heart-failure-study/articleshow/33299371.cms

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Exposing Beggar Children in LBC Populations

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVL4KaufFbw

What are common patterns of a child left behind? Poorer school performance and higher drop out rates.

Who are beggar children? They can be left behind children who are used by extended family for income. Adults send them to the streets to beg for money. They are working 14 hour days instead of being in a classroom or playing like a kid should. Beggar children drop out of school and end up addicted to drugs, trapped in human trafficking, sex slavery, or life on the streets.

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Grandparents and extended family look after left behind children for their parents working in the city but they busy taking care of the household. The children are left unsupervised. There has been cases that report LBC as kidnap victims. Their kidnappers force them to become beggar children.

“On Tuesday, Peng Gaofeng, a migrant worker in Shenzhen, was reunited with his son who was kidnapped three years ago. Five other children whose pictures were posted on the blog were also identified by their parents, Chinese state media said on Wednesday.” After sacrificing precious time with your little son to find a job in the city, you are then are notified of his kidnapping because he wasn’t being watched.

How would you feel?

Campaigns arise imploring people to take pictures of child beggars on the streets to help migrant parents find their missing children. Grandparents and extended family who look after left behind children for their parents working in the city are busy taking care of the household. They are often unsupervised, and unfortunately there has been cases that report LBC as kidnap victims. Their kidnappers force them to become beggar children.

 

 

 

 

 

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CNN Reports on Sexual Abuse

“When you have 61 million children who cannot relate to their parents, it is very traumatizing for a society,” Sanna Johnson.

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What if a child was sexually abused at school, but there’s no parent at home to tell?

It is the case for left behind children. They are named “easy targets” for sexual abuse and haressment.

Chen left his daughter to be raised by his grandmother in a supposedly safe, sleepy place. She called sounding depressed and like something was not right. Later she said it hurts down there. It was discovered that she was abused by her teacher who also abused five other victims under the age of 14.

Around 250 million have migrated to the cities escaping from poor areas with limited job opportunities. Children of these parents are extremely vulnerable. Parents send them presents in place of themselves. They begin to value materialism above anything else. Sexual predators often take advantage and give them gifts to reel them in. Huazhou in Guangdong province reported 94% of sexual abuse cases involving left behind children. They have limited supervision, no safety precautions, and have no education about self-protection.

As a result of Chen’s case, he is fighting to bring justice against his daughter’s assailant. There have been safety meetings to educate and guarantee the safety of the school’s children. Parents need to teach children not to take rides from strangers. Parents should say not to walk across the street without a buddy. Without the appropriate education and supervision, children are left unprotected and extremely vulnerable to predators.

The All-China Women’s Federation realizes this. They are calling for an increase of the care for left behind children. They wish to put into place official guardians taking responsibility for providing safe custody. The CWF is asking the government to set up a protection system for the children to turn to. Left behind children report feelings of abandonment and guilt. They think they are a burden to their parents. It is difficult psychologically and emotionally they struggle. What should we do? EDUCATE! Educate others about the effects of migration on family systems. Educate left behind children about self-care, self-respect, and safety matters. We can act and save millions!

Check out the largest migration on the planet –> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcGnvTL0NdY

Sources:

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/02/04/world/asia/china-children-left-behind/

http://www.china.org.cn/china/2013-08/09/content_29672476.htm

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What is China doing to help Left Behind Children?

Twinkling Stars NGO-1

What is China doing to help LBC in it’s own country?

A non-governmental organization called Twinkling Stars has produced amazing results. Inspired by AVIVA’s “Street to School” project that focuses on equipping LBC with useful skills and supplies, Twinkling Stars has recruited 1,000 volunteers. They have helped about 9,000 left behind children in 11 provinces in China since 2010 (t-stars). Global Children’s Vision like Twinkling Stars creates centers with educational resources and enhances the parent to child communication experience. The work aims to improve the child’s emotional development and inspire them to dream. We both increase awareness on the importance of education and what that means for left behind children and their teachers.

The Twinkling Stars Children Painting Competition is a recent event in which about 500 children including LBC and city children have participated in. This is the work named House of Joy, by Haohan Cui, a child from Liaoning Provinces, which won the first prize.

Twinkling Stars NGO-1

They also launched a project in 2012 that focuses on LBC’s mental health, trying to provide constant and effective help. GCV’s mission is to strengthen each child’s confidence with empowerment tools. We eliminate the idea that based on one’s circumstances there is no hope for a better future. Left behind children have an increased chance of suffering from anxiety and depression (Zhengkui). They have a decreased interest in school and a higher likelihood of have difficulties with communication and trust. They feel like their mom and dad has abandoned them. They live on the streets and are mistaken as orphans. They fail in their classes because they don’t think it is worth it. They have higher chances of drowning from neglect and lack of supervision, being recruited as child prostitutes in the sex trafficking industry, and dropping out of school.

