Coal for Kids in China

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Driving back from a hike near the Great Wall on Sunday we passed the rail line that comes from Datong in Shanxi province. Shanxi is the coal mining capital of China (about whose appalling conditions I’ve written previously) and this line appeared to be dedicated solely to coal transport. We watched in amazement as four locomotives pulled an immensely long train comprising what looked like at least 100 cars, every single one of them brimming with coal. It was a reminder of the extent to which China depends on this noxious fuel for its energy (70 per cent). It was also a reminder that winter is coming, a period during which the vast majority of heating in China is fueled by coal. That in turn made me think of our friends at the Our Chinese Daughters Foundation, a charity set up by adoptive parents of Chinese kids (mostly girls obviously) that seeks to help the children living in orphanages around Beijing, among other things (see their website for more). Naomi Kerwin, who is Director of Community Relations for the Foundation, sent me a note recently about their Coal for Kids program, which aims to supply enough coal so that the orphanages can turn on the heat for four hours a day. That’s enough for part of the night only, obviously, but is far better than nothing. Some of the orphanages are largely devoted to handicapped children, some of whom are incapable of putting a hand or foot back under a blanket if it protrudes during the night. If the heating isn’t on, that means frostbite and sometimes amputation. They need 25-40 tons per orphanage to maintain that minimal heating through the winter. Each ton costs around $125. Contact Naomi at for details of how to contribute.