Kids and volunteers spent five fun days together as part of the CapitaLand International Volunteer Expedition to CapitaLand Daping Hope School in China
Happy faces all around for both kids and volunteers as they spent five fun days together as part of the CapitaLand International Volunteer Expedition to CapitaLand Daping Hope School in China

In the mountainous provincial town of Meihua Town, Lechang City in Guangdong Province, China, going to school used to be hard work. Many of the over 450 children live so far from their school that they had to walk three hours daily just to attend classes. Around 40 students who lived in school to cut the commute had no proper dormitories, their classroom by day was their bedroom by night.

Then, in 2012, CapitaLand Hope Foundation (CHF) donated RMB400, 000 to the school to build canteen and a dormitory. Today, students aged seven to 12 from the surrounding 20 villages who live in the school have a proper place to lay their heads on every night. The fully functioning canteen also means that students and teachers can have properly-prepared, balanced meals. CapitaLand Daping Hope School is one of 25 Hope Schools in China by CHF since CapitaLand entered the country 20 years ago.

Over and above donations, CapitaLand strives to contribute in other ways to make a difference to children in need. In December 2014, 55 volunteers including staff from China, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam as well as community volunteers spent five meaningful days at CapitaLand Daping Hope School during the CapitaLand International Volunteer Expedition.

We have always upheld CapitaLand’s credo of ‘Building People. Building Communities.’ because we believe that any long-term success in business depends on the health and prosperity of the local community. In addition to funding public projects, CapitaLand is also committed to encouraging our staff to volunteer their time and expertise to contribute to the care of children in need. This year alone, our people have invested more than 25,000 hours of volunteer work around the world,” said Mr Tan Seng Chai, Group Chief Corporate Officer of CapitaLand Limited and Executive Director of CapitaLand Hope Foundation.

This time, volunteers came with expertise and experience to conduct a gamut of enrichment classes for the children including music and dance, art and craft, and health and nutrition lessons as well as a day of fun and games and home visits.

For first-time volunteer, Yip Siew Ming, Reservations Manager, Ascott Kuala Lumpur, The Ascott Limited, who helped spruce up the school walls and beautify the compound, it was a chance to fulfill a lifelong wish, too.

“Being a volunteer [to help children] has always been on my to-do list. This expedition gave me the chance to volunteer with many others,” she explained.

“When I first arrived in the village, I saw several children with blonde hair and I assumed they had their hair coloured. It was only later that I was told that their hair was of this colour because of a lack of nutrition. It made me realise how comfortably we are living in comparison.”

One in Bringing Knowledge to the Kids

The first day at the school was spent conducting various enrichment classes designed to give the children a fuller learning experience. The students were so keen, the excitement in the air was palpable.

“The children were so active, I could hardly keep up with them!” laughed Pham Thuy Tien, Public Relations and Communications Executive, CapitaLand Vietnam.

“I was truly surprised at how creative and imaginative they were when it came to craft time. We showed them how to make models with colour sticks but what they came up with were even more complex and beautiful than our samples.”

The volunteers also brought with them nearly 500 children’s books to add to the school’s new library. During their stay, they helped to sort and catalogue some 7,000 books for the library as well.

Tan Chang An, Senior Engineer, Design Management (M&E;), CapitaLand China, was part of the team involved in the arduous library work.

“I found the library work especially meaningful because we were doing something that the children could benefit from for a long time to come, leaving them with a proper library system so they would have a wealth of knowledge at hand,” he said.

One in Bringing Beauty to the School

Others on the team had different ways of leaving a lasting mark on the school. They laboured outdoors in the wintery weather to add murals, decals and banners to brighten up the school compound. To shield the class from the blinding afternoon sun, the volunteers also installed new curtains in the classrooms so the students could have a more conducive learning environment.

“I didn’t think I was able to draw a mural at first since I am not very artistic. But working with the team, with all of us helping one another, showed me that when we work as one, we can accomplish much more for these children,” said Cecilia Chua, Manager, Secretariat, CapitaLand Limited.

One in Fun and Games

For many, the most memorable moments were those spent during the Sports Day the volunteers organised for the school.

“That was the time we really got to interact with the children and get to know them. Making friends with them made the expedition very meaningful,” said Chen.

Added Chua, “It was particularly heart-warming to see everyone setting aside [differences in] countries, ranks, and departments to work together as one to bring joy and laughter to the children.”

One in a Common Bond

Apart from interacting in school, the volunteers visited the students in their homes, bringing with them gifts for the households.

“I was very touched at how much joy our gifts brought them. They really appreciated it,” said Pham.

Over the five-day expedition, volunteers from different countries, departments and even organisation came together to make a difference. This is proof that no matter what the challenges – language differences, rocky mountain roads, chilly winter weather – there is power in unity. This was something the volunteers took away with them, as they worked towards giving the children a better tomorrow.