Zhang Li Bo, who works as a Business Process & Information Technology Manager with CapitaMalls Asia (CMA) in Beijing, China, had left school for many years. Still, the start of the new school term this September was particularly meaningful for her.

She was among the staff volunteers who took part in the company’s signature annual corporate social responsibility programme My Schoolbag (凯德•我的第一个书包), whereby schoolbags containing school and daily necessities are given to underprivileged children in the five countries where its CapitaMalls operate. In China, the donation exercise is held in conjunction with the start of the academic year in September, so that the children can use the schoolbags throughout the year.

“It was very meaningful to personally hand the school supplies to the children, and show them and their families that the community cares about them. I believe that now that they’ve experienced this, they will, in turn, treat others with the same love and care they have been shown,” said Zhang.

CapitaLand believes in not only building buildings but also building people. That is why in every city that it is in, it endeavours to give back to the community by supporting underprivileged children. One of the ways is by giving them schoolbags which are a necessity in every child’s learning journey.

Funded by CapitaLand’s philanthropic arm, CapitaLand Hope Foundation (CHF), My Schoolbag reaches out to underprivileged children in Singapore, China, Malaysia, Japan and India – the five markets where CapitaMalls Asia operates.

This year, in addition to stationery such as pencils, pens and a ruler, the children in China also received art supplies such as water colour pens, an oil pastel set, and plasticine in varied hues. Included as well were jigsaw puzzles and craft paper to ignite the imagination of and develop creativity in young minds. For a practical touch, each bag came with a water bottle to remind the children to remain hydrated even as they studied and played in school.

A Worthwhile Journey

Into its fifth year in China, the programme reaches out to about 16,000 children in over 200 schools nationwide, including 22 CapitaLand Hope Schools.

Cai Lesheng, General Manager of CapitaMall Yuhuating and CapitaMall Taohualun, has been volunteering with the programme every year since it started. No matter how difficult the journey has been to reach the children, every encounter he has had with them has been meaningful.

“This year, we travelled more than 600 kilometres in heavy rain and fog over rugged, mountainous terrain to reach the children in Xinhua County, Loudi City in Hunan Province. Some of these children have been left behind by their parents. Their schools lack qualified teachers. Some schools don’t even have classrooms. The children face such dismal conditions, yet they display such cheerfulness and fortitude,” shared Cai.

More Hands on Deck

“CapitaLand has been in China for 20 years and corporate social responsibility has been an integral part of our development strategy. After four years of success, we want this year’s My Schoolbag to have a greater impact and reach. We are employing different platforms to get the public to be part of our efforts to show love and concern to these children so they can grow up happily, confident in their future,” added Mr Tan Seng Chai, Executive Director, CHF; and Group Chief Corporate Officer, CapitaLand Limited.

Leading up to the September launch of My Schoolbag 2014, CMA leveraged on its partnership with the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA) and its schoolbag programme, ‘Love Package’ (爱心包裹), to reach out to the public for the first time to raise funds for a good cause. In total, RMB 1.59 million was raised along with pledges from CHF.

Under the collaboration with CFPA, My Schoolbag extended its reach to underprivileged children in four new areas, namely Meigu County, Liangshan Prefecture in Sichuan; Qiaojia County, Zhaotong City in Yunnan; Shizhu County in Chongqing; and Liuzhi County, Liupanshui City in Guizhou.

Tenants and other stakeholders were also invited to help hand out the schoolbags to the children.

“My family and friends are frequent shoppers in CapitaMalls. I feel very honoured to be able to give to such a meaningful cause. I hope to have more of such opportunities to give back to the community," said shopper Wang Tao, who helped to distribute the schoolbags to the children beneficiaries.

One of the CMA retailers who volunteered, Lin Han, agreed, “We feel fortunate to be able to contribute to My Schoolbag for the first time and be part of this broader community initiative.”

Since its inauguration in 2010, the My Schoolbag programme in China has helped some 80,000 children.