Sun Village is located past the Beijing Capital Airport, and if you’re familiar with Beijing, that is quite far from the city center. We set out early one morning to meet the children who live there as well as the woman who started Sun Village, a home for children whose parent(s) are in prison.
Tang Bo had already told me about a set of young triplets he met when he first visited. The Chen triplets’ mother killed their father a few years before and one of the boys saw it with his own eyes. Can you imagine witnessing such a horrific event? As a five-year-old?
The most touching moment in all of our filming at Sun Village was when Tang Bo interviewed the triplets. The three of them stood side-by-side facing Tang Bo, while I and the cameraman stood at a distance behind the boys. At one point, when Tang Bo was talking with the triplets, one of them grabbed the hand of another, presumably because he was nervous or scared. It was sweet and sad at the same time. Then we found out from one of the caregivers that the triplets are having a hard time and really are traumatized, and they have trouble getting along with the other children.
We knew there were mostly children and teenagers at Sun Village, but on our visit we met a young man called Ma Jiacai. He spent half his childhood in Sun Village and after a few years away (he became an adult and did some migrant work), he went back to help. When he was interacting with the other children you could tell he has a ‘big brother’ persona, and the kids look up to him.
Ma Jiacai’s story of how he came to Sun Village is incredible. Its founder, Zhang Shuqin, told us that years ago, Ma’s father contacted her from the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in central China and asked if she could take his son. He was being executed for killing Ma Jiacai’s mother and the boy had nobody to take care of him. Zhang considered the request but she wasn’t sure if she could provide accommodations for Ma Jiacai because he is Muslim and required certain foods and facilities in keeping with his religion.
But one night she said to herself that she knew the answer: of course she had to do something to help this boy. He was only nine years old. So she says she flew out to Ningxia to pick up Ma Jiacai and take him back with her to Beijing. By the time they arrived in Beijing, Ma’s father had already been executed. To me this was an incredible story and like nothing I had ever heard before.
Some of these children will spend the rest of their childhoods at Sun Village until they become adults. For the triplets, at the time of our filming, their mother had only a few more years of her prison sentence left. By the time she’s released, the boys will still be of school age, and I can’t imagine how difficult it will be for her to raise three sons by herself. (Click HERE to view)