How a woman from regional Australia turned her life upside down to help orphans - half a world away
In 1997 Linda Shum had a stable teaching career and a happy marriage with beloved partner Greg. Living in regional Queensland, Linda was a woman of deep faith with a family of grown children. She was 49 and her life was fine.
But Linda's life had not always been so settled. Throughout her childhood she had been made to feel unwanted by a mother battling her own troubles.
Then she came across a newsletter which described Chinese babies being abandoned and dying because of a lack of human contact. The unwanted children were seen as 'throwaway kids' and armies of them were filling up the orphanages of China.
Linda Shum felt appalled. A year later she visited an orphanage in a small Chinese city, filled with sick and dying children, a hidden human side-effect of China's One-Child Policy.
For almost two decades, while China developed into a wealthy economy, Linda has travelled back and forth from her home, raising money and gathering a network of helpers, to better care for the orphans. Battling suspicious government officials and a constant lack of funds, Linda has saved countless little lives, while also establishing a school in the orphanage and a foster-care program. The book gives a rare glimpse into life inside a state orphanage and questions the efficacy and continuing effect of China's 35 year old one-child policy which ended in 2015.
Today Linda Shum is the founder and President of the Chinese Orphans Assistance Team (COAT). Linda's work has given the 'throwaway kids' a brighter future, but her achievements have been hard won. During her twenty-year sojourn against sorrow, Linda has had to overcome her own tragedies including the loss of her husband Greg, surviving breast cancer and a double mastectomy.
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About the author
Jane Hutcheon hosts the weekly ABC-TV interview program One Plus One. She began her career in radio and television in Hong Kong. She has served as the ABC Correspondent in China, the Middle-East and Europe. Her first book From Rice to Riches published in 2003, documented her family's connections and her own reporting experiences in China.