On Saturday, approximately 150 walkers – including a team from Manningham Uniting Church – joined in a Walk the Wall walkathon at Westerfolds Park to raise more than $20,000 for abandoned children in China.
Walk the Wall events are held globally every year. Participants walk up to 10 kilometres to collectively cover the length of the Great Wall of China; together, they demonstrate that the problem of child abandonment can be overcome.
The walkathons are organised by International China Concern (ICC), a Christian charity that cares for children who are abandoned or live with a disability.
While official statistics are unavailable, welfare groups estimate there are millions of abandoned children in China. Many are abandoned because of the stigma associated with disability.
Cost is also a factor. More than 75 percent of people with a disability in China live in rural areas and the costs of caring for a child with a disability create additional financial pressures for disadvantaged parents.
The Manningham congregation first heard about China’s child abandonment epidemic from the daughter of Helen Bartlett, the congregation’s mission portfolio convenor. Ms Bartlett’s daughter volunteered in China and witnessed the work of ICC in action.
“Having heard about it from my daughter first-hand, rather than just vague reports from different places, we knew that their program was working and we were happy to support this,” Ms Bartlett said.
The congregation also received a visit from ICC development representative Rebekah Goh, who explained the organisation’s work. ICC cares for approximately 350 children and young adults in three centres.
“We provide family-style care, giving our children a home and a family,” Ms Goh said.
“As we bring life-changing transformation to those in our care, we are also changing the community’s attitude towards disability.”
ICC also runs community outreach projects to strengthen families’ capacity to care for a child with a disability in their own homes.
This is the second year the congregation has participated in Walk the Wall. Last year, the Manningham UC Walkers raised more than $1000.
They have already raised more than $1300 for this year’s fundraiser.
Manningham Uniting Church elder Ruth Hodges said the congregation decided to support Walk the Wall because the money goes directly to programs with minimal administration costs.
“We have a very strong mission focus at Manningham and we like to support programs that we know are working,” Ms Hodges said.
“We’re following the way of Jesus, who had compassion for the most vulnerable people, particularly children.”