Emma Xu, Teresa Wang, and Ada Zhao listened intently to the boy’s masterful piano playing. They were not only moved by his graceful notes, but also by the knowledge that few things in his life would ever come so easily. He was, after all, an autistic Chinese teen, and his fixation on music is undercut by an inability to focus on most other activities or subjects, especially those requiring social interaction. That struggle to connect left him with nowhere to turn but Beijing Qizhi Educational Training Center, a Shunyi facility full of other once abandoned or neglected Chinese youth, who have autism, down’s syndrome and other conditions.
“Many of the kids said they wanted to go home for Spring Festival, and they were very sad to hear their parents said no, that they’d have to stay at the school,” says Xu, marketing account manager at beijingkids. She visited the school with Wang and Zhao on Christmas Day. They took part in a charity initiative on behalf of beijingkids, donating a microwave, fruits and snacks, toiletries, and other items to the school. Xu feels she benefited just as much as the students from the visit, as she had the opportunity to glimpse their day-to-day struggles and perseverance.
Some of those children are fortunate enough to have parents that welcome them home for the Chinese New Year holiday. But others are even more unlucky than the aforementioned pianist, having zero contact with the families who abandoned them. This is due in part to lingering stigma, a lack of societal infrastructure for special needs youth, and pressures stemming from China’s only recently amended one child policy.
Despite all their difficulties, students seemed more than content at the school, much to Xu’s amazement. Their patient teachers, some of whom also have disabilities, including one who is deaf and mute, take the time to help each youngster realize their hidden talents. Xu was impressed to see kids sketching colorful portraits or singing in perfect pitch. The school’s shelves are lined with pottery, thanks to a teacher who taught the students that time honored craft, and numerous toys were scattered across the floor, thanks to generous donors that decided to give these students the playthings they deserved.
“They’re quite happy there,” Xu said. “It’s great to see that there’s a community for them to be a part of.”
The Beijing Qizhi Educational Training Center is located at No. 18 Yongqingduan Renli road, Liqiao town, Shunyi District Beijing. Anyone interested in donating or volunteering at the school can call 139 1070 1133.
Photos: Courtesy of Emma Xu