Getting to Know Individuals Making a Difference All Over the World
International China Concern (ICC) was founded in 1993 by David Gotts after he saw firsthand the suffering that so many children with disabilities in China were experiencing after being left abandoned in desperate conditions.
In the beginning, ICC sent short-term teams into China to provide care in government welfare centers. Later, ICC established permanent locations which provide full-time family-style care for children in Changsha and Hengyang in Hunan Province.
The World Forgotten Children Foundation (WFCF) has collaborated with ICC for many years to provide bathing and mobility equipment, sleep aid systems, and other apparatus to children and adolescents with disabilities. We are very fortunate to be able to learn a little bit more about David and ICC’s mission and vision:
WFCF: When did your passion for helping others first begin?
DG: It began when I was 17 years old. I had begun a career in banking and finance but soon realized that this wasn’t the right career path for me to take. As I began to think and pray about what my future might hold, I began to find myself considering those around the world that were much less fortunate than I. I had been brought up in a family that, whilst not rich, was certainly comfortable. I couldn’t escape the fact that there were so many people, especially children that didn’t have the same opportunities. As I looked around the world at all the places of need, I honestly felt overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start. One day, I began reading about China and something just clicked in my heart. From that day on I knew that China was the country for me. I finally left the UK in 1990 to begin what has been my life’s great adventure.
WFCF: As the founder of International China Concern (ICC), can you please share with us what inspired you to begin this organization and how it has evolved over the years?
DG: After spending two years studying to speak Mandarin in Taiwan, I received an invitation from a friend of mine who had begun working in China with children that had been abandoned. It was that visit to a state-run welfare center in China that changed my life. I entered that place not knowing what to expect but was shaken to my core to find children neglected, malnourished, tied to chairs and left all day long. I discovered that the abandonment rate was overwhelmingly high and the staff to child ratio abysmally low. It was a recipe for disaster that led to a mortality rate close to 80%.
As I looked into the eyes of every child, I knew I was looking into the eyes of children that would be dead within a few short weeks. My personal faith tells me that EVERY child is precious, and that human life is sacred. And so, I found myself unable to walk away. I knew I had found my ‘mission’ even though I felt overwhelmed and ill-equipped to know how to help.
WFCF: Can you please talk a little bit about ICC’s mission, and the importance of people actively donating their time and/or financial resources to similar humanitarian efforts? Also, in your professional opinion, what are the benefits of volunteering time and/or financial resources to humanitarian efforts?
DG: From the very beginning, ICC’s work has been to bring love, hope and opportunity to children with disabilities in China. Why these three things? Because these three things are what every child needs to thrive. If you give a child love and nurture, then they are like a flower bud that can open in the warmth of the sun. If you give a child hope, then they can move towards their future knowing that tomorrow can be better than today. And if you give a child opportunity, then upon that strong foundation of love and hope, they can take hold of those opportunities and become the fullest expression of the person they are meant to be.
Today, ICC’s vision is to bring love, hope and opportunity into the lives of children with disabilities, not only in China’s state welfare system, but also to families across China that are struggling due to the stigma, prejudice, poverty and a lack of government services.
Personally, I think that benefit of involving oneself in a work such as ICC’s goes even further than the joy we get from saving and transforming the lives of vulnerable children. Through our giving and our volunteering, we see how our actions can change the world one child at a time, and as we give of ourselves, we become more human; more connected to a side of the world that often is hidden from our view.
WFCF: Where do you hope ICC will be five years from now? What are some of the new projects and/or initiatives on the horizon?
DG: In five years, I believe that ICC’s work will be transforming the lives of even more families that have children with disabilities, helping them to not just survive but thrive. An invitation from the Chinese government to grow our work and help an additional 7,200 families within Hunan province in the coming years is really exciting. Continuing to create small businesses that can employ youth and young adults with disabilities is also part of our growth plan. We love seeing youth find the independence and dignity that comes from being employed.
WFCF: We at the World Forgotten Children Foundation (WFCF) have greatly valued our collaborations with ICC on numerous projects and initiatives. Could you please share with us some of the ways that other organizations or individuals could get involved and support ICC? What are some of the areas that you feel that you are in the greatest need right now?
DG: We are so grateful to the World Forgotten Children Foundation (WFCF) for their partnership. The generous support of WFCF has given many children and youth the opportunity to gain increased mobility and independence through the wheelchairs and equipment that has been donated. So, thank you!
There are many opportunities for involvement in ICC’s work. Individuals can get involved by sponsoring a child or a family that ICC supports. Providing support for a struggling family is literally like throwing a lifeline to a drowning person. Our partner organizations help in numerous ways, such as funding the development of new programs, collaborating on providing much needed training for national staff and sharing their expertise as we seek to grow and impact more children.
WFCF: In closing, if you could provide one piece of advice to anyone who is newly entering into a philanthropic endeavor or deciding what kind of volunteer work they should get involved with, what would it be?
DG: What a great question! My one piece of advice is to simply get involved. Many of us spend time ‘thinking’ about what we could do but never actually take the step of doing it. As I learned from my own experience, you take the first step and then another, and another, and before you know you have found a wonderful space in which you are making a difference in the lives of those that you have grown to passionately care for.
WFCF: Is there anything else you wish to share?
DG: For anyone interested in learning more about ICC’s work, we welcome them to go to: www.chinaconcern.org
Recent Project Collaborations Between ICC and WFCF:www.worldforgottenchildren.org/project/providing-hope-to-icc-children-china/40 www.worldforgottenchildren.org/project/providing-hope-to-icc-children-china-part-ii/46
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Founder of International China Concern looks back on first 25 years