NGO that has provided aid for two decades is looking to change with the times in wake of new regulation.
Shao Pengchao (in black), a staff member at Sun Village, an NGO offering free aid to the children of inmates, guides young children playing games in Beijing's Shunyi district. (Zou Hong/China Daily)
When she heard China's civil affairs authorities had been ordered to help children whose parents are serving prison sentences, Zhang Shuqin, who has helped to provide aid to such children for more than two decades, smiled despite her mixed feelings.
"I'm happy to see government departments playing a role in helping prisoners' children, which is what I have been looking for in the past," said Zhang, the 70-year-old founder of Sun Village, an NGO that offers free aid to the children of inmates.
"But I'm also a little bit upset, as I'm not sure where the Village will go or how it can further help the children."
Welfare institutions must take care of children whose parents are incapable of serving as guardians, according to a regulation promoted by the Ministry of Civil Affairs that came into effect last month.
"Better care for the children of inmates is essential, as it will not only reduce the possibility that they will go wrong, but can also encourage their jailed parents to rehabilitate," said Zhang, who worked as a prison official in Shaanxi province in the early 1990s.
Zhang started the NGO in 1996 after discovering that no law or government department was focusing on such children. Sun Village has nine branches across the country, and has provided aid to about 16,000 children whose parents are in prison.
She said she felt a great sense of achievement, especially when she saw children growing up properly as a result of the aid provided by the NGO, but she also recognizes that it needs to find a new role as more inmates' children are sent to welfare institutions.
"But no matter what I do, I won't stop trying to help others," she said.
It was while working as a prison official that Zhang decided to try her best to aid the children of inmates.