A Corporate Family with Talents
CapitaLand Hope Foundation continues its efforts to rebuild children’s lives at CapitaLand Longdong Hope School in Sichuan
Issue: Aug 2012
Stepping out to help brings out the talent in each volunteer and bonds colleagues from different countries
Music and arts graduate Crystal Deng, Housekeeping Supervisor, Somerset Orchard Singapore, composed the tune and wrote the lyrics for a song entitled, “Song of Hope”, for the children of CapitaLand Longdong Hope School in Sichuan. The song was sung by the volunteers as part of the Children’s Day performance during the volunteer expedition.
Staff volunteers performed “Song of Hope” composed by fellow volunteer to encourage the children to strive on
“The lyrics were written to encourage the children not to give up as there is always light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
Indeed the children have gone through some of life’s toughest challenges when their province was devastated by an earthquake in 2008. Part of the school that they were in was destroyed by the disaster. At that time, hopes were dashed and their future seemed unclear until CapitaLand Hope Foundation (CHF), CapitaLand’s philanthropic arm, pledged to help them rebuild their lives.
Deng was just one of the volunteers who have used their gifts to reach out to the kids in CapitaLand Longdong Hope School.
Revenue Manager of Guangzhou Slamet Property, Sandra Li, accompanied the performance of “Song of Hope” on her flute. She also conducted flute lessons which were widely popular with the students. Li gave away clay flutes as presents to some promising students at the end of the expedition.
Using her gift for painting and drawing, Chan Jer Wei designed all the mural paintings in the reading room of the school. This design manager with CapitaLand Residential Singapore painted a girl on a tree swing and got the volunteers and schoolchildren to leave their handprints on the mural walls as part of the design. Other volunteers helped, too. Her core team members were staff volunteers Ricky Tay (Internal Audit Manager, CapitaMalls Asia), Terrance John Radecki (Corporate Service Officer, Australand) and Sharon Liew (End User Computing Senior Executive, CapitaLand Limited). “I want to paint a cheerful picture that will brighten up the reading room. We even included the company’s corporate values on one of the walls. This set of values can also help shape the character of the students,” Chan explained.
(Left clock-wise) Staff volunteers Ricky Tay, Terrance John Radecki, Chan Jer Wei and Sharon Liew painted the murals and got the students to stamp their handprints on the mural, making it look like dandelions
James Huang from Australand, together with Tyler Li from The Ascott Limited, made physical education lessons fun for the children by getting them to play new games
Staff volunteer Wu Ying Chun, Marketing Manager of CapitaMalls Asia China, briefed volunteer colleagues on their respective roles for the Children Day’s celebration event
This was also the first time staff volunteers from Australand participated in the group-wide volunteer. Other than Terrance John Radecki, James Huang, Property Trust Accountant from Australand, also joined in to contribute to the good cause. Huang shared basketball and soccer techniques during physical education lesson with the children.
Being in a Position to Help
CapitaLand has always strongly encouraged staff to contribute to the community. In fact, the Group achieved 10% volunteer participation rate in 2011. CHF had previously organised volunteer expeditions to other CapitaLand Hope Schools in the provinces of Yunnan, Guangdong, Inner Mongolia, Sichuan as well as to the Shanghai World Expo.
Among the 36 staff volunteers who went to the CapitaLand Longdong Hope School were six media volunteers. Senior Correspondent Xing Fei from Beijing Times was happy to help to set up the library and judge at the Children Day’s performing art competition on this trip.
“This is the first time I am volunteering for a few days; not just visiting on a one-day assignment. I learnt of the disadvantaged background of these children and reflected on how the media can bring the news to the public and garner more social support,” Xing said.
Fu Long Rong, CapitaMalls Asia Corporate Communications and Marketing Executive based in Quanzhou, put her compere skills to good use for the Children’s Day celebrations at the school. “I used to emcee at mall events. For this event, I need to think on my feet how to entertain the crowd when the next performance is not ready,” chimed Fu.
