Since 1986, Henan Lankao County’s Yuan Lihai has already adopted over 100 foundlings (abandoned babies). Those who have grown up to marry and work have left, and there are still 39 with her today, some suffering from albinism, some with cleft palates. Yuan Lihai peddles goods on the street to make a living for herself and these abandoned babies, while her husband who opposed her taking in abandoned babies has separated from her. Photo: Lens magazine.
Five foundlings lie on a bed made of a straw mattress and dirty bedding, some playing, some dozing. The honeycomb briquettes at the head of the bed are stacked very high and could easily fall onto the bed if not careful. This is a residence of Henan Lankao County’s Yuan Lihai. Beginning in 1987, Yuan Lihai has taken in handicapped or diseased children, having adopted over 100 over the past 25 years, with some of the children having died due to severe illness and inadequate medical treatment. Yuan Lihai is rather well-known locally, with the ordinary common people, hospital, and even 110 (police, emergency services) all sending children they have found to her. At a certain level, the inadequacy of public welfare institutions (orphanages) has pushed these kinds of “private orphanages” towards complications between morality, law, and interest/profit.
Yuan Lihai does not have a permanent residence in Lankao County, normally living in a tent where she peddles goods on the street. She has a total of four places where the children live, with dozens of children living in two small homes. No far in the back are Lankao’s high-end villas. Compared to feeding, the problem of clothing the children is slightly easier to overcome. In the past, it was always the neighbors or the people’s government who would provide a little and scavenging some off the streets. Those that the larer children have outgrown, the smaller children can continue wearing. When the clothes have holes, Yuan Lihai would patch them up. After gradually becoming known, many kind-hearted people have donated their old clothes and shoes for the children to wear, resulting in a heap that has become a small mountain.