Last week, I spoke to you about possibly raising money fro Ma Chen, a Chinese mother who has opened up a school for autistic children, and is trying to raise $10,000 to buy a farm so the children will have a place to go and work after they have finished school. We’ve opened up a ChipIn account, where you can donate any amount at all- even $5.00, and you can go to the site by clicking here. Through the offices of the Wall Street Journal in Shanghai, we’ve made arrangements to be able to transfer the funds directly to Ma Chen. I’ll be paying all the transfer/paypal/wiring costs, meaning 100% of any donation will go directly to Ma Chen and her school. You can also get a direct link to the original Wall Street Journal Article there, and follow our progress. We’ve managed to raise $505 so far, which is wonderful for the first few days of this project.
I spoke with a new friend, Tom, who helps get books and create small libraries for children in China, and has been living there for the past five years. We spoke about what it was like there, and how things are changing rapidly, but still, beyond the comprehension of many of us. Here is a brief summary of what we discussed, to give you some perspective on how much our help is needed for Ma Chen.
China does not have anything resembling a social safety net like social security. Your child, and how well they do is your 401K. It is expected that the children will take care of their parents. Add to this the fact that China went to a one child per couple policy back in the late ’70′s, and you can begin to appreciate that children who are now in their mid 30′s will be the first complete generation tasked with taking care of two elderly parents on their own, with no siblings to share the burden. If you have a child with a disability, especially one like Autism, often diagnosed once the child is a few years old, you have no care for yourself as you get older, nor anyone to care for your child. Children with mental disabilities can often end up in orphanages or as street children. Group homes and supportive work environments are, for all intents and purposes, non-existent.
Ma Chen has focused all of her energy in trying to help her child and others like her, and through the purchase of this farm, is trying to make it a place where the children can go and earn a living to support themselves, especially since it is unlikely they will be able to support their parents as society expects. Without having some place to go, if anything happens to their parents, there is no where for the children as young adults to go. They have no future. It would be like dumping autistic children in the middle of a major city with no money or no future- only the fates know what will become of them.
For what I think is a reasonable amount of money, $10,000 US, we can literally change the lives of these children. When I talk with my friend Melody, whose 16 year old son, Alex, has autism, she worries what will happen to Alex as well, once he’s out of school. Alex is enrolled in a jobs program that will help him learn skills until he is 21; he has social security benefits; and he has a sister that will help make sure he is okay. Melody and her husband have spent at least $10,000 just trying to make sure their estate plan is in place to help Alex when their gone, not to mention the money they have spent over the years on special education, medical treatment, therapy and more. Alex has a safety net in place that will make sure he is okay and able to support himself as he becomes an adult in a way autistic children in China simply don’t.
So my risk this year, my quixotic goal, is to spend the next 60 days trying to raise as much money as we can for Ma Chen and her school for autistic children in China. Ellen Zhu, from the Shanghai bureau of the Wall Street Journal wrote to me:
“Ms. Ma Chen sends her most appreciation and best regards to all of you kind people.
Dear Whitney: Thank you so much. And please wire your donations through Western Union … Ms. Ma can go to a post office or any branch of China Agriculture Bank to withdraw the money by providing the identifying information. All fees are on sender’s account. After getting the donations, Ms. Ma would love to send you her family photo and let you know how they will use the money.
It will be my pleasure to continue help your communications with Ms. Ma. So please don’t hesitate to let me know if there is any question or anything I can help with from here.”
So, because of the internet, if we can all do just a small amount, we can make a huge tangible difference in the lives of another mom, a continent away, doing her best for her child and others like her. Mother Theresa said we can’t all do big things, but we can do small things with great love. I think this is our chance to take our community and reach out to make a real difference.
Tom said people in the US can’t imagine what it’s like in China, where things like a recession in the US and decrease in consumer spending can translate into the simple reality that people in China die, if they are out of work and have no other way to support themselves. We are becoming a truly global society, but the interconnectedness has its costs as well as benefits.
I’d also like to thank Stu, Megin, and all the other writers here on the GNM Parents blog, along with all the readers, for your support.
by Whitney Hoffman
[tags]parents, parenting, kids, children, China, autism, retirement, funding, elderly, parents, siblings, Chinese, Wall Street Journal[/tags]