China has around 410,000 orphans. Most of them have birth defects and are unable to attend regular schools. But all is not lost. Several special education schools have been set up in welfare homes across the country, where many young teachers are making a difference.
In north China's Shanxi Province, the Taiyuan Social and Children Welfare Institute, a special education school was set up in 2015 in the capital city.
Twenty-seven-year-old Xue Siluo, a teacher at the school, was showing the students how to recognize rice and millet. Almost all of these kids are handicapped. Xue says it's a difficult job done and requires a lot of patience.
"It's very difficult to teach them. In a regular school, it only takes a few words to teach a first grade student how to go to the toilet. But it takes us a whole semester to teach the kids here to do it," said Xue.
One of 39 teachers at the school, Xue first came here three years after graduating college. All the instructors here play dual roles as both teacher and parent, sometimes even having to change students' diapers.
"I never imagined I would do these things. But after I did it, I felt the responsibility to. I don't know how I will treat my own children in the future. But for the kids here, I'm a first-time mother bringing them love," Xue said.
This special education school now has around 100 students. It consists of a kindergarten, an elementary school and a middle school. The curriculum mainly teaches basic skills for daily living.
Many of these children have learning differences, making it hard for teachers to track their progress. But the young teachers believe their efforts are worthwhile. They feel happy working here because while they offer the children love and care, the children give love back to them as well.
Xue recalled, "They often throw themselves into my arms after class and say thank you. They're so sweet and adorable. And once they brought me a cup of water when I felt ill. It made me feel that everything I do is worthwhile."
Compared to regular schools, teachers here put in much more effort looking after and educating handicapped children. But their income is barely above the local minimum wage, around 2,000 yuan a month. However, many of them say the work itself means much more.
"It's our first job. This school holds a special meaning for us. It's where our dream started. When I see these kids and their smiles, and the days we grow together, I think it's the most beautiful experience in my work life," Xue said with her eyes full of tears.
And Xue believes these orphans also share a hopeful future. "There's a poem written by Lin Qingxuan, which says every flower will eventually blossom, only some might blossom a bit later, but they are all trying hard to grow."