Thousands of orphans count the cost

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 July, 2006, 12:00am

Children were another group seriously affected, with 4,204 under 16 orphaned.

One of those was a six-month-old baby girl clutched in the arms of her badly injured father when pulled from the debris. Nameless, she was taken to the Yuhong School, a Shijiazhuang orphanage housing 600 quake orphans, and renamed Dang Yuxin - literally meaning a new person raised by the Communist Party.

'I didn't know what families, parents and siblings were. I couldn't tell the difference between having or not having parents. In the school, I only knew there were teachers, caregivers and a routine life,' she said.

She realised other children had parents only when, as an eight year old, she returned to live with her maternal grandmother. It took her years, until she had a child of her own six years ago, before she fully understood parenthood. 'After my son was born, I realised the responsibility parents have and the meaning of families,' she said, adding that she had been reunited with her elder sister when she was 20.

Grateful for her upbringing, Ms Dang said she might have died without care. 'I lost my parents to the quake, but I still grew up healthily. I told my son that I am a quake orphan, but I feel that we should look forward instead of dwelling in the past.'