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Nordic Lighthouse fundraiser for kids

THIS week Expo visitors disembarking at Qinhuangdao Ferry Terminal can buy art to benefit the local Morning Tears charity for children with parents behind bars.

Paintings by Shanghai art students are on offer at the arts and culture venue Nordic Lighthouse on the riverside. They address the Expo theme "Better City, Better Life."

The exhibition runs through the end of the week. Organizers hope to get offers of at least 1,000 yuan (US$146) for each painting.

The Nordic Lighthouse is a supplementary Expo pavilion for the five Nordic countries - Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Each week during the six-month Expo period it hosts cultural events and exhibitions.

Morning Tears takes in children whose parents have been convicted of crimes and imprisoned, and who have no one to care for them. The charity runs three residential facilities in Shaanxi and Henan provinces. It plans to build a fourth.

The charity is committed to caring for the children either until the parents are released or until they are old enough to live on their own.

Since it was established in 1998, Morning Tears has helped 600 children, but the task is daunting as official statistics indicate more than 600,000 children are "orphaned" because their parents are behind bars, according to charity spokesperson Signe Kuhl.

"These kids have experienced a lot of abuse at home. Around 40 percent of our cases involve the mother killing the father in self-defense against domestic violence - which means the child loses both parents," says Kuhl. "And relatives usually don't want them as they're considered bad luck."

Despite many psychological challenges, the children are resilient with the right support, she says. Most of the children get back on tract and successfully reenter society.

Founded by an expat Belgian working in China, the charity raises money in four European countries to benefit kids in China.

Next month Morning Tears continues fund-raising at the Nordic Lighthouse to help finance a fourth residence planned for Zhengzhou, Henan's capital city.

The fundraiser features a Lego brick model of the new home made of 6,000 bricks. Companies are asked to sponsor each brick to help raise the 3 million yuan (US$439,200) to build the home.

Cai Jieqing, a graduate of the Shanghai Arts and Crafts College, says she took a week off her job at a soft furnishing company to paint for the charity.

"When my teacher called me about this, I really wanted to help," she says. "My painting is in blue, a healthy and inspirational color. It shows Shanghai landmarks and their transformations over time, dark old dwelling reaching up to modernity."

The exhibit is one of many events underway at the Nordic Lighthouse. Forthcoming highlights include the Danish Design Jewels exhibition in late June and the Nordic Fashion Week in early August.

Opening hours: 8am-10pm

Address: 32 Qinhuangdao Rd


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