Keeping Dreams Alive
CapitaLand Hope Foundation continues its efforts to rebuild children’s lives at CapitaLand Longdong Hope School in Sichuan
Issue: Jul 2012
Staff volunteers from the CapitaLand family brought hope and care to the kids at the CapitaLand Longdong Hope School
Saying goodbye was hard to do. When 36 CapitaLand staff volunteers had to leave at the end of the “Building for Tomorrow • Caring for Longdong” (为明天•关爱龙洞) expedition, students of CapitaLand Longdong Hope School were in tears as they surrounded the volunteers and bade them farewell.
Haesel Tang, Senior Finance Manager of CapitaLand Residential Singapore was most touched when a young female student presented her a simple hair band with a flower design before parting. “Although it is a small token of appreciation, such a gesture from her shows that we have really brought happiness to them in the short period of time,” she said.
Tang was part of a group of staff volunteers on a mission to carry out CapitaLand’s continuous efforts to care for the children in CapitaLand Longdong Hope School especially after the earthquake devastated the lives of families and destroyed their school in 2008. “CapitaLand Hope Foundation (CHF) is here to continue to show our support and care for these children. We are here for the long haul. These kids’ lives were affected by the earthquake but we are determined to keep the children’s hopes and dreams alive,” said Tan Bee Leng, General Manager of CapitaLand Hope Foundation.
CapitaLand Longdong Hope School occupies an area of 7,366 square metres and is the main primary school in the town
The original school building was built some forty years ago. When the Sichuan earthquake struck in May 2008, some of the buildings were severely damaged and audited as D-grade buildings which were in danger of collapsing. CHF was one of the first foreign organisations to contribute towards rebuilding efforts in Sichuan after the earthquake. The philanthropic arm of CapitaLand donated S$1m to build four permanent schools and one temporary earthquake relief school in Sichuan. CapitaLand Longdong Hope School was one of the schools. CHF also built a library for the school which were all completed in 2009. There are currently 22 other CapitaLand Hope Schools in China.
During this four-day expedition, staff volunteers worked hard to set up a reading room, paint the wall murals, categorise 10,000 books in the library and scan the titles into the barcode system. They also decorated the school canteen with interesting notice boards and wall stickers. CHF sponsored new reading tables and chairs for the reading room as well as new dining sets for the canteen and new bookshelves for the library.
Staff volunteers worked enthusiastically and tirelessly to paint the wall murals and set up the library all within four days
Primary 6 student Yang Shi Jie was indeed very grateful. “We like the revamped canteen with colourful decorations, the new library with proper shelving, and the cosy reading room where I can go to read after class. Now we can sit comfortably on the swivel chairs to enjoy our meals and chit-chat with our friends!” he beamed.
CHF donated new tables and chairs so that the children no longer need to sit on the floor when they are having their meals
Because iCare Spirit Shines Through
Chin Phei Chen (CCO of CCH), Billy Zhao (Deputy Area GM of Central West China, Ascott) and Lock Wai Han (CEO of CMA China) reading in the newly completed reading room
With only one class for each primary school level, the CapitaLand Longdong Hope School has about 200 schoolchildren. Half of them live in the school dormitory and return home only once a week. Still, not being with their families daily has not dampened their spirits and their determination to learn.
Rhoda Chang, Marketing Communications Executive of CapitaMalls Asia (CMA) was impressed by the children's zealous attitude towards learning, “The children I had the most interaction with are the Primary 1 schoolchildren. Despite the language barrier, as they spoke the Sichuan dialect, they are so enthusiastic during the art class and Because iCare games which we designed to inculcate the value of teamwork! They are like any child we know, eager to learn, eager to play and eager to win. ”
Many fun activities were organised to bond with the kids during their visit. One of them was an essay writing competition with the theme, Because iCare, for the upper primary students. Because iCare is the spirit by which CapitaLand engages and interacts with its partners, stakeholders, the community and the environment through initiatives and programmes to show that it cares.
