Amity Newsletter by wuzhenguang


									   Amity Newsletter     A Quarterly Bulletin of The Amity Foundation

                                                                                             No. 85/2 • April - June 2008

Building Civil Society
What is Civil Society       The “Happy Bread Angels”              Bilingual Deaf Education
     in China?                      at Work                        Promotes Civil Society
                                         3   Civil Society on the Rise
                                         Amity’s work has focused on building civil society from the very beginning.
                                         Common people have been encouraged to take up social responsibility.
At a gathering of a self-help group

of leprosy patients organized by
Amity. The banner reads: less                Who Cares?
prejudice, more love.
                                         Wang Ying, an Amity volunteer,
    The Amity Newsletter is a quar-      travels to the countryside of
    terly publication reporting on       Northern Jiangsu to meet and
    the projects of the Amity Foun-      interview an orphan. A city girl,
    dation. It is distributed free of    Wang Ying experiences hardships
    charge. However, we welcome          of underprivileged rural residents
    an annual contribution of US$10      for the first time in her life.
    from readers.

    Bank details                         5   Relationships Rediscovered
    Account holder: The Amity Foun-
    dation Hong Kong, Ltd.               What does building civil society mean in the Chinese context? Li Xue, a
    Account number: 17-5-01737         university teacher in Yangzhou and long-term Amity volunteer, looks at the
    The Hong Kong and Shanghai           traditions and future challenges of civil society structures in China.
    Banking Corporation, 38 Nathan

                                         7 Happy Bread Angels
    Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong

    If you would like to receive the
    Newsletter, or desire further in-    The Amity Home of Blessings has opened a bakery as a vocational training insti-
    formation on any of our projects,    tution for developmentally disabled people. Yin Xisheng, a Chinese journalist,
    please feel free to write or call.   realizes that not only people with Down syndrome profit but also the public.

                                         9 Bilingual Deaf Education Takes Root in China
    Institutions receiving the News-
    letter are welcome to reprint any
    article from it. Credit should be
    given to the Amity Newsletter,       Bilingual Deaf Education is a cutting-edge teaching method which Amity has
    Quarterly Bulletin of the Amity      introduced in China. It may well influence teaching in other areas as well.

    Published by The Amity Founda-
    tion                                  The Amity Foundation is an independent Chinese voluntary organisation. It
    Printed by the Amity Printing         was created in 1985 on the initiative of Chinese Christians. It has worked to
    Company, Ltd.                         promote education, social services, health, and rural development in the
    Editor: Dr. Beate Engelen             underdeveloped areas of China.
                                          Amity’s work is grounded in the belief that all human beings share the same
    Hong Kong Office                      dignity. Abiding by the principle of mutual respect in faith, Amity builds
    The Amity Foundation Hong Kong,       friendship with both Christians and non-Christians in China and abroad. In
    Ltd., 13/F, Ultragrace Commer-        this way, Amity contributes to China’s social development and openness
    cial Building, 5 Jordan Road          to the outside world. It makes Christian involvement and participation in
    Kowloon, Hong Kong                    meeting the needs of society more widely known to the Chinese people and
    Phone: (+85) 73-8011               serves as a channel for people-to-people contact and the ecumenical shar-
    Fax: (+85) 366-769                 ing of resources. Helping to develop civil society in China is one of the key
    E-mail:        aims of its work.
                                          The Amity Foundation has about 40 full-time staffers at its Nanjing head-
    Headquarters                          quarters. Hundreds of volunteers work with Amity all over China. The foun-
    The Amity Foundation, 71 Hankou       dation receives funds from partners abroad as well as in Hong Kong and
    Road, Nanjing, 10008, China          mainland China.

