We experienced our first day in Xi’an. The previous day was a travel day. We took a bullet train at 7 am and arrived in Xi’an at around 1:30 pm. It went over 200mph, but it provided a wonderful look into the country sided. Every part of this country leaves me in awe. I could stare at the mountains for hours.
The trip to the Children’s Village was an eye-opening experience. The Children’s Village was founded in 1996 by a woman officer who worked with the police department. While working with inmates, she found that the children of these inmates were left without schooling. When the parents went to jail, the kids were left to fend for themselves. So, she created a community where they could live and be provided with an education and ultimately a better future. There were 54 students at that specific village and they all go to a local school together. The youngest of the kids is 4 and the oldest is 22. In the village, there were separate living corridors for girls and boys and we were able to see each one. The kids must wash their own clothes and clean their own rooms. Children under 10 are assigned a house mother who helps them with various activities. But if the children are over 10, they must do everything on their own. We were told that some of their girls are very clever and use their spare time making hand crafted items and selling them to make money. With this money, they buy books or gifts for their parents in prison.
We ate lunch in the dining room with the kids. It was built in 2016 and was a donation from a construction company. We were given a break from the usual round table style of eating. There was rice, tofu, cabbage, and meat in separate dishes, and we went up to a table to grab as much as we wanted. However, we were told that whatever we grabbed we must eat completely. No leftovers were allowed. After each meal, the kids washed their own dishes as well. It’s very impressive as to how independent these kids are. Although my mom would’ve liked me to be more independent at a young age, I didn’t feel truly independent until college.
The people who run the village were very appreciative that we came and showed our support. The village is a purely nonprofit organization, so they receive support from all segments of society in order to serve the children. The village provides a home for the children and supports their educational costs. They make sure the kids are not only physically healthy but mentally healthy. I find this very important and I’m thankful for their support of the kids. The village we visited is not the only location for these types of villages. There are 9 different villages across China for children. Between the villages, there are more than 10,000 children. Due to the importance of their situation, these children receive special attention and support from the government. These villages have had a major impact on these kids and the data proves it. They have seen a decrease in criminal activity in this group. Children of inmates are more likely to participate in criminal activity, but this village is counteracting this. In addition to the community, the village receives international support. Many foreign organizations provide support and even the Princess of Sweden donated a dog. We watched a 12-minute documentary of the history of the village and the impact of this place really set it. We saw firsthand accounts of what the kids go through and how the village supports them. Over 1000 kids have returned home after their parent(s) served their sentence but in the meantime, the village is very important to their growth.
Finally, we got to interact with the kids. We prepared a performance for them: baby shark. We also played basketball, soccer (or football to them), and ping pong. They dominated in each sport, however. But it was amazing to see their skills. We brought Hershey Kisses for the kids and they LOVED them. One kid went up to everyone to ask for chocolates and ended up with some very stuffed pockets. But it was great giving the treats to the kids because I loved seeing them smile. After a photo with the kids, it was time for our next location.
Our next stop was the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, a Buddhist pagoda. It was originally built during the Tang dynasty and stands five stories tall. After this historic site, we were able to do some high-end shopping… sort of. We went to a street market that sold fake high-end products for a fraction of the cost (thankfully). Since there are laws against selling fake products in the United States, almost everyone on the trip stocked up on fake high-end brands. I did minimal shopping, but it was fun to watch other students haggle prices and come out successful.