Walkers raise funds for charity group

Updated: 2011-07-09 16:47

By Kim Bowden (chinadaily.com.cn)

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Close to 200 people donned sports shoes for a mass stroll around Beijing’s scenic Shichahai Lakes on Saturday morning, all for a good cause.

Beijing Huiling – a charity that supports adults with intellectual disabilities – organised the fundraising event, and five other non-government, non-profit organisations working with physically or mentally disabled communities were also represented.

At least 120 walkers signed up, joining around 50 members of the Huiling community to complete the 1.5 kilometer lakeside course.

The walkathon, now in its fifth year, raised around 20,000 yuan ($3,000), which included several donations from both corporate and community sponsors, said Huiling spokesperson Liu Shunan.

"But more important than money, our first goal is to raise public awareness.”

 Walkers raise funds for charity group

A wheelchair participant receives a helping hand at the Fifth Beijing Huiling Charity Walkathon, which supports people with intellectual and physical disabilities, on July 9, 2011. [Photo/Kim Bowden]

Liu said those with intellectual disabilities often fall through the cracks, not receiving the funding and support they need to live meaningful lives.

"The Government is very good at providing for people with physical disabilities or illness,” she said. “Intellectual disabilities are not so easy to deal with.”

Rather than working with its intellectually-challenged charges in an institutionalised environment, Huiling has adopted a community-based approach, the first of its kind in China.

"We are scattered throughout the community, we don’t put everyone all in one big building,” explained Liu. “We want our trainees to have a life like ordinary people.”

Huiling trainees with moderate to severe disabilities are taught life skills that aid their independence, while those with mild disabilities are also taught work skills, such as handicrafts, cooking or performance, in the hope that they might be able to find employment.

Lui said there had been a few success stories with trainees finding work in restaurants, factories and with bus companies. In addition, the trainees directly received profits made from the sale of their handicrafts at the organisation’s Beijing base, which is open to the public on weekdays.

Mr Fang, whose 35-year-old daughter receives training with Huiling, provides music lessons for the trainees, and Saturday’s event included dance performances, singing, drumming and even a magic show, with many of Fang’s trainees taking to the stage to entertain the crowd.

Henny Dirks-blatt, of a woman’s group linked to the German Embassy, a sponsor of the day, said watching Huiling’s trainees enjoy the event alongside other participants was inspiring.

"The way everyone has come out and are joining together, I can see they are just so happy.”

Thad Huston, a spokesperson for Xi’an Yangsen, a Chinese subsidiary of global company Johnson and Johnson and another sponsor of the event, said the day provided an opportunity to “attract attention to the issues faced by the mentally challenged and improve public understanding of their rights as well as improve their own self-esteem”.

Fernando Cagnin, a volunteer with Huiling since 1995, said regardless of the funds raised, the day had been a resounding success.

"Seeing people from the community here with our trainees, sharing a half-day together, that’s the real treasure, that’s how we know what we do is worth it.”

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