             Amity Newsletter 85/

                    Civil Society on the Rise
                    by Beate Engelen

An Amity vol-       When my husband and I first became involved with Amity as teachers in a small col-
unteer teaches      lege in Shandong four years ago, we found that many of our students were interested
an extra English    in some kind of voluntary work. They wanted to do something for elderly people,
class to students   disabled children or the environment. What really impressed them that year, they told
at a school for     us, was an American who had allegedly spent his summer cleaning up the slopes of
the children of     Mount Tai behind our campus, walking up and down the mountain collecting garbage
migrant work-       tourists had left. The students were keen on doing something similarly useful, they said.
ers (above).        The school did not particularly encourage such activities as volunteer work in the com-
The quality of      munity was not part of the official curriculum. But it was obvious that many students
teaching in these   were looking for an opportunity to get involved.
schools tends           This experience was my first encounter with “civil society” in China. Since then I
to be low. Extra    have been looking for more evidence. Over the years I came to realize that Chinese
classes taught by   society has still less room for individuals to engage in community work or volunteer
volunteers are      initiatives than many other countries. But spaces are opening up. Today, more people
therefore very      in China engage in communal services and fund-raising events than ever before. And
welcome to the      since last year, strengthening civil society has received some support from the govern-
students.           ment. Some officials now see the establishment of civil society as a viable means of
                    easing social tensions and balancing inequalities between social groups.
                        Promoting certain aspects of civil society has always been an important part of
                    Amity’s work. Amity wants common people to become involved in their communi-
                    ties, to take responsibility for underprivileged members of society and to shake off
                    prejudices. Amity is in a good position because the organization has close links with
                    different groups and communities at the grassroots level. Fund-raising efforts are in-
                    tensified to give common people an opportunity to give and do good. And - perhaps
                    most important - Amity involves a rising number of volunteers to do social work in the
                    community and get in touch with people in need.
                        Evidence of civil society on the rise is everywhere. Recently, one of my former
                    students from Shandong signed up to become an Amity volunteer. She finally had
                    a chance to explore how it feels to get involved and take social responsibility. It is
                    people like her who promote civil society in China.

Volunteer Work                             very healthy. Other relatives are not     ing in the cities, that there are school
                                           very rich either. This means they are     vacations. Students can either take
                                           in for a lot of trouble when they take    part in organized vacation activities
Who Cares?                                 care of orphaned children. Orphans,       or they can take trips with their par-
                                           therefore, start taking on household      ents to places somewhere in China.
                                           and family responsibilities at an early   But for children who live in poverty
by Wang Ying                               age.                                      these activities are like the tales from
                                               In the morning, the orphans rise      the Arabian Nights. During vacation
                                           very early to prepare breakfast. After-   time, poor children are supposed to
                                           wards they go to school. Some of the      help with farm work, do housework
An Amity volunteer dares to                schools are far away from their homes     or take part-time jobs to support their
look at social reality a world             but an orphan normally cannot afford      families. We - the kids from the city
apart from her own comfort-                a bike. So they walk all the way. When    - take it for granted that we receive
able city life.                            they come back from school they           nine years of compulsory education.
                                           need to do housework and look after       But when we look at poor children we
                                           their grandparents and their younger      have to admit that for them education
At the end of December last year, I        siblings. Seeing them, I became aware     is just a distant dream.
took part in an activity organized by      how carefree my own life has been.             Some people say, life is fair and
the Amity Foundation. We went on                                                     bad luck will eventually turn out for
a field trip to interview orphans who      Comparing our lives                       the better. But look at us! Sure, we
live in northern Jiangsu, not far from     During the days of our visit, the         may have failed to go to a favored uni-
Nanjing. This experience made a deep       weather became colder. I was rear-        versity or suffered from love sickness,
impression on me. I already knew that      ranging the clothes in my closet when     but apart from that, life has given us
life is not easy for orphans. But not      I suddenly realized how many clothes      so much. Yet for those children who
until I saw their living conditions with   I had - clothes I never wore. There       do not have enough food to eat and
my on two eyes did I realize how poor      even were some clothes I had never        clothes to wear, fairness is just an il-
they really are.                           worn at all. But poor people like the     lusion.
    These children lost both of their      orphans wear shoes with holes in               Friends, only if every single one of
parents and now live with their grand-     them and threadbare clothes which         us has the heart and the compassion
parents or other relatives. The houses     the cold wind blows through. Clothes      to do something good, no matter how
they live in are cold, dark and shab-      are passed on from elder to younger       little, can we convince these children
by. They have only a small patch of        brothers and sisters even if they are     that there are still people who care.
fields where they can grow crops to        worn and shabby.
make a living. Their grandparents are         People say that it is a great thing                   Wang Ying (in pink) and
already old and they are usually not       for students, especially for those liv-                  former Amity staff Zhang
                                                                                                    Liwei at an orphan’s home
                                                                                                    in Northern Jiangsu.