11 year-old Xu Li Ping won the first prize for Primary 5 class. Her essay titled “Caring for Our Teacher” touched the volunteer judges. In her essay, she described how mischievous and disobedient the class was and how patient her form teacher, Ms Wang Mei, has been with the class. Ms Wang was on long-term medical leave.
“Not every teacher wants to take on the role of form teacher in our class because we are naughty but Ms Wang is willing to teach us. However she stormed out of the classroom once when no one in the class listened to her. We didn’t see her in the school canteen during lunch break and found out that she went home in a fit of anger because she was saddened by our behaviour. After lunch, we organised a visit to her house to offer our apologies. Ms Wang dried her tears and forgave us. She is truly a good teacher who cares for our well-being. We hope she can recover and return to teach us again soon,” Xu related.
The Primary 1 students standing proud with their artwork during the Green for Hope Art Competition
The volunteers also took the opportunity to share green habits and ideas on caring for the environment such as cutting down on deforestation and reducing waste. A Green for Hope drawing competition was held and the children put their creativity on paper, painting their vision of a greener future. There was a surprise appearance by a staff volunteer dressed as CapitaFrog mascot and enthused the delighted children. At the end of the activity, each student was given a CapitaFrog plush toy to their delight.
Volunteers also leveraged on their knowledge and taught art and crafts, sports, music, health and nutrition as well as safety to the various classes. Zhang Miao, Fire Safety Officer with Somerset International Building Tianjin, imparted fire safety knowledge while Ye Bei and Fu Hong Bo, staff volunteers from China, taught the students how to use computer software during IT lesson in the computer room.
Building on the talents of Children
CapitaLand Longdong Hope School Vice Principal Luo Zhihong, 30 year-old, praised the volunteers for their team spirit and professionalism in sprucing up the school facilities and organising special activities for the schoolchildren. “Some of the senior teachers here have not stepped out of the village for most of their lives. The new and interesting lessons that were taught by the volunteers were refreshing to us. For example, volunteers taught the students how to make thank-you cards and collages using simple materials. This allowed the children to show off their creativity and talents; something the teachers have not seen before,” Mr Luo observed.
Using grains and stones to make collages, the children surprise the full-time teachers how creative they can be
He attributed the obstacle in developing the students holistically to a lack of professional teachers in areas like art and music. “Some of us have to double-up as art and music teachers. Some teachers have to hold another job after school hours to supplement their income,” he explained.
Preschoolers posing happily with the completed mural
The school is grateful that the presence of the volunteers has liven up the atmosphere in school, and the English speaking volunteers have even spurred the students to learn the language. Mr Luo also added that the learning materials that the volunteers brought, for instance the new notice board in the canteen decorated with photographs of landmark buildings and natural wonders in the world, would inspire the children to learn of the outside world as well.
Staff volunteer Patsy Pan, Senior Leasing Executive of CapitaMalls Asia in Singapore, who taught art lessons agreed. “I am heartened to see the children's enthusiasm in learning new things. I was astonished by their creativity and imagination when they completed their works,” she remarked.
Celebrating the Joys of being a Child
Mr Lock Wai Han, CMA China CEO, and volunteers giving out CHF stationery sets as well as presents donated by members of the Chinese public and CapitaLand staff through an online gift donation drive to each student as their Children's Day present
The climax of the trip was definitely the highly-anticipated Children Day’s celebrations held on 31 May, a day before the official date of international children’s day. Staff volunteers and school teachers joined hands to put together a day of special treats for the children.
A performing arts contest, where each class performed two items, was held. The children sang and danced joyously. Not even the intermittent rain that morning could deter the schoolchildren from putting their best performances forward and celebrating their youth.
With so much happening within a short span of time – new library, new furniture, new knowledge and new friendships, it is not difficult to understand why bidding farewell was hard to do. But the children of CapitaLand Longdong Hope School need not worry as the CapitaLand family is committed to taking care of them, and their dreams of becoming a useful adult in society will definitely be kept alive. Article is contributed by Christine Teh, Manager, Corporate Marketing and CSR, CapitaLand Limited