Mrs. Gao: The Face of China's Poverty

COVER IMAGE: Washington Post


                                                                                                                                                                             IMAGE: All Girls Allowed


Before Mrs. Gao (above center) joined our Baby Shower Program, she lived in a Miao (a minority group in China) village with her husband and her five children. Under the enforcement of the country’s One-Child Policy, the family was fined once, twice, and again, until they had absolutely no money left. In the end, they had to give up their house to the local Family Planning Commission. Homeless, they came as migrant laborers to a nearby city, where they encountered some of All Girls Allowed’s field workers.



Testimony from Sister Mei, All Girls Allowed Field Worker


When we walked past a construction site in our city, we noticed a little girl carrying her younger sibling on her back, and asked her what she was doing. She was frightened, but as we talked with her more and gave her some candy to eat, she relaxed and told us that her mother worked at the construction site, and that the baby on her back was her little sister. We asked if she had any other siblings, which, of course, she did. Traditionally, minority families from the countryside try to have as many boys as possible, so that there is enough labor to carry out agricultural work. Even when fined, these families would continue to bear children until their money is gone and their possessions are seized. Then they begin to live like refugees, running from place to place and living in abandoned buildings to keep the rain off their heads for a year or so at a time.


When the little girl’s mother returned—a 26-year-old woman who looked as if she were 60—we asked whether we could visit her home. Later that day, she brought us to a basement dwelling full of children, seemingly stacked one on top of another. At dinnertime, the family all ate from a single pot, which had a little bit of tofu and an unrecognizable mixture of other ingredients in it. It was not a pleasant meal. After a while, the father came home, covered from head to foot in dust. He was also a construction worker.


We were quite concerned about the family’s health, and about their living conditions in general. Mr. and Mrs. Gao did not know how to take care of their babies at all. The children, even in cold weather, had no shoes to wear. They slept on the floor of the basement, which had no bed, no wardrobe, but only piles of junk and refuse instead. On a subsequent visit, we returned with some useful household items, including mosquito nets for the family to sleep beneath. We also brought the children candy, milk, and other healthy food, which they were delighted to receive.


During Spring Festival, we visited Mr. and Mrs. Gao with some gifts. At this time of the year, each family in China was preparing its best holiday food, but we knew the Gaos could never afford to cook the traditional smoked bacon, sausage, duck, and fish. Nevertheless, Mr. Gao was cooking something that looked like a small pig when we arrived. I feared that it had died from some sort of sickness, because I noticed that the meat seemed half decayed. He had done his best to clean it, however, hoping to give something special to his children.


After Mrs. Gao graduated from the Baby Shower Program, we went back to visit her and see how she was doing. The children didn’t recognize us at first, and before we even got to the door, all of them had picked up tools to use as weapons against us. They were afraid, and were ready to fight to defend their mother. Mrs. Gao was inside the room, and when she realized who we were, she called everybody off: “No worries, no worries, these people are fine—they even gave us more than 1000 yuan!” At that, the children dropped their weapons and went about their own business. After having been oppressed for so long, families like the Gaos can easily mistrust us. As a result, we often have to creep into villages—as if we were doing something wrong—and yet we leave the villages amidst many warm goodbyes. The Gao family’s transformation is a great source of encouragement to us, and through many similar experiences, we have also learned to trust in God more and more.  



In this past Christmas, many of us who live in the United States had the opportunity to give and receive presents, fill our homes with all kinds of holiday decorations, or travel with our family and friends. Yet, an astounding number of Chinese families can never enjoy these privileges. According to 2009 data from the World Bank, more than 362 million people in China live on less than $2 a day. Recently, All Girls Allowed has shared a few testimonies about how poverty affects the lives some of the mothers we serve: Ping, a faithful follower of Christ, lives under a leaky roof that can hardly stop rainwater from trickling into her house; Ms. Wei, a mother who operates a public restroom, resides in a tiny, single-window stone house on the outskirts of town; and Mrs. Gao, the migrant mother from the story above, does not even have a place she can call home.


Chai Ling, Founder of All Girls Allowed—In Jesus’ Name, Simply Love Her, said, “To care for the 362 million Chinese people living in poverty while trying to end the One-Child Policy is itself an impossible task, but we have a provider God that makes all things possible. We give thanks to Him for our tireless workers in China, who, as hands and feet of Jesus, help spread this piece of good news: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven…Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth!” (Matthew 5:3-5) In this holiday season, words can no longer describe our gratitude to our Father. Let us end our story with one of our favorite songs: Give Thanks!” 


The Baby Shower Program is bringing life, value, and dignity to baby girls in China by showing their families that girls have value. Please support mothers like Mrs. Gao by giving to our Baby Shower Program

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GUANGZHOU, CHINA--Chen and his wife were perplexed. Every time they talked to their daughter, she complained that she was in pain and begged them to come home from Guangzhou where they were staying as migrant workers.




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