Migrant Community Center

Last week, we stayed in Kunming and visited a community center for migrant workers and their families. It was an eye-opening experience for everyone.

The first day, we started with a tour of the local market and a jail near the center. A police officer, who works closely with the center, showed us their holding facilities where they often hold young teens, but also have held an 8 year-old boy for stealing. Afterwards, we met an American boy, Nathan, who has been living in Kunming for 9 years, and volunteers at the center. During the day, we baked cookies, made paper chains, and played several rounds of musical chairs and duck-duck-goose. We caught a small glimpse of the struggles of the children after speaking with Amanda Xie, the social worker who runs the community center. Many of the children are undernourished and do not receive proper care at school or at home.

We ended the day by celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival with one Kirsten’s friends, Chelsea, who lives in Kunming. We went to a lake side restaurant and saw a light show commemorating the moon at its fullest.

We started the second day we visited some of the local families homes. Most of the apartments we saw were smaller than our own bedrooms back home. One of the most heartbreaking stories was of Fengqing, a girl we all grew very attached to at the center. She is nine years old, but looks about 6. Her growth was stunted when her leg was broken three years ago when her parents beat her. Some of us were able to go to her house and speak with her mother with the help of Amanda. Fengqing’s mother openly spoke about the constant beatings she gave and was given. Both she and her husband were beaten as children, and in turn beat their three children. Just the night before we spoke with her, Fengqing’s mother beat Fengqing for going to the community center to participate in our program. The other families we visited, thankfully, weren’t as harsh, but suffered their own struggles. We visited one woman who was raising her grandson by herself because the boy’s mother passed away during childbirth and the boy’s father, the woman’s son, left without a trace. We also spoke with a teacher at one of the local kindergartens for migrant children. As we spoke, she told us that she hardly made enough money to support her family, but she loved her job, helping the local children get a solid education background, with some basic English as well. After a heart wrenching day of listening to the families stories, we decided to keep a quiet night in at the hostel with a Western meal.

The last day, Amanda gave us a rest and Nathan joined us as we hiked a local mountain, Xi Shan to see a full view of Kunming. We took a chair lift to the top and hiked our way down to the Dragon’s Gate. Sadly, it wasn’t much of a hike because of the crowds upon crowds of people climbing the trail. Later that afternoon, we shopped at the Bird and Flower Market for some souvenirs!

We left Kunming on the last day, inspired to help migrant families, and also with the promise of pumpkin bread and frappaccinos from Nathan’s mom when we return to Kunming at the end of the month.