4           Amity Newsletter 85/
Philanthropy in China                                                                     ing good and taught people values
                                                                                          shared by Confucianism, Daoism and
                                                                                          Buddhism alike.
Relationships Rediscovered:                                                                   Similar to early western charitable
Civil Society in China                                                                    organizations, it was religious belief
                                                                                          which prompted philanthropy. But
                                                                                          there are differences between China
by Li Xue                                                                                 and the West. Unlike western charities
                                                                                          in the 18th and 19th century, Chinese
                                                                                          organizations were not yet confront-
                                                                                          ed with social change. Chinese society
                                                                                          at that time was mainly rural and did
                                                                                          not have to deal with an impoverished
       “Sir, can you tell me why            son has called the television station,        working class. There was no renewal
    these people do not allow a             which runs a ‘suggestion box’ pro-            of ideas, nor were there any irritations
   stranger into their homes to             gram, twice so far but they said that         with the effects of an industrial revo-
   warm his hands? Look at the              they couldn’t do much …they didn’t            lution. Instead, Chinese charities in
     bright windows. Their fires            come.”                                        Ming and Qing times played their part
                 must be huge.”                 Apparently, quite a few people in         in preserving the social status quo. As
                                            this neighborhood knew the man. Ev-           a consequence, reexamination or in-
The bus is rumbling up. I hast-             erybody stopped to pity him and then          novation of the social welfare system
ily withdraw my hand from his               -- left again. I could not help think-        was never a topic.
and shout: “It’s because these              ing: the media felt that showing such             During Ming rule (1368-1644)
people are more civilized than              a man would not translate into high           it was mainly the high-ranking and
       the mountain people …”               viewing rates. The people in the street       influential members of the gentry
                                            in turn were not sure which govern-           who founded charitable organiza-
            Ai Wu: A Winter Night           ment department was responsible in            tions. They did this in a rather off-
                                            such a case, and should not there be          hand manner. Until the Qing dynasty
                                            charities to take care of people like         these charities depended solely on lo-
Snow this year was heavy. On the            this man anyway?                              cal resources. Only gradually did they
sidewalk of a little street connecting                                                    draw the attention and support of the
the neighborhood residences with the        Charity traditions
supermarket, a homeless person was          In Chinese tradition “the poor”, “the
wrapped between a cotton-padded             scholar” and “the official” are social          In China, it was religious belief
mattress and a quilt, stiff with dirt. As   terms interconnected in a special way.          which prompted philanthropy.
I returned home passing through this        Confucian scholars of the early times
modern and expensive part of the            liked to be associated with a poor and
city, where people use number codes         humble lifestyle because it expressed
to unlock their doors, I thought of Ai      their aloofness from material pursuits        central government. When the Qing
Wu’s “A Winter Night”. A stranger           and politics. Poverty was in this sense       came to power, local people, who
who wanted to find a place to rest or       perceived as a social value. Never-           were socially active, no longer relied
to warm his hands here would find it        theless, the term also described the          exclusively on one patron from the
difficult.                                  regrettable state of penniless people,        elite class. More and more Confucian
     The next day my mother and I took      a state which destroys family relation-       scholars from the lower levels of so-
some money to give to the homeless          ships.                                        ciety became involved in the smaller
man. He took the money and stuffed              About ten years ago, the Taiwan-          towns. These lower-class scholars
it into his pocket but did not answer       ese scholar Liang Qizi evaluated 2615         received an orthodox Confucian edu-
any questions. Instead, he just stared      historical documents on charities of          cation but they were also influenced
expressionless down the street. My          the Ming and Qing dynasties, which            by Buddhist and Daoist beliefs. They
mother and I did not give up, though.       he collected in mainland China and            were not concerned with reforming
We kept asking questions, trying to         abroad.1 He looked at charities which         the system, nor did they deliberately
find out if maybe he was mentally           stressed philanthropy, helped people          side with influential groups in opposi-
ill. It did not take long for people        and did not worry about their own             tion to the Qing government. Instead,
to stop as well. An elderly man said:       benefits. In those days, he found,            they only tried to consolidate their
“He has mental problems. I gave him         charities educated society just by do-        own social position and strengthen
some clothes but he wasn’t sure if he                                                     their influence on local affairs.
wanted to wear them and just threw          1Liang Qizi, Shishan yu jiaohua:                  Since the 1990’s, scholars and busi-
them aside.” A young woman said:            Ming Qing de cishan zuji, (Philan-            ness people have discussed the ques-
                                            thropy and edification: philanthropic
“Give him some instant noodles!”            associations in Ming and Qing                 tion of whether China has a civil so-
And an elderly woman recalled: “My          times),Taipei 1997.                           ciety. If it has, they have wondered,

