The city of Macheng in northeastern Hubei province, China, is made up of some 700 villages and small towns. Famous for its mulberry bushes, Chinese chestnuts, persimmon and chrysanthemum, Macheng is primarily farm land. In this modest place is an equally modest school with basic classrooms and limited dining areas for the children. But the 460 primary school students and 23 teachers of CapitaLand Chengmagang Hope School are proud of their school because it is all that they have.
In 2012, CapitaLand Hope Foundation, CapitaLand’s philanthropic arm, decided to help the school. Since then, it has donated more than RMB500,000 to enhance the study environment for the students at the school.
In September 2015, CapitaLand sent more than 40 of its staff from five countries – Singapore, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam - to continue the refurbishment work, with the support of partners such as Nippon Paint and Water Siyuan Group which provided the materials for repainting and installation of water filters respectively.
“With each volunteer activity that I participate in, I gain a greater understanding of our credo. Through each brick and mortar, we bring hope to all these children,” affirms Crystal Deng of The Ascott Limited, based in Singapore.
The Gift of a Conducing Learning Environment
Top on the volunteers’ agenda was refurbishing the school. The RMB400,000 went a long way in sprucing up the six classrooms, adding a library of some 2,500 books, music, multi-media tools and computer rooms as well as a laboratory. With the hardware in place, the volunteers added some thoughtful touches to create an inviting and conducive learning environment.
The volunteers added curtains in the bathrooms for privacy, painted various parts of the school including the sports yard and created cheerful murals throughout the school. To enhance the physical wellbeing of the children, various water filtration systems were installed at different locations in the school. It was real physical labour, something few of the volunteers were accustomed to. But, working as one, the work somehow seemed lighter, even rewarding.
“We not only gave back to the community by improving the children’s study environment, we also forged a deeper sense of belonging as we worked together,” says Paula Kristina Aguila of The Ascott Limited, who is based in the Philippines.
The Gift of Education, Song and Dance
Beyond the manual tasks, the volunteers took pains to provide interactive learning experiences for the children. They conducted a series of classes which involved story-telling, English, arts and crafts, as well as song and dance. The Little Architect Programme also offered the little ones a glimpse into the world of real estate development. Through drawing, solving puzzles and building blocks, the children were introduced to the ideas of building and design.
“Through the CapitaLand Little Architect Programme, I was able to fulfill my dream of being a teacher. Although it was a short lesson, I hope it inspired the children to dream,” says Zhu Shen Jun, CapitaLand China.
“I believe education breeds confidence, confidence breeds hope, and hope breeds change. And what CapitaLand has done for the children is really meaningful because our acts of kindness put in motion a cycle of change in the children’s lives,” adds Malaysia-based Jamie Jap of CapitaLand Mall Asia.
The Gift of Friendship
Always a highlight of CapitaLand’s international volunteer expeditions, Sports Days are marked with much cheer, laughter and friendly competition. The children and teachers were also treated to a much-anticipated performance staged by the volunteers.
Come lunch, the kids became the VIPs as the volunteers dished out a hearty meal which they all enjoyed.
“This is my second volunteer expedition. Although I know that there would be a language barrier, I didn’t find it to be a real obstacle. The teamwork and the desire to create a better environment for the children bonded the team easily. This experience has allowed me to not only give back, but to also meet colleagues whom I have been communicating with over email,” says Hu Can Tuan, CapitaLand Vietnam.
As the week drew to a close, the volunteers bid goodbye to the children and teachers at the CapitaLand Chengmagang Hope School, knowing they have made a real and lasting difference in their lives.