Six-year-old Yang Xin Yi may be too young to go to school but she is already doing what many of her peers cannot do – read competently. She has a wide vocabulary and an amazing memory; and needs only to be introduced to a new word once before being able to remember it. But unlike many children her age, Xin Yi cannot walk or run properly. Stricken with a congenital condition, her legs are simply too weak to allow her to do anything that is strenuous.
Xin Yi is not alone. Nearly 3 in every 100 children or an estimated 8.17 million children in China aged 14 and under have disabilities. They make up 15.8 per cent of the total number of those in the country with disabilities. The good news is that with proper therapy, more than half (66 per cent or 5.39 million) of these children can be independent enough to lead normal lives.
With the plight of these children in mind, CapitaLand Hope Foundation (CHF) launched the CapitaLand Therapy for Children Project on 10 December 2012 with a RMB 1 million-donation to help fund the medical needs of underprivileged children with disabilities in Beijing and its surrounding villages. According to statistics, the city has about 21,900 children aged 15 and under who have disabilities. The initiative is a joint effort between CapitaLand’s philanthropic arm, CHF, and China Charity Federation, a national non-governmental organisation dedicated to helping the disadvantaged and underprivileged in the country.
Aimed at helping children with congenital physical disabilities and those who have undergone corrective surgery, the selected children will undergo professional therapy at the Beijing Rehabilitation Centre, Beijing City’s grade A hospital for medical rehabilitation. A team of volunteer medical experts from Hong Kong and Singapore will also be on hand to consult with the local medical team and help them enhance the quality of their medical care and treatment.
This latest endeavour is part of CapitaLand’s longstanding history of giving back to the community. The company allocates up to 0.5 per cent of its net profit to CHF in aid of the education, health and living needs of underprivileged children in the communities that CapitaLand has presence in. Since its entry into China in 1994, CapitaLand has been building Hope Schools. To date, there are over 20 such schools across the country. In addition, in 2010, CHF sponsored the cochlear implants and the long-term medical assistance of a number of hearing-impaired children.
The objective of the CapitaLand Therapy for Children Project is to help these children feel the love and support of the community and grow to be strong, confident people who face life with a positive attitude.
Apart from financial aid, CapitaLand also pledged to send volunteers to visit the children undergoing therapy to bring them cheer. Often, these children are bed-ridden and hospitalised far away from their families for long periods. As a result, their spirits can be low. The visits help to make the rehabilitation programme one not just about the body but also the soul.
In its pilot run, 9 CapitaLand staff from its different SBUs (strategic business units) spent one day making their rounds amongst the children at the Beijing Rehabilitation Centre early this year. Before meeting them, the volunteers met with the medical staff and were thoroughly briefed on how to interact with children with disabilities and how to assist them if the need arose.
“One child we met was a 14-year-old boy from Gansu Province who had had spinal surgery and was still bed-ridden. He was so happy to see us because apart from his father and the doctors, he had no other visitors. His father was especially grateful because, as poor farmers, they never would have been able to afford the treatment if not for the programme,” said Business Process Manager, Business Process & Info Technology, CapitaMalls Asia (China), Zhang Li Bo who went bearing gifts of strawberries and bananas.
Another volunteer, Senior Executive, Corporate Communications, CapitaMalls Asia (China), Xu Nai Dong, was particular moved by the children’s positive outlook.
“They have a certain determination in their eyes that other children their age don’t. Even though they were recovering from surgery and undergoing rehabilitation, they didn’t dwell on their pain and discomfort. Instead, they talked about how they look forward to going back to school and seeing their friends. And they were so thankful for the help they received. These setbacks have definitely made these children little warriors in life.”
“Children are the future of the nation, and the hope of their parents. They should have happy childhoods. Yet, because these children are too poor to seek medical attention, they have had to live their lives in pain and suffering. To see them receive the medical help they need and go from being bed-ridden to being able to walk, from sorrow to smile, from reticence to rejoicing, makes me so happy,” said Dr Zhang Li Hua, Children’s Therapy, Beijing Rehabilitation Centre. “We hope that CapitaLand’s initiative will inspire others to come forward to help as well.”
By the time the volunteers had to leave, many had made friends with the children, some of whom had tears in their eyes.
“It is wonderful for the children to have visitors who bring them books, toys, fruits and, most importantly, to interact with them - talk to them, tutor them in their homework, play with them. The practical care that CapitaLand demonstrated has shown to these children that society loves and cares for them,” said Dr Zhang.
With promises to return and calls of repeated thanks from the grateful parents and children, all the volunteers agreed that it was a worthy mission. CapitaLand’s commitment to bettering the lives of children not only through concrete contributions like financial help but also through intangible help like simply showing care will, no doubt, boost the hope of these children for a better future.