Children in Plight —— A Documentary Like No Other

“Each time I see this box of chalks, I think of SiSi. She likes scribbling on the blackboard with the chalks. She told us she wants to be a teacher in 20 years and help her little brother learn to speak. And she hopes he will watch this documentary and appreciate her love for him when he grows up,” said this documentary’s director, a long-time partner of Chunhui Children, at one of our film-watching events. 

When the withdrawn girl Sisi let down her guard against the shooting team and shared with them what she had been through, her fear, frustrations, sorrow and distress, even the director, who had seen too many sufferings of the people, felt throbbing pain in his heart. 

The following is what the director recounted.

What plunges SiSi into the mire?



When we first met Sisi, she had few words but didn’t refuse the shooting at all. On day one, she even sang us the song Love Makes the World Go Around, but I somehow felt there was something wrong with her. 

That night, while reviewing what we filmed, I found that SiSi was smiling all the time and in the same way, even when she was hit by her whining little brother.

Isn’t it a little bit weird that this 11-year-old girl, who had been through so much, kept smiling? 

Then I talked to Chunhui Children’s trainer Wang Yanhong and learned that this vulnerable girl, neglected by his parents for so long, has little trust in others. You could feel that under her thick and hard shell lies a wounded heart. Behind her smiling face hides a grieved soul. We knew it would take us a long time to help her open up but I was prepared. I wished to lay bare the girl’s plight instead of simply documenting what her life was like. 

Chunhui Children taught me empathy



It is a big challenge to work with withdrawn children like Sisi, but Chunhui Children’s trainers give me confidence. We have been working with Chunhui Children for five years and we find their trainers have a master skill——they know how to empathize with the children.

Each at-risk child is different, but Chunhui trainers could always find a way to bond with them. As they say, to help a child they spend a lot of time developing a relationship with him/her first.

Wang Yanhong approached Sisi this way and after long she found that it was much more difficult than expected to help the girl and her family. Her grandma suffers from poor health and her grandpa committed suicide when he got paralyzed by femoral head necrosis. The grandma was thought to kill her husband with poison, which weighed so much on her mind and worse still, she was worn out from supporting Sisi and her brother. 

Deprived of parental care, Sisi often asks her grandma: “Why do I have such parents?” It’s not hard to imagine how much these words hurt her grandma.

The girl nurses a grievance against her grandma but still depends on her for survival. 

While talking about her dreams, we found Sisi was terrified of her future. She feared that her little brother might be kidnapped or speechless all his life and that she might lose her grandma to diseases……

These pressures are overwhelming even for ordinary people, not to mention a teenage girl like Sisi. Chunhui Children feels for these forgotten young lives and wants to touch each of them. It will help the children help themselves and fight for their future.

Two tear-jerking moments



The micro-film Children in Plight showcases how the children of Chunhui programs progress and change bit by bit. Benefiting from the long-standing intervention and training of Chunhui teachers, Sisi’s little brother learned to speak. When he said “help me” clearly, the first ever two words of his life, his sister and grandma were stunned, and the cameraman burst into tears of joy.

With support from Chunhui Children, Sisi has grown stronger. The grandma has come to trust Chunhui Children too, but her health got worse. She worried that she might not be able to pull through and support her grandchildren. Now with Chunhui Children by their side, however, she was relieved that she could pass away contented. Touched by what she said, the shooting team shed floods of tears again. 

At these loving but heart-breaking moments, we were convinced that what we filmed is valuable and what Chunhui Children does means everything to the children.

More than a record



I still remember when we were producing the film Don’t be Afraid, Because We Are Here for You, Chunhui Children’s CEO and Co-founder Rachel Xing started to talk about at-risk children. Back then, she just returned from visits to Guizhou. “There are 6 million at-risk children in China that we have not touched yet. If they don’t receive timely intervention and support, they will have to confront myriad challenges and risks when they grow up,” she said. 

Yes, we have witnessed the children’s changes and growth. Xing’s words inspired us to delve deeper into these underprivileged lives and call for more social attention to them. As the modern Chinese poet Yu Hua said, a writer’s mission is not to complain or denounce, but to demonstrate nobleness, I think our documentaries need also bring the goodness and brilliance of humanity to light rather than simply show privation and distress.

A little chalk may open up a world of choices and possibilities for Sisi. There are still millions of at-risk children waiting for our help. Let’s reach out to each of them, help them pick up a chalk and rewrite their life.