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China’s Children of Glass

A friend from Shanghai just returned from Yangshuo one of the most enchanted areas on the planet. He told me he had met Chun Li on New Years Eve and while impressed with her as a powerful, positive person he did not know her history until I sent him this link from months ago…..Time to re-post it then, I think:

Then I first heard of Zhao Chun Li, I didn’t know what the fuss was all about. I had been told that she had brittle bone disease (OI) and was working at the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat as the Front Desk Supervisor. I thought to myself, Yes, this is a great story about overcoming adversity. And spectacular that she’s capable of working in a business setting. But, I cynically considered optioning the story and selling it to Hallmark.

But as I learned more about this woman, born on Christmas Day, I soberly realized just how startlingly powerful her story really was.

Chun Li

Chun Li’s message lies in the details. That Chun Li (Spring Beauty in Chinese) knows how to speak and write in perfect Mandarin is was somewhat interesting. That she was not able to walk to school because of fragile, easily broken bones and later taught herself to read and write Chinese sparked interest. And that years later, having never left her small fishing village in Guanxi, China, she would teach herself English with a little help from Chris Barclay (the man who founded ALTEC and The China-U.S. Medical Foundation) starts to spin a gripping tale of courage.

China can be an unfriendly place for people with hadicaps: they often are not allowed to attend school and are often left out of the mainstream of society. Because of cultural differences, Barclay did met Chun Li while acting as an interpreter for President Clinton’s visit to her home town a few years back. Chun Li had been ordered to stay shut in so Clinton would get a idyllic picture of life in rural China: a vision free of medically challenged villagers. Clinton later learned of Chun Li’s confinement and sent her a letter and autographed picture which she proudly displays at the retreat.

Chun Li’s first journey outside her village was to Los Angeles: When Chun needed medical evaluation and surgery—the kind of evaluation that a Western hospital could provide—Chris Barclay stepped in and raised the funds to allow Chun Li to travel to Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. Chun Li, braved the transcontinental journey, underwent surgery for a painful cataract, and returned to China. She is virtually self-sufficient: though she requires her mother’s help on a daily basis for some simple tasks, she supports herself with her income from working at the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat. She was the inspiration for the building of the retreat and a personal transformation by Barclay that he is chronicling in an upcoming book about Chun Li called Frog in the Well: The Tao of Possibility.

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

The Mountain Retreat at Yangshuo

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With the spirit of Chun Li’s optimism and strength guiding him, Chris Barclay had a new vision—he knew he could help needy children, young men and women get treatment for their condition by setting up a charity to help collect and organize financial and educational support. In 2002, he created the China-US Medical Foundation, and to this date, the charity has helped dozens of children of glass get the medicine, medical diagnosis, and surgery they were denied at the time in China. None of this would be possible without the dedication of Barclay and the vigor of Chun Li.

In the end, I’ve realized Chun Li’s story isn’t meant to be a tearjerker. It’s a courage-jerker—drawing on the best in her and calling out strength in the people around her, summoning reserves that make a world a better place. Instead of walking away from Chun Li’s story with a feel-good, TV moment, I walked away with a story about how the power of optimism, as exemplified by our Spring Beauty, and the Tao of possibility that can forever change people’s lives.

Chun Li

Chun Li at the Mountain Retreat where visitors from around the world have come to love and admire her, not for her conquest of OI, but for her extraordinary wisdom and positive nature.

By David DeGeest with Lonnie Hodge

Asia,China Editorials,China Photos,China-US Medical Foundation,Confucius Slept Here,Intercultural Issues,The League of Extraordinary Chinese Women,Yangshuo China,中国

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SCMP Live!

Christopher Axberg, publisher of the south China Morning Post (SCMP), wrote to me this morning saying that “they” liked OMBW (Christopher, I bet you say that to all the bloggers…) and included a free, albeit short-term, subscription to the online edition. He included a link to one of the funniest marketing videos of the year that begs to go viral:

All kidding aside, I think it is more than just a great marketing move on the part of the SCMP: It is a chance for them to help disseminate information that might not otherwise make it into citizen media reports–especially from the likes of starving bloggers and educators like me.

Thanks Christopher.

