When we leave China we will be donating many of the toys Andrew has acquired while we are here along with some clothes he has outgrown to an orphanage. This is actually one of the orphanages sponsored by our adoption agency so the donation has special meaning for us besides putting the stuff that just wont fit in our suitcases to good use.
I came up with the idea to do a clothing drive at Andrew's preschool to gather up more stuff than we had. Considering that the preschool he attends is in a neighborhood where most residents are in the top 10% of wage earners and tuition is about what government statistics say the "average income" for a Chinese worker is I thought that the kids and parents might have a few things that they could part with.
I first mentioned this to Andrew's English speaking teacher. I could tell that she didn't really understand what I was trying to get at so I didn't pursue it. Next I talked to one of the other parents who is fluent in English. (His 5 year old is also fluent in English, Mandarin, Shanghainese, and now they are working on Spanish.) I started out by explaining what I wanted to do and then asked him if people would find this culturally strange. His reply was, "Yes, very strange."
So what do the Chinese do with their old items? They pass them off to friends and relatives and when their usefulness there has passed they go to the household workers (nannies, cleaning ladies, etc..) and when they are done there they go out into the trash which gets sorted piece by piece for recyclables and other "valuables". If something has any usefulness left in it at this point the trash man (or woman) will either take it home or sell it.