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The Gap

November 8, 2010

After reading my last two short pieces, you might have started to feel some disconnect between what we see in the news about China’s growing wealth and the poverty I have described in the countryside. The gap is enormous, and NGO’s like Amity seek to address that.

A recent article showed that of China’s GDP only .01% went to charitable groups or about 25rmb ($3.25) per capita. The United States may have only a quarter of the population, but we have more than 35 times as many charitable organizations.

The reasons for this big difference are partially cultural and partially legal.

One of the most cited reasons is a lack of charity in Chinese culture, this is really only true in the Western definition of charity. Chinese culture is built much more around the family, and so it is largely accepted that you don’t give money to strangers, but you take care of your family (very extended) so that others do not need to. This holds up to some extent, but there are more and more people slipping through the cracks.

Secondly, China has only encouraged social organizations in a limited way for about 30 years. Without a strong call for these NGO’s from the government, people have been cautious about getting involved. Technologies like the Internet and the growing urban population have allowed more like-minded people to come together.

In the past few years, especially since the Wenchuan earthquake, which greatly increased people’s interest in charity, NGO’s have been growing. The Amity Foundation is one of China’s oldest and largest organizations in the development field, and so they are sharing their resources through the Amity NGO development center.

While it is limited in scope at the moment, it provides office space and consultation for fledgling organizations. One of the groups they have fostered was originally an Internet based group called “Firefly.” This group volunteers to assist the disabled. (Note: my next piece will be about projects for people with disabilities.)

The Development Center was able to help them organize themselves better, give them advice for legal framework to protect themselves, and helped them to clarify their goals. Today, Firefly has been able to expand its efforts to a few other large cities.

The Amity Development Center seeks to be the driving force for China’s new civil society. The mission we have been given to care for the poor, the sick, the widow, and the oppressed cannot be met by a single organization. Through our partnership with Amity, and their partnership with new NGO’s we enable God’s love to be felt by more and more people.

Tom Morse

Tom Morse serves with the Amity Foundation of China as an English teacher.

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