LBC have loving parents who just are unable to directly care for the child because of financial reasons, not because they “left them behind” for selfish reasons. It is a common misconception that left behind children are purposely neglected. The parent who finds work in the city earns money to provide the child with a better quality of life back in the villages. Twinkling Stars aims take care of the children that are benefiting from the money being sent home to sustain the grandparent and extended family members raising the children. The workers and volunteers take into account this population’s specific emotional, social, and academic needs.

A special project called Caring House (pictured below) is part of the Twinkling Stars accomplishments that has converted idle classrooms into special places full of toys, pens, and more than 100 items for children. Volunteers play with the children.

Twinkling Stars

 

 

 

 

How does this Chinese non-profit create positive change? This issue of Left Behind Children is global. It touches the lives of millions of children in China alone. Twinkling Stars empowers these children “by creating an inspiring environment for the children to do homework, classes, play and sing – to dream a little,” (AVIVA). Global Children’s Vision’s motto is Empower the Future. We must empower individuals and let them know that they are not defined by their circumstances. They can accomplish greatness if they are taught they can do anything. Teach children to be resilient by teaching them they are worth it then they can dream big.

 

Sources:

http://www.aviva.com/reports/cr11/regions/asia-pacific/communities/sts-social-media.html

http://www.t-stars.cn/

 Zhengkui Liu, PhD, Xinying Li, MD, and Xiaojia Ge, PhD. “Left Too Early: The Effects of Age at Separation from Parents on Chinese Rural Children’s Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression.” American Journal of Public Health Research and Practice 99.11 (2009): n. pag. Web.

 

 

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Left Behind Children as Baggage?

“US-China, two-way express. Pick up from airports, packages, children”.  Are children really listed as baggage? Our latest post was about the phenomenon of Left Behind Children who have foreign passports.  The fact that a sign mentions children as a thing to be shipped from one country to the next is commonly seen around China. Think about it. How did you respond when you first moved from one home to another or how did your children respond? It is difficult. Transition for children is always rough.

Transition is a trauma. Transitions of LBC from one home in China to another in the United States and back to China as a young child and then the journey to return to America at the time their parents earn enough money is the process many have to go through. It makes even my head dizzy to think about. Chinese children don’t acknowledge that they are sad moving or being away from their parents for long periods of time. It is uncommon in China for one to express oneself and especially to express what they are feeling. All they want is to do is to live with their parents, wherever they live.

China’s one-child policy can be evaluated within this context. Children do not have siblings and according to studies, the policy has increased the likelihood of these children becoming more pessimistic and less trusting (Abrams). What does this mean for the LBC issue you ask? If one goes through life alone without a mom or a dad providing love and comfort, it is lonely. Without a sibling to fight with, play with, and most importantly, to share the burden of being away from their parents, the child does not have anyone they can relate with.

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Left Behind children are left without siblings, without parents, and without a steady home life and stable family system.

“China’s rural-to-urban migration has affected… 22 million who have been left behind by their migrant parents,” (Xu). 22 million LBC have been affected and that number changes every day! A university study on well-being of migrant and LBC found significant results on left behind children who stay at home in rural areas while their parents are away working in cities. They suffer from reduced parental care and supervision. This causes a higher risk for psychological and behavioral issues (OCD, depression, etc.), and feelings of abandonment. They are more likely to disregard their education by dropping out of school or skipping classes. They feel like baggage to be transported. They feel like a burden to aging grandparents who are unable to relate and have a difficult time trying to raise the suffering child.

What can YOU do to empower these Left Behind Children? Educate yourself, discuss solutions, and act!

Lastly, I wanted to bring your attention to an event on December 5-6, 2013, when there will be an Inaugural WUN Global China Conference on Family Transition, Aging, and Social Security in China. One focus of the conference will discuss the implications of China’s growing economy on  Left Behind Children, defined for those involved in the conference those “who live with their grandparents or other relatives as their parents moved to the cities for employment,” (Heung). Could you imagine being raised by extend family – a grandparent or aunt – and have limited contact with your working parent? I look forward to what they come up with regarding one of the key issues on increasing  “family stability” and the results of their conversations about LBC. I bring up this conference to let you know that powerful research institution collaborations such as this “Worldwide Universities Network” are discussing and brainstorming solutions, which is something everyone has the ability to do.

Sources:

http://paa2013.princeton.edu/papers/131902

http://www.wun.ac.uk/events/inaugural-wun-global-china-conference-family-transition-ageing-and-social-security-china

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/01/study-the-new-less-social-psychology-of-chinas-generation-without-siblings/267057/

 

 

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