Interview with David Gotts

Part 2 of 2

This is the second part of our interview with David Gotts, Founder and Executive Director of International China Concern. In this interview, David explores the vision and needs of ICC as we continue to dream the future.

David Gotts, Founder & Executive Director

How were the 20th anniversary celebrations that took place in China in May of this year? 

The 20th anniversary celebrations were amazing. I think anybody who went and participated in those events just couldn’t help but have a sense of just what an incredible journey we’ve been on since we started back in 1993. 

It was really moving having lots of different people share stories about how God had changed children’s lives, how He’s used them to be part of the work that He’s done in China. As we finished up, we began to look towards the future. We invited the body of ICC into a process of praying and discerning where God wants us to go over the next five years.

As the children are getting older, how does that influence the services we provide? 

Typically [in western countries], a lot of organizations may only care for children up until the age of 18 and then they move them on to another part of the system that takes them into adulthood. But, in China, that doesn’t exist so we have had to create services and supports for those children. 

We really look case by case, child by child, at what their abilities are. If a child can be placed into a situation where they can receive training and then go on to employment, then we facilitate that. If a child maybe doesn’t have quite the potential in that area, then we create opportunities for them within our own Vocational Training Centre workshop.

As they move into adulthood, we ask them to take on more and more responsibilities within the household. We’re trying to move these young adults now into a greater level of independence, if possible, with as much control over their own future as possible. But always doing that with caregiving staff and support standing behind them so they know that we’re there for them.

What are our long-term goals? 

“Love, Hope and Opportunity” doesn’t change. As ICC looks to the future, there are some things that are very clear. The first is that the need is still quite desperate. You can still travel to cities across China where there aren’t organizations like ICC working and you will go into orphanages where the mortality rate is still very high. Or there will be children with disabilities who are not getting anywhere near the level of nourishment or nurture or care services that they need. 

Another thing that’s clear within our vision is that ICC’s calling is to work to prevent abandonment. ICC’s Community Outreach Project currently serves two out of the twelve districts in Changsha city. It would be very much our desire and hope to see that grow and spread out to all of the twelve districts. Beyond that, we’d love to take the concept of Community Outreach support and bring that to other cities such as Hengyang and Sanmenxia where we have projects [and even] beyond that to other cities, too. 

As we look at our existing projects in Changsha, Hengyeng and Sanmenxia, we recognize that there’s still a long way to go with those works. We want to be able to address more of the issues and challenges that abandoned and disabled children are facing, and we also want to get to those children that are currently in the [Chinese] government system that we don’t have access to.

Where would we expand outside of Changsha, Hengyang and Sanmenxia? 

There are a couple of methods that ICC has used in the past to identify where we believe God is calling us to go. One is to go to a place where we already have relationship. 

The other way — and this is the way that ICC has typically worked— is when we get a sense of a larger geographical area that we would consider working in, we’ll approach the provincial Civil Affairs Bureau for that area and we go in with a list of criteria. 

Typically it needs to be a city that doesn’t already have another significant foreign NGO providing support. It needs to be a welfare centre that has a high number of children with disabilities. And it needs to be a welfare centre that is willing to really partner with ICC, understanding what true partnership is. 

We would ask [the Civil Affairs Bureau] to provide a recommendation of three or four centres within that geographical area that we can visit, and that they feel will fulfill those criteria. Then we go into each of those cities and 4 [complete] a needs assessment with a team of ICC staff. At the end of that, we use the information gathered to prayerfully discern where we should go.

How are the needs different between Hangyang, Changsha and Sanmenxia? 

Our Changsha Project is quite spread out across the city. The work is a very diverse one, both in terms of function and in terms of geography, as well. Building that staff team, trying to maintain cohesiveness can be challenging. For expatriate volunteers coming in, it can be difficult to support them well. 

We continually need to be reaffirming the values of ICC within the projects. There’s a fine line as you allow the project to reflect the culture that it is in. We want to reflect Chinese culture without compromising the values that we feel underpin the mission and the vision that we have. 

In Hengyang, there are 20 new group homes that will be developed for the children currently in ICC’s care. We have a need for finance to fit those small group homes out [and] USD $200,000 needs to be raised for that. And there’s always a need for more staff, whether it be therapy staff or education staff. 

One of the unique aspects of the Sanmenxia Project is that it’s very integrated with the government. What we’re finding there is that we haven’t seen the numbers of overseas volunteers that we would hope for. We really need to see more staff coming in to that project. Again, therapists and educators can really help us.

Would you say that volunteers are our most significant need? 

I would say that, right now, ICC’s need for volunteers is very significant. Even if we had the finance to do what we wanted to do, in some instances we can’t do it because we don’t have the volunteers to actually implement it. ICC is blessed by having people who come and volunteer for six months or twelve months or even two years and that’s wonderful. But when you’re looking to start a new project, you often need people who are willing to come on for [at least] five years.

What kind of person are we looking for? 

First and foremost, we’re looking for somebody with passion. If you come with a sense of passion and commitment to see China’s abandoned and disabled children have a future, then we can find a place for you. 

In terms of specific skill sets, we’re looking for doctors, nurses, physical and occupational therapists and special educators. For us to continue to grow the provision of those services, we need people who don’t just come in to actually do that work, but to train local Chinese people, to pass on their skills. 

I would encourage anybody to think about coming, but certainly those people with those skill sets would be welcome and we would easily be able to find a place for them to serve.

Is there a particular personality that does better in the field than others? 

I would say flexibility is a real important characteristic if you’re planning on coming to live in China, particularly for a longer term. For [those that love] adventure [and] thrive in... situations where perhaps things aren’t always easy...China is the most wonderful place to be.

In terms of funds, what is the best way for people to give? 

I would always encourage everybody to consider sponsoring a child with ICC. This is a way that you can impact a specific child’s life. The money is used to meet the costs that are incurred in providing care and services and a home for that child. What you get is the opportunity and privilege to journey with that child and to learn about what is happening in their life. 

Another great way to get involved is through Walk the Wall. This is ICC’s global fundraising event, a sponsored walkathon. This is an opportunity, not just for you as a donor to contribute to ICC, but to encourage your family, your friends, and your network to get involved as well.