Related:

Fons over at China Herald chides the short-term nature of the offer….

Asian Humor,Bush,China Humor,China web 2.0,China-US Medical Foundation,Chinese Internet,Chinese Media,Hong Kong,Internet marketing China,The Internet,Videos,中国,中文

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For a laugh, or not…

china censorship

Click on the pic…Some of you may have seen this a while back, but….

Update: My jubilation was short-lived. WordPress is blocked in China again…..

cartoons,Censorship,China Cartoons,China SEO,China web 2.0,China-US Medical Foundation,Chinese Internet,Chinese Media,Entertainment,Human Rights,SEM,SEO,Seo China,SEO China Expert,The Great Firewall,Videos,中国,中文

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Wishes, Lies and Schemes of Social Commitment in China, Part I

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There is a school in America that maintains an “Office of Social Commitment.” Ostensibly, the office is charged with, in part, sending bright, globally aware scholars to regions that can develop and utilize their youthful enthusiasm. Ideally this fosters the “fellows” acquisition of information about local culture and accords them skill building opportunities that can be transferred back to America or generously subsumed into future professional choices.

Here is the rub: The four fellows who come from that particular school are sent to work in two institutions: One is in Macau and the and other is in Nanjing. The former is a third-tier private, for-profit school with most students coming from well-heeled families, and the latter is an elite prep’ school. The fellows in Macau are simply handed a teaching schedule and sent off, without any preparation, to face the Great Wall of Student Silence that is built into most Chinese classrooms. Attempting to scale the Great Wall can repel veteran teachers and injure novices and journeyman alike if they are not well equipped. Chinese administrations will not help teachers to adjust as they have little time and patience for new and, well, expendible teachers. I watched two “fellows” suffer emotional melt-downs (they are somewhat fine now) because they received little or no responsible assistance to problems from their “commitment” office or their Chinese work-site. It seems that social commitment is only an external consideration and does not apply to working field staff.

Dostoevsky wrote: “As a general rule people, even the wicked, are much more naive and simple hearted than we suppose. And we ourselves are too.” Sadly, that used to reflect my world view, but living in China among opportunistic and the ill-intentioned, posing as humanitarians, has altered my thinking. The head of the aforementioned social commitment office has in his website bio’ a telling metaphor: He ends his long list of organizational memberships and awards (Surely proof he is a good guy) with the announcement that he is adopting an Asian child. The child has no name, no history mentioned and upon close examination seems to be there only to add credence to the director’s bid for earthly sainthood–along with his being a “living kidney donor.”

In Nanjing the fellows are a bit better off, but are as essential to the fulfillment of ideologically meaningful goal as an i-Pod in the Gucci bag of an Orange County co-ed. This isn’t the community building your hippie dad knew in the Peace Corps of the seventies when he dug wells and irrigation ditches alongside poor farmers. The only holes that are dug in the examples mentioned are the emotional ones, like above, that once idealistic fellows will spend years extricating themselves from. The Chinese students at both of these schools, while lamenting environmental issues and social ills in the mainland, often come from families that work in government or head up companies that are part-and-parcel of troubling environmental issues and in financial charge of workers that increasingly need more attention than their designer clothed school children.

When I recommended possible educational agencies that might really benefit from the investment of a young foreign teacher, or schools where poor children may never have seen an outsider like those served by Volunteer English Teachers, I was told that it was just too much trouble to negotiate acceptable new contracts. Since when did social commitment get easy?

If you are headed here to help make sure you have the training and support you need to embark on your journey. And be sure you are not just part of your own or someone else’s need to uphold the appearance of humanitarian interests.

In the next installment I will be looking at NGOs, and Missionary Groups operating in Macau and the Mainland…

Coming:

Addicted to Mediocriy II and Dreams, Repression and Violence II….I lost many follow-ups in the server crash and am now reconstructing…

cartoons,Charity in China,China Cartoons,China Editorials,China-US Medical Foundation,Confucius Slept Here,Expats,Heartsongs,Human Rights,In the news,Intercultural Issues,Macau,Macau University of Science and Technology,Personal Notes,Teaching in China,The League of Extraordinary Chinese Women,Top Blogs,Travel in China,Yangshuo China,中国

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