China: Shuqin Zhang

Our generation feels we have the social responsibility and the willingness to endure hardships and take care of others. I am a mother, and I know what a mother means for the life of a child.

— Shuqin Zhang

Zhang Shuqin is director of the Beijing Sun Village Special Children Aid Center. Since 1994 she has set up five villages for unattended minors whose parents are serving prison sentences. She has also helped many people that have been released from prison, despite money constraints and a lack of enabling government policies.

Zhang Shuqin was a reporter for a newspaper produced specially for prisoners in Shaanxi Province in China. In her spare time she also produced literary, film and TV works on prisoners and prisons. In the course of visiting virtually all the prisons in Shaanxi Province, she became increasingly concerned about juvenile delinquents in juvenile halls and female prisoners in women’s prisons. Many children of prisoners became delinquents only because they were left unattended. Many female prisoners became insane because their children were left unattended. As a policewoman, journalist, and writer, Zhang could not sit quietly in her cozy office, and she decided to help the imprisoned mothers and their children. She was keen to set up a shelter for the children who she believed should not be held responsible for their parents’ mistakes. She went from place to place on her bicycle in her quest for help, and between 1996 and 2004 she managed to set up five children's villages to take care of the unattended children. She has also built a transit house for women released from prison. She has so far helped more than 600 unattended children and more than 180 women released from prison. She is called “Grandma Zhang” in the children's villages and was nicknamed “Leader of Beggar Gang” by the public. She knows that her fate is now tied up with the children's villages and the unattended children. "The measures of success are not power, wealth, or status, but the meaning and value of life," Zhang often says. She defines her life’s work as changing the fate of the vulnerable groups.

Beijing Sun Village Special Children Aid Center