For this issue, we reached out to schools in Beijing to ask who was making an impact on their school communities. Our terms were loose, as we were curious about individuals who made a difference in leadership, community, and charity. We don’t feel like someone necessarily has to contribute to charity to be a community star, as sometimes a great, reliable friend in a school community can make just as much of an impact. Each of these stories is special, and we’re so proud to have had the chance to talk with these students and teachers.
Rosabelle Tang and Adeline Koh, House of Knowledge
Many young people from Beijing’s international community are involved in doing fantastic work for those less privileged. But at just 6 years old, Rosabelle Tang is perhaps the youngest of them all. So it’s not surprising that House of Knowledge nominated both her and her mother Adeline Koh, a teacher at the school.
“I do orphanage and we help the people,” Rosabelle told me when we met. Mom takes up the story.
“It’s a Christian foundation, a couple who take in children who have been disowned by their parents because of their disabilities.”
“En Dian cannot walk,” Rosabelle says. “We help her to the playground, and we play with her. And we need to help Rood walk because she can’t see in front of her.”
Mom explained that Rood is blind, and the other children have a range of mental and physical disabilities.
“Ai Le is deaf, but she can draw, she has amazing artistic ability. And Da Wei has mental disorders, he’s very shy, but he tries to come out and take part.”
Rosabelle is matter-of-fact about the children’s disabilities, but Koh found it challenging at first.
“We heard about the orphanage from a friend at church. We did charity work back in Canada, so we offered to help out. We were warned there would be some children that not everybody will be able to accept. We said ‘don’t worry’ and we went there – but it was still a shock. Not everybody can handle it. I’ve seen quite a few people who go and just stand there and cry. But they’re just kids, they just want to play with you.”
Most of the children were born with disabilities, but one child’s story is particularly shocking.
“Peter had battery acid thrown at him. A neighborhood kid got angry with him, went to his father’s workshop and got hold of some acid. Peter’s mom disowned him after because she just couldn’t cope.”
They’re raising money for Peter’s surgery, but mostly the children don’t need donations, they need personal time and attention.
“They’re well looked after,” Koh said. “They already have toys and clothes.”
“And fruits, like watermelon,” Rosabelle added.
“Rosabelle took her school friends once,” Koh explained, “and her school friend’s mom wanted to buy them fruit. We told her we already have fruit; they eat organic food, they have a garden in their back yard. They don’t need much, they just want someone to play with them.”
Because they’re homeschooled, and because of their physical needs, help for them to get outside is particularly valuable, Koh told me.
“If the weather’s nice we go to the playground. I go to teach them English nursery rhymes, songs, and games. They love it!”
“Their favorite songs are ‘Five Green Speckled Frogs’ and ‘Zoom Zoom’,” Rosabelle said.
“The biggest challenge is making time to get there,” Koh said. “We feel like we’re so busy but we always make time. We try for every two weeks, and we go sometimes at lunchtime.”
Despite the challenges, mother and daughter have maintained a long-term commitment, and have been helping out at the orphanage for almost two years. The whole family is involved too: not only dad Shamus and little brother Lucas (age 4), but also their cousins Isabelle and Annabelle. And there are rewards as well as challenges.
“We get to know people, and make friends,” Koh said. “We’ve got lots of really nice memories. I enjoy singing songs with the children because they’re so excited! It’s nice to see them smile.” To contribute to the fund for Peter’s surgery, scan the QR code.
Photo: courtesy of House of Knowledge
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