On a sunny Saturday morning on 28 June 2014, they experienced the world of darkness, and silence. They felt first-hand what it was like to limp along in life. They labored under the weight of a heavy load and they did it all for a selfless cause.
They were participating in CapitaLand’s first-ever ‘Building for Tomorrow • Walk for Hope’ (为明天一起•善行) experiential charity walk that took place concurrently in five cities in China –Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, and Wuhan.
Participants had to navigate an obstacle course within the 10-kilometre walk. They carried five-kilogramme weights to simulate the underprivileged children’s arduous journey to school every day with a heavy school bag; kept silent to appreciate the plight of those are unable to speak; limped on blocks in empathy with children who are physically impaired, and wore blindfolds to experience the world of darkness of those who are blind.
“When I was blind, I felt totally helpless and frightened. If there had not been people to help me, I would not have been able to move at all. I would have surely fallen,” said Liu Meiying, Senior Accountant, Finance, CapitaLand China, who volunteered in Guangzhou.
“But it was very meaningful. It’s made me more thankful [for what I have]. I hope what we did will draw more attention to the hardships these children face and they will get more help.”
“Carrying the heavy weight through the walk was tough. I developed blisters on my feet after that. But to personally feel what this underprivileged group of people experience daily is very impactful. It has made me appreciate their plight at a deeper level,” said Wei Junmin, Senior Liaison Executive, CapitaLand China, who joined the charity walk in Chengdu.
“The long journey was quite a test of endurance and the activities along the way made it even more challenging. It made me realise even more how much support and help they need from us,” said Cheng Ting, a community volunteer from Wuhan.
Over 3,000 government officials, CapitaLand’s senior management and staff, celebrities and community volunteers who went through the short-lived ordeal were led in each city by President & Group CEO, Mr Lim Ming Yan; CapitaMalls Asia CEO, Mr Lim Beng Chee; CapitaLand China CEO, Mr Jason Leow; The Ascott Limited CEO, Mr Lee Chee Koon; and Group CCO, Mr Tan Seng Chai. Also getting into the act were celebrities like China’s superstars, short track speed skating Olympian, Liu Qiuhong; and latest singing sensation, Huo Zun.
“We often talk about helping others, but we may not always understand how they actually feel. Through this walk, I got to experience how hard it was to be lame or have other disabilities. It made it all the more meaningful,” said Huo.
Staying the Course for 20 Years
The multi-city event, the Group’s first CapitaLand Volunteer Day in China, was launched to celebrate its 20th year in China and to encourage its China staff, stakeholders, and partners to dedicate a day to community service. This came after the successful CapitaLand Volunteer Day in Singapore in 2013 when 200 CapitaLand staff gave 20 underprivileged homes a makeover.
“China is one of CapitaLand’s core markets and our biggest market outside Singapore,” said Mr Lim.
“We are pleased to be able to leverage our presence across China to mark this significant milestone in a meaningful way. We are committed to give back to the communities we operate in.”
The charity walk with a difference aimed to raise funds in aid of China’s disadvantaged children. According.to the China Disabled Persons' Federation 2013, there are some 387 million children aged 14 and younger who are handicapped. This means that for every 1,000 children in the country, 18 (4.66 per cent) have some form of disability. CapitaLand wanted to do its part to contribute to the long-term care of these little ones in need.
Enduring an Obstacle Course
Indeed, the ‘Building for Tomorrow • Walk for Hope’ experiential charity walk did create a buzz. Online, on the street, by word-of-mouth, people heard about the event through several avenues and came together to help.
“I wanted to be part of this good cause,” said Li Yuan from Beijing who found out about the walk online.
Zhang Donghua from Guangzhou found out about the walk through his family. He said, “I hope that through my small contribution, I can help change the way people look at those with physical impairment.”
“I was moved by what CapitaLand wanted to achieve and wanted to be part of it,” added Peng Yan, a community volunteer from Chengdu.
Beyond the first-hand experience, participants also got a chance to work as team.
“As the head of the 10-person team, which had people as young as 16 and as old as 55, I had to make sure no one got left behind. So there was a lot of mutual support and encouragement,” said Kevin Jia, Senior Manager, Learning & Development, CapitaLand China who showed his support in Beijing.
For every participant who completed the walk, CapitaLand Hope Foundation (CHF) had pledged to donate RMB 200 (S$40). In all, RMB 513,400 (S$102,680) was raised to help the underprivileged children in China.
“The series of challenges we had to overcome during the charity walk gave us first-hand experience of the daily hardships faced by underprivileged children. The experience has deepened our conviction to help our children beneficiaries, alleviate their hardships and provide them with a head-start in life,” said Mr Lim.
This is a sentiment echoed by many who were part of the walk.
“As long as there is something we can do, no matter how small, I believe that our collective efforts will reap the desired results,” said Fu Hongbo, Human Resource Executive, CapitaMalls Asia (Wuhan).
This walk with a heart is certainly a meaningful one that will reap results in the lives of the children for a long time to come. The participants themselves have been permanently impacted as well. Having walked more than the proverbial mile in the shoes of another, they are unlikely to forget the plight of those in need and will surely continue in their endeavor to lend an active hand of support.