Monday, December 22, 2008

Weijun Collins.

:00AM Monday Dec 22, 2008
By Alanah May Eriksen
Weijun Collins.

* Our lost children: Child abuse and the charities campaigning to end it

Weijun Collins has experienced abuse first hand - she was a slave for 10 years during China's Cultural Revolution.

So after reading the Herald's Our Lost Children series, the 64-year-old felt compelled to donate $1000 to a charity working to combat child abuse.

Mrs Collins, who studied early childhood education at the Auckland University of Technology in 1997, also wants to donate her time helping new parents in their homes.

Her donation will go to Barnardos, which runs a programme called Footsteps to Feeling Safe teaching children how to escape abusive situations.

Northern region spokeswoman Jenny Corry said of Mrs Collins' donation: "I think that's fantastic. It's so generous.

"We want her to know we will certainly put the money to good use. It will go directly to the children.

"If she's interested in working with us I'm sure we can use her in some capacity."

Mrs Collins was born in China into a prominent and well-educated family. When she was 10, her father, once a high-ranking official, was condemned as an enemy of the Communist Party and banished to a labour camp where he was tortured and starved to death.

Mrs Collins struggled to continue her education but her father's crime eventually rebounded on her and she was sent to the Gobi Desert in north-west China for 10 years farming wheat, maize and opium.

Forced to live in a cave with little food and minimal clothing, she laboured in sub-zero temperatures under heavy guard.

"I was humiliated, outcast," Mrs Collins said.

"No one would talk to me because of my father. I was given the heaviest work to do.

"No one wanted to be my friend. They would hold meetings just to criticise me."

But she managed to find an English textbook which she used to teach herself the language in secret. The only books allowed during that time were books written by Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong.

When she felt she was able to speak English well enough, she biked eight hours into the closest city to look for a job as a teacher, telling soldiers she had back pain and needed to see a doctor.

She was eventually offered a job teaching English as a second language in a small village and, after a battle with her minders, was permitted to work there.

She came to New Zealand in 1986 to study English after a Kiwi tourist, whom she had taken in in China, paid for her tickets.

She returned to China after a year working at a university teaching English before settling back in New Zealand in 1995.

She has since written an autobiography - Desert Rose - and married an English professor working in the engineering school at Auckland University.

She is currently writing a book on parenting skills.

The two daughters she had with her first husband also live in New Zealand and are married.

As a result of Our Lost Children, a research project into minimising brain damage to children on life support has received a $50,000 donation from Mercury Energy.

And an Auckland couple are sponsoring two families associated with Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, which has also had offers of food and clothing.

Presbyterian Support has also received donations.

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