Charity helps inmates' children

Source:China Daily
Updated:2018-08-20 11:22:28

Lin Minming (left) talks with an inmate's children during a visit to inmates' families in Sanming, Fujian province. CHINA DAILY

  Red Apple Public Welfare set up four years ago after founder learned scale of problem

  Lin Minming trains prison officers at work and runs a charity organization helping inmates' children in his spare time.

  "I like to hear the children we're helping calling me Uncle Bear, my nickname in the organization. I've learned a lot," Lin, 46, said.

  He decided to help inmates' children in 2013, after prison officers he was training in Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian province, told him some prisoners were worried their children were not receiving sufficient education and care.

  Lin, who works for the Fujian Justice Bureau's prison officers' training center in Fuzhou, began researching the plight of inmates' children living in poverty and found the problem was far more serious than he imagined.

  He was shocked to read data from the Ministry of Justice from 2005 that said there were over 600,000 children of prisoners across China, that 90 percent had never received any form of outside help and that 13 percent had dropped out of school.

  To make matters worse, some children without guardians followed their parents' path to prison. Lin said that was "the biggest tragedy, which I don't want to see".

  He founded Red Apple Public Welfare in June 2014 to start helping prisoners' children. Lin learns about inmates' family concerns from the officers he trains at the center, then arranges visits to families that apply for aid to evaluate their situation and verify that they need help.

  If a family's yearly income is less than 6,000 yuan ($880), Lin's team can help its children by providing financial, psychological and legal aid.

  The help offered by the charity has been welcomed by the Fujian Prison Management Bureau, and Red Apple has operated in all 18 prisons across the province since 2016.

  "When inmates know their children are having a good life outside, they'll feel at ease and have better rehabilitation in prison," Lin said. "That's why I always say what I'm doing is killing two birds with one stone."

Lin talks with a prisoner in Quanzhou, Fujian province. CHINA DAILY

  The charity had helped 2,128 children by the end of June, about 80 percent of them living in Fujian, and the number of its volunteers had grown from 30 at the end of 2014 to 800.

  But Lin said he still encounters difficulties when trying to help inmates' families. "One challenge is to persuade inmates and their family members to give more information about their children, while another is raising money to operate the organization," he said.

  To illustrate the first challenge, Lin shared the case of a man sentenced to life in prison for intentional injury in 2014. The man applied for aid from Red Apple.

  "We didn't effectively help his three children as he couldn't give sufficient information about the kids, and his wife, a waitress in a restaurant, didn't cooperate with us," Lin said.

  When he met the wife at the address provided by the inmate, he found the three children did not live with her. "The family qualified for aid, but the woman was reluctant to talk about the children, just telling me that the oldest onea daughter, then age 17lived in a school dormitory," Lin said.

  When he reached the girl, she had not been in school for several days because she was worried her classmates knew her father was a criminal. She returned to school after being given psychological and financial aid by Lin, but her two brothers were less fortunate.

  "We got little information about the boys, as the mother refused to answer," he said. "Later, we were told by the family's neighbors that the older one had been jailed for stealing motorcycles, and the younger one had dropped out of school."

  When Lin tried to get more information from the mother to follow up and help the boys, her phone had been disconnected.

  "Some criminals' family members feel ashamed to be related to inmates and don't want to work with us," Lin said. "Meanwhile, some other people often label the inmates, believing they and their children are bad people."

  Lin designed a four-day camp to bring inmates, their children and other family members closer, hoping the adults and children would learn to understand each other better by painting and playing games together.

  But the program was only held three times last year and once this year because some inmates' families cannot afford to travel and Red Apple lacks the funding to help them.

  To boost its finances, Lin has been urging the public to donate online, highlighting the significance of the aid it provides.

  He said children's smiling faces motivate him to keep the organization going, adding that the support of his own family is a constant source of encouragement. Last year, he got a birthday card from his 16-year-old daughter that read, "Daddy's job is valuable, and I'm proud of you."