The volunteers from the Jiangyin Relatives Finder Volunteer Association, in their signature red coats, can be seen everywhere. Mrs. Liu, the Association’s Associate Executive Director is busy making sure all the arrangement is in order. The Association had been instrumental in reuniting Mr. Zhang Jiangyu with his family, who has separated from his family soon after his birth 50 years ago. Now he has become an elderly man, and his wife and his son were sitting beside him. At the back, members of the host family were busy preparing the Tang Yuan a sweet and sticky soup specially prepared to signify a family reunion. A few moments earlier, Mr. Zhang’s had an emotional and tearful reunion with his five brothers after years of separation. “[The family] had no choice but to put you up for adoption because they just couldn’t let you starve to death. We had nothing to feed you,” an elderly volunteer explained to the people gathered. It was an emotional scene.
This is the story of many thousands of Chinese families who were separated due to poverty and abandonment. According to a Global Times report, ‘Between 1959 and 1961, over 50,000 infants and children were abandoned by their starving parents in East China and sent to the country’s north to be adopted by better-off families. Now in their late middle age, many of these children are travelling south to search for their birth families. Mr. Zhang Jiangyu was also joined by Mr. Jia Jianghai and Mr. Chen Yusheng. They too were adopted together with him and grew up together in Henan province with different families. However, their families had lost contact for many decades. When Jia Jiangha’s adoptive father was dying on the hospital bed, he told Jianghai that Zhang Jiangyu and Chen Yusheng were all brought back from Jiangyin by him. After the adoptive parents passed away, the three came together hoping to find their relatives in Jiangyin. Without volunteers from the Jiangyin Relatives Search Volunteer Association, Zhang Jiangyu’s family might not have been able to get in touch with the brothers they separated years ago.
However, these reunions are always difficult and require a coordinated effort of many parties. The Jiangyin Civil Affairs Department works with an association like Jiangyin Relatives Finder Volunteer Association help to trace any relatives of these children. The Association was founded in 2010. Mrs. Liu and her husband Mr. Gu joined the organization in 2011 as volunteers. Since then, they have been heavily involved with the Association, helping in the search for lost relatives for the last 10 years. Mrs. Liu has since been more active with the Association and currently serves as the Associate Executive Director. As of early April 2021, the association has helped 441 separated families to reunite. Mrs. Liu shares her story of how she learned about a certain person who was looking for his relatives and that helped by sharing a flier in her WeChat moment (a popular Chinese media sharing app). She recalls her shock when one of her contacts identified the person’s potential family and shared the details with her, leading to the person reuniting with his family. Moved by the impact of the reunion, Mrs. Liu and her husband, Mr. Gu decided to join the Association and has been active ever since. “ The Association’s work can be very demanding, but it takes up an important part of our work,” she said. “We would often organize offline public welfare tracing activities to facilitate the registration of information and collection of DNA samples for the elders from the families who
delivered their children to orphanages before. We have helped set up service stations at the provinces which have the most adoptive families to facilitate registration of family-tracing information, especially those who have found their biological families.” She explains that their range of operations is mostly at the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River but they also assist in other locations within capacity. One area where they need support is to help families from abroad find their relatives. Present at the reunion was also the CEO of BeGo Education, Mr. Gaston Chee who was joined by two of his staff to witness the reunion. BeGo Education works with ultra-high net worth families in supporting their children’s education and as part of its Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) activities, the company has been actively engaged with charities that support less-privileged and foster children in rural China and Malaysia. BeGo Education has been volunteering over the years for life-skill coaching and Mr. Chee is also directly involved with a School in Malaysia, the Generasi Gemilang (GG) that targets the under-served children and families by increasing access to quality education. BeGo Education got involved with the work of the Relatives Finder Volunteer Association in 2018. The Company supports the Association with tracing and communication, especially from outside of China. Currently, BeGo volunteers are actively working with several families in the US and Canada to help them locate their relatives.
Speaking about BeGo Education and the Association, Mr. Chee says that the volunteering work shows the true spirit of friendship and promotes International relations, deepen and foster understanding among different countries and cultures. Besides, it acts as a model for partnerships/friendship beyond borders and is a true reflection that charity work and giving back is collective responsibilities to humanity. He recognized that this is made possible by the safe environment China has created. He said that China is founded on the spirit of volunteerism which is also the core of BeGo Education operations. Towards this goal, the company has been actively incorporating in its activities and training, not only technical 21st-century technical skills but deep respect for Chinese and global values and help build bilingual and multi-cultural students who exhibit empathy and emotional intelligence. He added the company embraces volunteering activities like these where the seeds of future global mindset and international friendship are sown. Mrs. Liu says that despite their efforts, there are still a lot of people who don’t know much about our work, and many people who were adopted as young children are struggling in silence and in shame because they have no idea how they can find their family. However, events like this and the support from sister companies like BeGo Education can carry out positive publicity on suitable occasions. Besides, the association network platform is also open and a public welfare hotline of the Association is always open for inquiries. “To increase visibility, we do a lot of publicity work by issuing tracing leaflets and contact information shared by volunteers. Besides, many families proactively contacted us and arrived at our designated point to have their DNA samples collected. For seekers without any clues, gene storage is the best method and we will specifically explain the principle of genetic finding and help the seekers with how to collect samples, etc., and let them make a choice that suits them best according to their situation. Speaking about BeGo Education and Jianying tracing volunteers joint work, Mr Gu says that it shows the true spirit of friendship and promotes International relations, deepen and foster understanding among different countries and cultures. Besides, it acts as a model for partnership s/friendship beyond borders and is a true reflection that charity work and giving back is collective responsibilities to humanity.
The reunion event of Mr. Zhang Jiangyu was coming to an end. Although the journey for the search is thankfully over, in many ways it is also the beginning. Decades of separation have meant that these blood siblings are now strangers and it will take many more years to fully bond. A day before, Mr. Jia Jiangha had also got reunited with his family in another emotionally charged reunion. But Mr. Chen Yusheng’s search for his relatives continues as he is still waiting. Looking at the camera live streaming the event, he made a tearful plea for his family, and the Jiangyin Relatives Finder Volunteer Association and BeGo Education has pledged to continue to work on his case until he is too is reunited with his family. We asked Mrs. Liu what the reunion means to her. She mentions that every reunion brings a unique feeling to everyone and brings them closer to their own families she said and made a public invitation for anyone willing to dedicate personal time and efforts, to join their association as a volunteer. For any inquiries or any information related to family search, you can call us at our hotline – 0510-86808600. To find out more about Jiangyin Relatives Finder Volunteer Association or BeGo Education Activities, please send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org
LC Venture is a leading consultancy and advisory holding company registered in the UK. The company provides quality advice on strategy and business solutions to Chinese and international clients which are mainly SMEs, multinational companies, and governments. The Company is also the investor in BeGo Education, a wholly-owned investment portfolio of LC Venture. BeGo Education operates a bespoke international education consultancy to supports Chinese families find a suitable international education pathway for their children in international schools in China or abroad in the UK and other destinations.