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Visually impaired model inspires confidence

China Daily | Updated: 2021-10-27 07:55
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In a small classroom in Shenyang, capital of Northeast China's Liaoning province, a group of young models practice for a catwalk show, with an aura of joy and confidence.

They are children who face different challenges, some seeing the world in a unique way as a result of conditions such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and autism. Wang Leilei, the teacher standing by their side, is nearly blind.

Wang lost her eyesight when she was 25 years old, which was a heavy blow to her emerging career as a professional model, forcing her to leave the catwalk behind.

"For a long time, my life was completely dark. It was my husband and child who pulled me out of my hopeless state," says Wang.

Although she cannot walk the ramp, she started a new chapter in life by running an online shop, attending TV shows and taking in performances at the Beijing Film Academy.

As Wang regained hope, she noticed that others who are physically challenged like her still lead meaningful lives. During an event caring for disabled children in May 2020, she was deeply moved by those who had the same passion for art as her and were eager to step into the spotlight.

"They reminded me of who I used to be," says Wang.

Due to their physical conditions, it is difficult for them to find a suitable training program. So, Wang decided to provide a charity training class for such children, teaching them catwalk performance and helping to give them confidence.

She opened an online course, teaching six or seven students for free. Then, she rented a classroom and set an in-person teaching schedule in September, charging each student just 30 yuan ($4.66) per lesson to cover rent and electricity bills. Now, the number of students has increased to 30.

Although Wang has rich performing experience, teaching children with physical or mental challenges is no easy task.

The biggest difficulty is not her poor eyesight. "The most difficult thing is communicating with these children," says Wang.

As her students are not accustomed to being around many people outside of their small circle or family, they often show reluctance and resistance when being instructed in a task.

While Wang was guiding an autistic student, the student had a strong reaction and grabbed her arm very hard. She used her arm to gently pat the child's shoulder, stroked his face, and said: "You just did very good. Let's keep it up." Then, the child calmed down and relaxed his grip.

Wang often uses tactile methods to help relieve the psychological resistance of her students.

"During the class break, I often hug them to get familiar with their voice and bodies. Now, I can recognize every one by touching them and hearing their voices," says Wang.

Just as Wang hoped, her students have not only gained some artistic training, but have also become more confident. Han Han, a 14-year-old child with Down syndrome, says the modeling class is the happiest thing in his life.

"He used to be very introverted and was not good at conveying himself. Now, he has become more outgoing and is willing to hang out with other children. He even joined the soccer team at school," says Han Han's grandmother.

Wang says, "Although I cannot see the world anymore, I hope to become a beam of light to more children facing such challenges."


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