what are its characteristics, and is the                                       villages, from developed areas to
                                            scribe. Pages of history books filled
emergence of charities and welfare                                             economically backward regions. This
                                            until only recently no longer discuss
organizations something which will                                             seems to be a good thing; however,
                                            “poverty” as a strain on family rela-
eventually lead to the development of                                          the differences between the local peo-
                                            tionships or a culturally high-ranking
a civil society? Chinese history sug-                                          ple and those coming from outside in
                                            status in the Confucian sense of the
gests that even during times of strong                                         order to help often create problems
                                            word. The texts now implicitly refer
central government control, a certain                                          which are difficult to solve. At Am-
                                            to poverty as a group of related so-
public sphere has always existed apart                                         ity we used to say that the resources
                                            cial problems: education, health care,
from the two major focal points of                                             which come to us from overseas do
                                            job search etc. Poverty is not regarded
society: family and the nation.             as having one cause but many: Mi-  good to everybody who is involved in
    For example, during early Qing          grant workers, children who drop   Amity projects at the grassroots level;
rule in the second half of the 17th                                            but the geographical distance between
                                            out of school, disabled people, AIDS
century, the government was deter-                                             the local communities and Amity staff
                                            patients, sex workers, drug addicts,
mined to rein in the influence of liter-                                       members remains a problem. Amity
                                            and all those people who struggle at
ary societies. Still, local philanthropic                                      tries to improve communication by
                                            the edge of society, having different
societies prospered. Charities in an-       grievances and needs.              setting up local project offices.
cient China were of a non-confron-              Compared with organizations        Nevertheless, the effort of build-
tational sort, trying to teach people       during the Ming and Qing periods,  ing bridges is very important and
basic values and, at the same time, re-     charities in China have become veryshould not be underestimated. I
ducing social problems. The govern-                                            remember last year’s international
                                            diverse. Charities and welfare orga-
ment and charities, bureaucrats and         nizations have worked with various HIV/AIDS conference in Henan.
members of charitable organizations                                            Participants had different religious
                                            poverty-afflicted groups in many dif-
relied on each other. There were also                                          beliefs and, in fact, had never met be-
                                            ferent areas. Some of today’s welfare
tensions, though, when, for example,                                           fore, but they participated in the same
                                            organizations receive funds from the
taxes and duties were levied and when       government, some from overseas and training class on AIDS prevention. In
organizations like charities could be       some from individual “benefactors”.the special atmosphere of this train-
used to ease tensions between the lo-                                          ing class everybody quickly warmed
                                            Their focuses and work ethics are dif-
cal governments and the center.                                                up to each other. The Muslims were
                                            ferent from each other, too. And new
                                            challenges are emerging.           able to experience the charms of
Current Developments                                                           their Christian brothers and sisters
                                                Today, material goods and finan-
The public space of current society is                                         and the Christians caught a glimpse
                                            cial resources are sent from the east
becoming ever more difficult to de-                                            of genuine Muslim culture. The most
                                            of China to the west, from cities to
                                                                                          important thing, however,
                                                                                          was that local people had
                                                                                          an opportunity to learn the
                                                                                          basic facts about AIDS.
                                                                                          Many projects are like this.
                                                                                          The scale of such projects
                                                                                          seems to be small but the
                                                                                          projects have an important
                                                                                          and long-lasting impact: a
                                                                                          legal aid station for migrant
                                                                                          workers, a class in sign lan-
                                                                                          guage for disabled children
                                                                                          and a lot of other activities
                                                                                          designed to reach people
                                                                                          who are cast away by the
                                                                                          rest of society.
                                                                                              In that pile of blankets
                                                                                          at the corner of the snow-
                                                                                          covered street, there is this
                                                                                          poor man. Looking at him,
                                                                                          I forget all those theories
                                                                                          about where social re-
                                                                                          sponsibility fits in between
                                                         An Amity volunteer help-         the political arena and the
                                                         ing an orphaned child            forces of the market. He
                                                         with her homework.               just reminds me that civil
                                                                                          society starts right at our

