PAGE?13 » really. I didn’t go to school because my family couldn’t afford it, so only my sister could go. I came to Shanghai and learnt a lot of new things and made a lot of new friends.’ ? Ruth is still in contact with her sister, who recently finished university. ? I then talked to another woman called Mana who has been living in Shanghai for almost five years. She lost her parents at a very young age and was raised in an orphanage. ? ‘When I was 20, a family fostered me and 15 other people from the orphanage. They helped us find work and taught us a few things too. Then two years ago the family had to return back to their home country as they were foreign, but they had contacted Home Sweet Home and so I came here. It was a big change in my life. The life of an orphan is very different to the life I lead now. One day I hope to go back to my hometown and use the skills I’ve learnt to help other people.’ ? Mana still has contact with the children she grew up with in the orphanage, whom she considers her brothers and sisters. ? Finally I spoke to a man named Charlie who is originally from Yunnan province. Following an accident at work when he was 18 that left him disabled and unable to find employment anywhere, Charlie became a ‘drifter’. ? ‘I went from city to city and ended up on the streets in Shanghai. When it was very hot in the summer or cold in the winter I would go and sit inside the metro stations. If I had some money I would buy food. If I didn’t, I would go hungry. Sometimes if people found me sleeping in certain places they would send me away, but I did meet some people who bought me food and clean clothes. In 2010 I met someone who worked for Home Sweet Home. They helped me and suggested I go on the programme.’ ? When Charlie travelled back to his hometown three years ago, he met the woman who would become his wife. ? ‘I met my wife when I went home for the mid-autumn festival in 2010. Now we have a baby boy and we all live here at Home Sweet Home. I phone my family often and they are proud of me and my life here.’ ? One thing that struck me about everyone I came into contact with at the shelter was their overall positivity. From the people working in the workshop or office to the people I sat down and chatted with, the thing I picked up on most was a feeling of hope. ? Although not all of the people living there had previously lived on the streets, each had a former life that few would envy. Home Sweet Home has clearly played a big part, but the fact is these people wouldn’t be where they are now without the determination to make a big change in their lives and the hard work to maintain it. ? Spending time at the shelter was a sobering experience, and although I’ll inevitably moan about the weather, a hangover, my broken AC or the price of electricity again, I hope that next time I’ll do it with a little perspective. Go to www. hshfoundation. com for more information on Home Sweet Home, and to find out how you can help. •