Bethel’s vision is to see ‘Independent, visually impaired orphans living a fulfilling life as equal members of society.’ In order to do this, blind children must be given an education and life-skills training that will help them to develop the skills to become as independent as possible.
In 2011, Bethel began to partner with the Beijing School for the Blind, and nine Bethel children (aged 7-12) moved into two apartments next to the school.
The children live in small groups with two assistant teachers. The children in the Beijing City Life Project are learning to look after themselves as independently as possible. They go to school, do their homework, help around the house, and try to earn pocket money, and their ayis help to look after them by teaching them as many independent skills as possible.
The students have all adapted well to the school, and they are able to attend classes with other blind students in Beijing. They also are developing a better understanding of the ‘outside world.’ However, being integrated into society also has brought up more questions that the children have about their lives, visual impairment and orphaning. Bethel has a team of volunteer counselors who invest time with the children to help and encourage them.
Since the spring of 2011, Bethel has seen these children thrive and grow. 4 children received scholarship prizes from the school based on their academic performance. Each of them used their scholarship money to buy musical instruments or pay for music lessons. The other kids have also been more motivated to work harder
In November 2012, all of these children ran 4.2km of the Beijing Marathon. They also play musical instruments and sing in a choir. They are pioneers of special education for children with visual impairments in China, and they are breaking down pre-conceived ideas about what blind children can and can’t do. With a high-school education, there is great potential for these children to go onto higher education and fulfilling work.
In September 2013, 9 more Bethel kids will join this project, so there will be Bethel children in Grade 1, 3 and 4 at the Beijing School for the Blind.
Bethel is very excited about this project. It is so important for high-functioning visually-impaired children to be given as many opportunities as possible to develop skills that will allow them to be as independent as possible as they grow up.