6            Amity Newsletter 85/
Amity’s Home of Blessings Bakery

Happy Bread Angels
by Yin Xisheng

Amity’s Home of Blessings has opened a bakery as a vocational train-                       new, it has proved quite hard to put it
ing institution for developmentally disabled people. Giving them an                        into practice. There are few success
opportunity to work in a real-life workplace has improved the lives                        stories. This is because developmen-
of people with Down syndrome - and those of their customers.                               tally disabled people are often not
                                                                                           very motivated, or not very willing to
                                                                                           engage with other people. Many of
30-year-old Zhou Jian from Nanjing          gent need for vocational training for          them are generally able to work but
has just mastered the first vocational      developmentally disabled people in             may find it hard to be at the work-
skill in his life - baking bread. What      China. A great number of them have             place on time and to comply with
may seem rather commonplace to              spent basically all their lives at home,       basic work regulations. This poses a
most people is far from normal in           which not only makes them less and             great challenge to supervisors. Pre-
his case. Zhou Jian was born with           less able to develop skills and inter-         employment training is therefore be-
Down syndrome and was, until re-            act with other people but also adds to         coming more and more important -
cently, completely dependent on his         the economic and emotional burden              and this is where the Home of Bless-
family. People with Down syndrome           on their families. Training develop-           ings bakery comes in.
often have lower than average cogni-        mentally disabled people to take care
tive ability; a few are severely mentally   of themselves, so they don’t depend            How it started
disabled. Zhou Jian’s parents pro-          on family members for everything, is           Preparations for the bakery started
vided care for him 24 hours a day, 7        of very high importance in the care            in March 2007. In September, Chu
days a week, all year round. They will      for these people. However, given the           Chaoyu, the director of the Home
never forget the moment they tasted         great number of developmentally dis-           of Blessings, started looking for a
the first piece of bread baked by their     abled people who need to be trained            professional baker. The requirements
son: it marked a huge step in his life.     in such a way and the few resources            were quite high: applicants must have
In the near future, he may even be          available, this is an all but impossible       excellent professional skills and plen-
able to support himself with his new        task. Arguably a more realistic ap-            ty of experience; they must be happy
skill, which he learned with the help       proach is to provide vocational train-         to work with developmentally dis-
of the Amity Home of Blessings.             ing to those who are able to do some           abled people and preferably already
    The main reason for Amity to            light work.                                    have relevant experience. Mr. Li, who
open a bakery was that there is an ur-          Although this idea is by no means          was finally hired by Amity after a one-

One of the “Hap-
py Angels” baking
sweet buns at the
Home of Blessings

                           week trial period, previously worked for     Inviting participation
                           a supermarket bakery and has worked          The Home of Blessings bakery has
                           with deaf people.                            also organized “Happy Bread Angel”
                               In November the bakery started its       recruitment events, inviting people to
                           first test runs. The Home of Blessings       take part in bread making on weekends.
                           clients were very eager to start work-       On these occasions, those who learn
                           ing, carefully implementing the strict       vocational skills at the bakery turn into
                           hygiene rules they had practiced and         teachers and show others how to do
                           washing their hands in seven steps,          each of the steps from preparing the
                           as Mr. Li had taught them. This kind         dough to wrapping the baked bread
                           of training also unwittingly improves        or cake. Interacting with the develop-
                           people’s ability to look after themselves.   mentally disabled, participants in these
                           According to Director Chu, “The work         events find that the developmentally
                           environment at our bakery is in many         disabled are just as good as anybody
                           ways similar to real-life workplaces, and    and there is no reason to look down
                           it gives people who work there the op-       upon them.
                           portunity to develop useful skills. In the       The “Happy Bread Angel” courses
                           future, we will be able to recommend         have a great effect on the developmen-
                           our clients to other employers, so hope-     tally disabled people’s self-confidence
                           fully even with our limited resources we     and on their integration into “normal”
                           can make quite a big difference in terms     society. A lot of people have been in-
The Amity Home             of integrating developmentally disabled      terested in taking part in these events;
of Blessings Bak-          people into working life.”                   due to the limited space at the bakery,
ery gives disabled             Today more than 20 different kinds       however, only relatively few have been
people a chance            of bread, cake and cookies are pro-          able to attend. Generally, the Home
to learn a profes-         duced at the Amity bakery. Most of the       of Blessings has too little space and is
sion. Skills not           produce is sold to students at the nearby    spread out over different locations in
only boost their           colleges and to the general population.      the city of Nanjing, which is stunting its
self-esteem, it            Director Chu says that the bakery proj-      growth and its ability to make an even
gives them an              ect has a good effect on perceptions of      bigger contribution to society.
opportunity to             developmentally disabled people: they            In the meantime, Zhou Jian has
reduce preju-              used to have a very low social status        even learned to cook. He is determined
dice among the             and were sometimes even regarded as          to go on improving his skills. Recently,
public.                    disgusting. The bread from the bakery,       he bought a scarf for his mother with
                           however, shows that they can contrib-        the money he has earned at the Home
                           ute something useful and valuable.           of Blessings bakery.

