Sunday, June 22, 2014

SHANGHAI'S LESS FORTUNATE

Having been here for over  two years I was feeling the need to do something a bit more than coffee mornings, lunches and other such events which raise money for various Shanghai Charities. Don't get me wrong I love doing these things, and will continue to support them, but it's easy to put your hand in your pocket and feel you are doing something to help the less fortunate. What I want to do is do something a bit more hands on, to actually get involved with one of the many charities around the city. However I realise I have to be realistic about what I can do. As much as I think it would be nice to work at an orphanage I know this would be just too upsetting for me, and yes maybe I am turing a blind eye but I know could not be detached enough to help. 

Last week I visited an organisation called Home Sweet Home. This is a place where disabled homeless young people can go and learn life skills and work in a purpose built factory sewing various items to sell in order to raise money to fund themselves. They also depend heavily on donations as it is not a government run charity. Children here in China who are in orphanages are turned out when they reach 18. There is no real help then and they often find themselves living on the street. Even the disabled kids are left to their own devices. The lucky ones are found by charities like Home Sweet Home, where they are given a home, 3 meals a day and life and work skills. I was very impressed by the group. The kids all were happy and busy. They remain here for two years when many of them are then able to go and live outside this environment, and also many find jobs in the community. I think there are things I could do here on a voluntary basis. I could help with English lessons, cooking and life skills and I think I would enjoy this and get a feeling that I was doing something real.

Then on Sunday I visited, with my husband, a charity which cares for children with Cerebral Palsy. It was started nine years ago by a lady who is 83years old, and herself suffers from the disease. When her parents died and left her a house she decided to sell it and open a home for children suffering from Cerebral Palsy. She was an amazing selfless woman who has spent years trying to help, and get money to help her help others. I was lucky enough to meet with her yesterday.


The reason we visited Cere Care was to see the Stennah Stair Lift, which had been donatied by British Chamber, being used. We were able to see the kids in their classrooms, see what the program was, and to see that these were happy children benefitting greatly from the help and encouragement they were being given. Once again I was very impressed by the caring and well trained staff. The stair lift was going to be a great benefit to them.



One young man could not wait to try it out. You can see the excitement on his face. From now on getting the children upstairs to bed will not be so difficult as it has been.


The children here are orphans, often found abandoned in parks or railway stations when their parents can no longer care for them. It will almost certainly be a financial decision, which won't be taken lightly. They can only hope someone like CereCare comes along and helps their child. Unfortunately there is no state help. The children sleep in dorms, with younger children and girls together, and in another dorm the older boys are together. They are given all their meals and their education and prepared for life. Of course some of the more severe cases will always need care. When the time comes that they are too old to stay here hopefully there will be somewhere else to take over.


One Sunday a month they have a birthday party celebrating everyone who has been born that month. Luckily there were two boys celebrating when we were there. It was lovely to see the excitement on their faces as a cake was brought in. As with any kids party anywhere, there was lots of noise and lots of laughter.


Before I went along to visit these organisations I was thinking I was going to see the less fortunate children in Shanghai, and yes they are, but they are more fortunate than many others. They are so well cared for, happy and loved. I can't stress enough how amazing the people who work with these kids are. Thanks to many organisations such as Brits Abroad and British Chamber, I mention these two as there are the ones I am involved in, but there are many many more raising money to help where they are most needed.


Hopefully in the next couple of weeks I'll find something to offer, my time and whatever skills I have that they may need is the least I can do to pay pack a little to a city that has made me welcome and given me some wonderful memories. 
I want to give back, and time is something I have. I hope I can find a place to give it.