In the diocese of Xian, capital of the Shaanxi province (900 km south of Beijing), nuns of the Franciscan Convent of Mary have been taking care of mentally-challenged children at the Xian Boai center for three years. The nuns have been running the Xian Boai (Caritas) child day-care center since 2001.
The Xian Boai center is a government-registered child daycare center. At the center, the nuns care for no less than 17 children whose ages range from 6 to 12. The nuns also offer free education and daily needs for some children for families facing financial-difficulties. All seven nuns at the Boai center hold certified teaching degrees in children education.
Currently, although the center has been registered, it is not publicly funded by the government. In fact, running the center is not cheap. Each month, the center's operation cost increases by 30 yuan (US $ 40). Nonetheless, the nuns at the center find the work fulfilling.
Sister Lu Zhiwei said "those children are suffering from mental handicap because people deny them support." They can not get sufficient helps from local charities and the government.
In most cases, she said, most parents would have to make money to support their families, so they do not have enough time to take care of their children.
Usually, she aded, they must rush to work after bringing the children to the center, and must rush to school to pick up them afterwards.
Sister Lu explained that many of these children, especially in rural areas, all too often do not receive special education and become the subject of public ridicule and scorn.
Sister Lu Zhiwei expressed hopes that this attitude will change and that people will start paying special attendtion to such children so that they can grow up in healthy society.
"In the past, we had no experience in handling these children," Sister Lu reflected. "But parents were content as long as we served the children with a loving heart and kept them safe."
"Today," Sister Lu wryly added. "Parents expect much more and insist that we become more professional."
Sister Lu hopes that the staff will get some medical training in order to improve the level of their services. Unfortunately, Sister Lu expalined, there are no training programs available in the region.
"All we can do [for now] is to take relevant short-term courses, whenever available, to enhance our knowledge and skills," Sister Lu commented.