     8         Amity Newsletter 85/
Special Education

Bilingual Deaf Education
Takes Root in China
by Li Xue
                                                                                       to be expected, the introduction of
                                                                                       fundamentally new teaching methods
                                                                                       met some resistance.

                                                                                       A principal of one of the project
                                                                                       schools, for example, complained: “It
                                                                                       is one thing to see the children in the
                                                                                       project making very quick progress,
                                                                                       but it is another to see some officials
                                                                                       not appreciating it. Once, an official
                                                                                       responsible for disabled persons came
                                                                                       to our school for inspection, they
                                                                                       watched our bilingual class where the
                                                                                       children use sign language. The inspec-
                                                                                       tors said that what they saw was just
                                                                                       empty gesticulating and feet paddling.
                                                                                       They left in a huff.”
                                                                                           A retired high-ranking cadre from
                                                                                       the provincial special education office
People from all walks of life join Amity’s sign language classes.                      said: “The curriculum reform in 2000
                                                                                       proposed to make teaching more stu-
                                                                                       dent-centered. But strong opposition
Replanting a potted plant is a long        tion by deaf children of sign language      emerged when such ideas were put for-
and tedious process. In his book,          as their first language. The encounter      ward. In the end, we had no choice but
“Mirror of Flowers”, the 17th cen-         between Amity and bilingual educa-          to adopt a twin-track approach in spe-
tury horticulturist Chen Haozi re-         tion took place during a visit by an        cial education: the students were now
corded minutely what it takes to do it     English PhD student who wrote a             seen as the ‘main body’, whereas the
right: choosing the right environment,     thesis on deaf education. What fol-         teachers were considered the guides.”
pruning, replacing the soil and water-     lowed was the introduction of bilin-        According to the executive of the Am-
ing the plant. Only if the replanting      gual education to a pre-school class        ity bilingual deaf education project, “a
process is done with the utmost care       at the Nanjing Deaf School. Experts         local special education institute has set
will the “courtyard bustle with flow-      from England were invited to visit          up a training program for sign language
ers”. In a similar way, replanting “Eu-    the Nanjing project classes. The lo-        interpreters but no deaf people were
ropean-grown” bilingual deaf educa-        cal teachers of the deaf were asked         involved as teachers. So it remains a big
tion into Chinese soil is a major task.    to participate in designing the ex-         question what kind of sign language is
Over the last four years, strong efforts   periment and later evaluating it. The       taught and who should be interpreted
have been made to introduce Amity’s        seemingly easy experiment in Nanjing        for? There were no incentives for the
SigAm Bilingual Deaf Education Pro-        turned out to become a very special         officials to hire deaf people, so we
gram to eight different deaf schools       ten-year lesson in contextualization.       have offered to provide an experienced
in Jiangsu, Guizhou and Sichuan            After the year 2000, Amity started a        deaf teacher for that program free of
provinces. Now Amity’s efforts start       cooperation with the Norwegian Si-          charge. But until now, we haven’t re-
showing signs of success.                  gno Foundation in order to expand           ceived any reply.” ... All of those who
   It was in 1995 that a small team        the scope of the bilingual education        are trying to push the case feel to a
of Amity staff first learned about the     program. Finally, in April 2004, five       certain extent helpless. It is easier to
ideas of bilingual education in deaf       schools in Jiangsu joined the program       claim that the difficulties arise from
education - a cutting-edge teaching        and in 2006, four deaf schools in Si-       the behavior of certain work units or
method, which involves the acquisi-        chuan and Guizhou followed. As was          people who are in charge than to say

