Work in Mainland China
Rebuilding Children’s Life After Quake - School Social Worker Scheme Supports Left-behind Children
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The devastating earthquake in 2008 destroyed countless families in Sichuan Province in the Mainland. Owing to the financial distress, the parents of Ling-ling (alias) were forced to make a living far away from home, leaving her behind to live with her grandparents in a poverty-stricken rural village. There are over 61 million “left-behind children” in rural villages of China, and Ling-ling is one of them. Without their parents’ care and protection, how do these children overcome life hurdles and move forward in their life?
 
Aloof And Passive
 
Ling-ling, a Primary 1 pupil at Wolong Primary School, Mianyang City, Sichuan Province, was accustomed to being alone. Her grandmother was always busy going out to play mahjong and claimed to have no time to take care of her, whereas her grandfather did not know how to communicate with his little granddaughter. As children in the neighbourhood were all in different age groups, Ling-ling simply had no one to mingle with. Silence became her only way of social interaction.
 
Even her parents could not make her talk. “Have you studied hard? Did you do better in your exams? Did you pass the exams?” Despite their long absence from home, her parents only asked about her academic achievement. Ling-ling could barely stand all the questions and scolding, so she simply hung up the phone. Was she lazy? No, she was attentive but couldn’t understand. When teachers asked her questions, there was no answer in her mind. She didn’t know how to do her homework, but no one could give her a hand. At last, she did her homework sloppily or would merely give up on it.
 
Her teachers told the school social worker about Ling-ling’s problems for a follow-up. Since February 2014, The Salvation Army and Wolong Primary School have jointly launched the “School Social Worker Scheme”, providing counselling for “left-behind children”. After learning about Ling-ling’s family background and the problems she was facing, the social worker realised that she was not good at communication. By using the “Children’s Tree of Hopes” picture book designed by The Salvation Army, the social worker helped Ling-ling understand her inner self. After counselling, Ling-ling set her study goals and plans with the help of the social worker. If her goals were achieved, she would be given a little token of encouragement.
 
Encouragement And Compliments
 
Nevertheless, when the mid-term exam results were released, Ling-ling failed to reach her goals. She was at a loss, but the social worker comforted her, “It’s okay. I can see you’ve already made a lot of progress. Just keep up your good work, and you’ll be a step closer to your goals.”
 
Such encouragement and recognition raised Ling-ling’s spirit and motivated her to keep on trying. Gradually, her teachers noticed that Ling-ling became more active in class. Now, Lingling tries to answer the teachers’ questions and do her best in her homework. She also takes the initiative in interacting with teachers and classmates, sharing her daily life. The encouragement of the social worker, praises from teachers and the assistance from her classmates have helped Ling-ling build up her self-confidence. She is now more cheerful and hopeful, and her school work is improving.
 
Indeed, 70% of pupils at Wolong Primary School are “left-behind children”. Cases similar to Ling-ling’s are not uncommon. Since the concept of school social worker system is not fully in place in mainland China, The Salvation Army scheme can help these vulnerable children through counselling to help them build self-esteem, guiding them to holistic development.
 

Don’t Leave Me, Mom And Dad
 
As parents move out of villages to work in cities, “left-behind children” in rural villages are mostly put in the hands of their grandparents or relatives. Without their parents’ care and concern, these children often feel abandoned, making them more eccentric and melancholic, which in turn affects their emotion and social life. Also, little support in managing personal hygiene and their studies results in their poor academic performances.
 

Set Up The School Social Worker System
 
Most schools in mainland China do not have a social worker system. In Sichuan Province, one of the rural areas with the largest number of “left-behind children”, The Salvation Army launched the school social worker scheme. From 2013 to 2015, Wolong Primary School and Shuangfeng Primary School in Sichuan Province collaborated with the Army to provide counselling, group activities and inter-class activities, which have alleviated the psychological and behavioural problems of the “left-behind children”. A healthy environment for their development has also been created. In future, The Salvation Army anticipates working with more schools to help pupils in need.
 

Please support The Salvation Army Education Programme for Children and Youth in China to meet the education needs of the children from poor families in rural China.
 
Ling-ling’s parents work in...
The 2008 Sichuan Earthquake...
The social worker (left) co...
After counselling, Ling-lin...
Most schools in mainland Ch...