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The China Welfare Institute

Year:1952 Issue:1

Column: Articles


Release Date:1952-01-01

Page: 49,50

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The China Welfare Institute has a history of 13 years. It was founded and is still headed by Soong Ching Ling (Mme. Sun Yat-sen), one of the greatest personalities in China's struggle for freedom from oppression and poverty. Since its inception in 1938, it has worked to serve the best interests of the Chinese people.

The organization began its work during the Sino-Japanese war as the China Defence League, a name that became known to friends of democracy everywhere. Throughout the war years it served as a focal point for the distribution of funds and supplies sent by friends of China from all parts of the world to aid the fighters against Japanese invasion. It helped set up and support the renowned International Peace Hospitals, founded nurseries and orphanages for the child victims of the war and gave impetus to the formation of industrial cooperatives to bolster the war-torn economy and provide employment, free of exploitation, for large numbers of refugees. CDL projects were located where the fighting was heaviest and had taken the greatest toll. Many of them were behind the Japanese lines, in the guerilla areas.

Battle Against Obstacles

After V-J Day, the CDL changed its name and the forms of its work to fit the new circumstances. As the China Welfare Fund, it expanded its original projects in the interior regions. At the same time, it contributed to the overall rehabilitation of the country by instituting new projects.

The First International Peace Hospital, housed in raves in Yenan during the war with Japan.

The First International Peace Hospital, housed in raves in Yenan during the war with Japan.

The last years of the Kuomintang regime threatened to drown all ideas of reviving China in inflation, corruption and outright official suppression of everything new. But despite the obstacles, and because of the inspired leadership of Chairman Soong, the China Welfare Fund continued its work. During the Liberation War, the Fund led the nationwide demand that UNRRA and other international relief and welfare aid be allocated fairly where the people needed it most, whether the Kuomintang controlled the areas or not. It not only demanded such distribution but set an example of it in its own activity. Within Kuomintang territory it demanded that aid go to the famine areas of South China and shouldered the task of keeping starving children off the streets and roads. It demanded that help be given to the city poor, and demonstrated what could be done by establishing, in the slums of Shanghai, children's centres which provided literacy training, medical care and distribution of food and clothing on a mass scale. It also created the Children's Theatre both to entertain and educate thousands of workers' children.

The third phase of the organization's history began with the liberation of the Chinese mainland and the convening of the All-China People's Relief Conference in April 1950. It changed its name once more, becoming the China Welfare Institute. Then it embarked on the new development for which the people's victory now provided unparalleled opportunities.

Present Work

The present task of the CWI is to set up model projects for nationwide welfare and cultural work for the wives and children of workers, farmers and soldiers. Since liberation, its staff has grown tenfold to the present total of over three hundred. Its field units have increased from four to eleven. Instead of the makeshift and crowded rented quarters of the past, it is now housed in a handsome office building of its own in Shanghai.

Current CWI projects range from nurseries to the publication of a children's magazine, from maternity and child health centres to a Children's Theatre. It has established the first Children's Cultural Palace in China, opened formally in October 1951, and created a network of free public libraries for the children of Shanghai.

All of these projects are either new to the CWI, and indeed to China, or represent the present form of old programmes which have had to be totally revamped to meet the long-neglected needs of the people.

An example of totally new work is the Children's Cultural Palace. A beautiful, spacious building has been erected to house this work. The project aims to stimulate national interest in youth cultural activities and to pioneer similar palaces throughout the country. Youth organizers from far and wide are to be brought to this institution to see how it works. They will observe how appreciation for music, science and other subjects is stimulated, and what teaching methods and materials are used. They will carry the results of their observations back to their own communities.

An example of old work which has been reorganized is the CWI network of maternity and child health centres and stations. Such programmes are not new to China, but the objectives they now pursue are. Their present aim is not to serve a few "cases" but the largest numbers of workers. This requires a changed point of view, both on the part of the technical personnel and the women themselves. Much education and publicity is being carried on to reorient technicians toward work for the greater number of people, and to convince the people to accept modern methods in childbirth and sanitation. The responsibility that has fallen on the CWI is great, since the results it obtains will be critically studied and used throughout the land.

Facing the Future

Thus the China Welfare Institute now occupies one of the foremost positions in welfare work in China. Its representatives sit on the executive committee of the People's Relief Administration of China, which is the leading organization for all relief and welfare nationally. On the operational level, CWI delegates participate in working committees and attend national and local conferences on welfare, culture and education. The head of its maternity and child health section, for instance, is a delegate to the National Health Conference held annually in Peking. Regionally, CWI cultural workers took part in the East China Conference which determined the cultural programme for an area with a population of 140 million people. The CWI has also been represented internationally. One of its staff members was a delegate to the Second World Peace Congress held in Warsaw.

Mothers bring their babies to the CWI centres for regular check-ups.

Mothers bring their babies to the CWI centres for regular check-ups.

The advances and accomplishments of the China Welfare Institute are a manifestation of the general improvement that has come about in the lives of the Chinese people since the founding of the People's Republic of China. As the country's economic position gradually gains strength, more funds and facilities will be made available for welfare work. The CWI looks forward to the future. It is preparing itself to assume new and heavier duties in the service of our people.

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