      that they are the result of certain die-   than others.                                rier between deaf and hearing people
      hard traditions.                               However, the pursuit of excellence      and makes it hard for the deaf to find
         Liu Xiaofeng, the director of the       comes at a price. Countless students        jobs.
      Institute of Comparative Religious         spend their youth doing nothing but             Amity’s program is trying to re-
      Studies at the Sun Yat-Sen University      “eating the bitter food of learning”        verse these trends. The success of
      in Guangzhou, has pointed out that,        (as a Chinese saying goes: 学海无涯             the SigAm Bilingual Deaf Education
      for nearly a century, the evolution of     苦作舟). In such a learning environ-           Program lies in the fact that deaf peo-
      the current educational system in Chi-     ment, which is dominated by fierce          ple have participated in it on the side
      na has been a process of remolding         competition and little concern for          of the experts. The schools partici-
      the imperial examination system into       students’ personal feelings, it is not      pating in the program hired teachers
      a more “westernized” model.1 But           surprising that people adhere to tra-       who are themselves deaf in order to
      when western learning came to Chi-         ditional, teacher-centered methods.         create a natural learning environment
      na, this did not cause a radical break     How does bilingual education fit into       in the classroom. Since students use
      with the traditions of the school sys-     this system? Could it act as a pioneer      sign language to communicate with
      tem. Western influence only changed        in China’s special education system,        their deaf teachers, they learn sign
      specific knowledge-related subjects.       giving students more freedom and re-        language quickly. Nonetheless, this
      The (ill-)famed college entrance ex-       ducing the pressure?                        method needs some getting used to.

                                                                        Invite academe       Stir controversial discussions
                                                                        During the initial   Deaf teachers tend to ask questions
                                                                        phase of Amity’s     such as: “Won’t it adversely affect
                                                                        program, deaf        children’s overall language levels when
                                                                        education      ex-   we use sign language in the classroom
                                                                        perts, scholars      as language of instruction?” Some
                                                                        and researchers      teachers say: “In bilingual education,
                                                                        from various aca-    sign language is the first language
                                                                        demic institutions   which deaf children learn. Chinese is
                                                                        (among them the      only their second language. However,
                                                                        University      of   it’s obviously necessary that deaf stu-
                                                                        Oslo, the Univer-    dents learn Chinese well. Isn’t this just
                                                                        sity of Stavanger,   like studying English as a second lan-
                                                                        Fudan University     guage? Even college students know
                                                                        in Shanghai and      their second language on a compara-
                                                                        Nanjing      Nor-    tively superficial level. How much
                                                                        mal University)      worse will it be when primary-school
                                                                        were invited to      deaf children learn Chinese as a sec-
                                                                        join. The experts    ond language!” Such concerns and
Amity staffer Dai Manli teaches sign lan-        now meet on an annual basis in order        doubts take up a lot of the discus-
guage in the basement of Amity’s head-           to discuss latest developments, audit       sion time among the deaf teachers.
quarters in Nanjing. Students come from
many different backgrounds: a nurse, a           classes of deaf children and advise the     But exchanging views and disagreeing
cigarette vendor, a woman police officer         schools involved. At the same time,         is part of Amity’s program. Discuss-
and a university teacher.                        the scholars are able to collect data for   ing about sign language acquisition
                                                 their own research. In this way, Amity      and bilingual education is not just a
      amination (gaokao) as it is used today     hopes to lay a foundation, both theo-       discourse on how the public can be
      is the direct descendant of the 1300-      retical and practical, for implementing     involved: it is first and foremost a
      year-old imperial examination system.      bilingual deaf education.                   platform for deaf people, where they
      The promise given in the Analects of                                                   can learn how to make their voices
      Confucius that “a student who has          Involve deaf people                         heard in public and thus become part
      completed his studies will assume the      In China, the majority of deaf people       of mainstream society.
      duties of a government official” (Lun      usually have a low educational level.
      Yu, book 19, chapter 13) is still the      Most of them graduated from junior          Involve the public
      driving force behind the exam frenzy.      middle school, some from senior mid-        Amity is now four years into the
      Passing exams brings people closer         dle school. Hardly any deaf people          program and every school has made
      to fulfilling their dreams of gaining a    hold university degrees. Unfortunate-       its own unique experiences. Some
      higher position in the social hierarchy    ly, this typically low level of education   schools even went as far as to expand
      1 Liu Xiaofeng, “Individual Academic
                                                 keeps deaf people from recognizing          the Bilingual Deaf Education Pro-
      Pursuit between National Power and         that there is a social “problem of the      gram by adding their individual con-
      Social Right” Jian Jin Han Zhi (Picking    deaf ” and consolidates the lack of         cepts, including exchanges with other
      All the Cold Branches) Hua Xia Printing    skills and knowledge acquired by this       schools, cooperations with hospitals
      Press 2007, p 6.                           group. It also creates a language bar-      or sign-language training classes for