Wu Ying Chun, CapitaMalls Asia Marketing Manager based in Guangzhou, said, “It felt like managing an event which is what I do in my work. It entailed a lot of hard work and planning. The challenge was I had to get to know my committee members within a few days and then lead the team to execute the event. Much of the preparation work and discussions were done through emails prior to the expedition because we are based in different parts of China, and even across different geographies.”
The volunteer expedition brought volunteers to work in unison regardless of race and nationality and they are humbled by the experience. From this year onwards, Strategic Business Units in China will “adopt” a few CapitaLand Hope Schools where they have business presence and conduct regular feedback sessions with the teachers. In this way, CHF is able to provide timely support to sustain the school’s learning activities and bring up the education level.
Overcoming living inconveniences
Volunteers put up in simple hostel rooms and enjoyed time spent together to rehearse “Song of Hope” which was performed for the schoolchildren during Children’s Day celebrations
As all the volunteers came from cities, they had to adapt to the simple living conditions provided by the school hostels.
Lim Li Lian, Senior Finance Manager from CapitaValue Homes, said, “For one, there was no readily available hot water. And it did not help that on the first night of arrival, there was a power shutdown in the school with no backup electricity; it was impossible to shower that night. But we managed to boil water with a kettle and learnt to live with small inconveniences.”
Another challenge was managing their time. Deng recalled, “We had quite a few tasks to complete and slept an average of five to six hours per night. Despite feeling tired, I was highly motivated to get up the moment I opened my eyes as I cannot wait to meet the students in class.”
One of the lessons they learnt was to be flexible and adapt to changes along the way. As Chan Jer Wei put it, “We wanted to paint one wall mural each in the library and reading room but realised that the book shelves would take up all the wall spaces in the library, so we decided to paint all four walls of the reading room instead.”
Getting to the Heart of the Children
Having spent four days living among the children at the school, some volunteers have gotten to know the kids and their plight. Xu Qing Hua, a Primary 6 student, kept to herself most of the time. She has burnt scars on part of her face due to an accident which happened when she was a baby. “She rarely spoke to other kids but we managed to get her start talking to us. I encouraged her to go to the revamped library to read when she feels lonely,” Song Yi Qin, Sales Assistant from CapitaValue Homes based in Wuhan, shared.
Despite her difficult family circumstances, student Pu Yan Ling’s (seen pictured here with staff volunteer Crystal Deng, her teacher and grandmother) resilience and determination to learn have moved many of the volunteers
Another student Pu Yan Ling, orphaned when her father passed away and her mother left home, was under the care of her grandmother, advanced in her years. Besides orphans like Pu, the volunteers also expressed concerns over “left-behind children”. These are children who are left behind to be looked after by their grandparents as their parents leave the villages for the cities to work.
The circumstances of these unfortunate children not only tugged at the heartstrings of the volunteers, the children’s resilience has inspired them as well.
“Despite tough circumstances, the schoolchildren are respectful to their teachers and remain positive about their lives. The end of the expedition is the start of our own reflections on how to do more for the unfortunate in the society. What we saw could be the tip of the iceberg,” Song said thoughtfully.
Singapore volunteer Lim Li Lian conducting a class on card-making
Lim couldn’t agree more. She signed up to volunteer because she had been a recipient of financial assistance during her growing up years. “I see it as paying it forward. Now I hope to contribute back to society whenever there is opportunity,” Lim shared openly.
Seeing each child as a gift and using their own gifts to benefit each child, the Sichuan expedition to CapitaLand Longdong Hope School has brought out not only the talents in the children but the talents out of the volunteers as well.
More photos of the Sichuan volunteer expedition 2012 can be found on: CapitaLand Hope Foundation Facebook Page Article is contributed by Christine Teh, Manager, Corporate Marketing and CSR, CapitaLand Limited