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Bringing China Home

Bringing China Home Tufts China Care Club President Haley Newman (A'11) discusses the group's work helping Chinese orphans both near and far.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [08.05.08] With the Beijing Olympics rapidly approaching, China is the headlines not only for sports but also for issues ranging from human rights to the environment. One Tufts student group is concerned about Chinese citizens who are rarely covered in the major media - its orphans.

Tufts China Care is a local chapter of an international organization founded by 16-year-old Matt Dalio, a Harvard graduate, in 2000. The group helps children in China's orphanages and Chinese children adopted by families in the Medford and Somerville area.

Because of China's nearly 30 year-old "one child" policy, many children-particularly those who are ill or disabled-are abandoned or given up for adoption by their parents.

Formed two years ago, Tufts China Care has 30 active members. During the school year, the group holds fundraisers-such as this past year's fashion show-to help orphans abroad. But from May 31 to June 14, four members of the group's executive board -- Wendy Si, Xin Cao (A'10), Fukuko Ayama (A'11) and Haley Newman(A'11) -- traveled to Beijing to volunteer at the China Care Orphan Home.

Newman says the group of Tufts students valued the opportunity to spend time with kids whose lives are anything but easy.

"A lot of them have handicaps or illnesses. Some of them have congestive heart issues, or spina bifida, or hare lips, so they have trouble eating," says Newman, rising sophomore and club president."They need a lot of attention, so we just spent a lot of time holding the babies, feeding them, bathing them, getting them dressed. And then with the ones who are older, we simply played with them, because they need stimulation."

Among the Medford/Somerville programs organized by the Tufts group were 'dumpling events,' opportunities for locally adopted Chinese children to get to know each other as well as learn about their cultural heritage.

"We get all these kids together, just so they can meet each other, and usually we have a theme," explains Newman. "One time we made dumplings, or we teach them about some aspect of Chinese heritage. A lot of our executive board members were, and still are, from China, or have parents from China, so they know a lot about Chinese heritage-- holidays, customs, food, language, games."

Newman adds, "Others members, like myself, have learned through classes and discussion. Before we have our dumplings events we get together to plan, and usually we'll learn even more from the Chinese executive board members."

Newman says that the American adoptive families are grateful for these events.

"They don't really know how to teach about Chinese culture, but they want their kids to still feel connected to their roots."

With one of the national organization's goals being to help orphans in need of medical assistance, the group is perfect for a pre-med student like Newman, who has a passion for all things China.

"I took Chinese in high school because I had an uncle who lived in China for a while. He suggested I take Chinese, and I'm continuing it here at Tufts," she says. "That got me interested in Chinese culture and government and lifestyle."

For the year ahead, Newman has plans for more events, more fundraising and most important, future trips to volunteer at orphanages, serving as a constant reminder to the children that they are not forgotten.

Profile by Hayden Reich, (A'09)


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