Baking as a path to a bright future
Hidden away in Langfang, Hebei province, about 60 kilometers away from China's capital, Bread of Life Bakery is different from the everyday bread house. It is owned and operated by adult orphans, some of whom have physical disabilities.Village cluster cradles foster care approach, about villages near Datong that have been fostering children since the 1960s:
The brainchild of Americans Keith and Cheryl Wyse, the bakery is a location for young disabled Chinese to learn a trade and earn a wage. The Wyses moved to China in 2002 because they were interested in helping Chinese orphan children.
Over the past 42 years, Cai has provided foster care to more than 30 orphans from the institute. Many of them have congenital disabilities.Outside the ExPat Bubble
Most of Cai's foster children have grown up. Some went to college, married and earned their own livings.
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Many other women in the village have become foster mothers since the 1960s. They bring up these children as their own, build houses for them after they grow up and prepare weddings for them with their own savings.
Located at the foot of Cailiang Mountain in northeastern Datong, Sancha is known as "China's Foster Mother Village", as it has become the country's cradle for this form of parenting.
Villagers have raised more than 1,300 orphans since the 1960s, village Party chief Wang Ting said. About 320 foster children are now being raised in Sancha. More than 90 percent of them have disabilities. Many were born with cleft palates, limb deficiencies or lack of sight.
Ralph and Melinda Howe took a combined $20,000 pay cut to move their family from Orlando, Florida, to Beijing, in March. Two of their four young children were adopted from China, so the couple decided it was important for the family to spend at least three years here to better understand the country. "We want all four of our kids to learn the language - and us if we are capable - and for all of us to experience, at least in part, what it is like to be from Asia," Melinda, 42, says.For orphans, Christmas is all about family
"Our girls who were born here will know that we feel like their native culture is important for all of us to embrace."
But raising a foreign family in China comes with a huge price tag. The cost can become a burden, especially to people who are not on an "expat package": financial assistance provided by companies to overseas hires, usually in the form of free housing, coverage of children's tuition at international schools, medical insurance at Western hospitals and yearly round-trip tickets home.
Like most households across the United States, the Slatons view Christmas as a big deal. The house is decorated from top to bottom, a star is placed atop a towering Christmas tree, and the whole family gathers in robes and pajamas on the big day to exchange gifts and spend time together.
But for this family, one might argue that Christmas is a particularly American ritual.
The Slatons, with seven children, are "a blended family", mother Barbara told China Daily. Her husband has three children and she has two, all now in their 20s.
Together, she and her husband adopted two girls from China, TaoZhu and Quinn. The family lives on a farm in Virginia, with the older children scattered around the US and overseas.
Introducing Christmas to TaoZhu and Quinn produced mixed results, Slaton said, with both reacting differently.
"It's really fascinating to watch it through their eyes, who when they arrived in the US, had nothing to compare Christmas to," she said.
"It's very different from girls who are adopted by American families when they're babies, and they're exposed to the holiday from the beginning.
"My daughters were like, Wow, what's this?"
TaoZhu, who is now 15, joined the family when she was 8, just a month before Christmas, Slaton said.