      10          Amity Newsletter 85/
the public - parents, teachers and stu-   when the teachers had not explained           how communication between students
dents from ordinary schools. All of       things clearly and in detail (e.g. when       works. This method is not just used to
these activities have helped to intro-    they had not made it clear what ex-           improve the language skills of students,
duce the bilingual concept to the gen-    actly happens to the tails of tadpoles        but, more importantly, to promote
eral public. During a seminar on bilin-   when they develop into frogs), to             democratic thinking in education. Stu-
gual deaf education held in Chengdu       our surprise, the small students were         dents should learn independent think-
at the beginning of this year, teachers   able to explain it to us during the in-       ing, explore creative learning methods
and principals were constantly en-        terviews after class. A four-year-old         and become aware of their own learn-
gaged in discussions about new teach-     girl even brought her picture book to         ing process, because this generation will
ing methods, sign language and coop-      show me the signs for all 16 animals          determine the society of tomorrow.
eration between the hearing and the       in the book. It was wonderful to look              Developing bilingual deaf education
deaf. Those who eventually profited       at her hands while she used sign lan-         still has a long way to go. More deaf
most from these discussions were the      guage.                                        schools should introduce bilingualism;
deaf children.                                                                          more deaf people should take part in
    During the seminar we attended a      Build civil society                           such programs. High-quality deaf edu-
class of pre-school children who take     Bilingual deaf education stresses the         cation should be made available. Better
part in the program. The children         development of deaf people, not just          policies should be introduced. NGOs
used sign language to chat among          their language skills. It also attaches       may play a leading role in introducing
themselves, but when a teacher asked      great importance to whether the teach-        new methods, and public involvement
a question they answered confidently      ing methods are teacher-centered or           should be admitted and encouraged. All
and happily – something which is sel-     student-centered. Bilingual deaf edu-         these efforts will make it possible for
dom seen in Chinese schools, where        cation studies and discusses the ways         bilingual deaf education to take root
discipline has a high priority. Even      how teachers and students interact and        in China.


                                                                                         Charity Dinner in
                                                                                         Hong Kong

                                                                                         The Hong Kong office of the Amity
                                                                                         Foundation held a gala dinner on 20
Relief Efforts                                                                           April. An amount of HK$ 453,000
                                                                                         were raised that evening to support

Earthquake in Sichuan                                                                    disaster relief and rehabilitation ef-
                                                                                         forts. Earlier this year, wide areas of
                                                                                         Central and Southern China were hit
                                                                                         by the worst snowstorm in a century.
A powerful earthquake - probably the      funds as a first step. An Amity di-            In response, Amity has worked to
strongest in more than 30 years - hit     saster relief office in Chengdu co-            raise CNY 10 million in support of
China on 12 May. Its epicenter was        ordinates the distribution of clean            the victims. The Hong Kong S.A.R.
some 90 km from Chengdu, the capi-        water, biscuits, tents and tarpaulins          Government approved a grant of
tal of Sichuan Province.                  in 11 counties in the disaster area. A         HK$ 1.29 million from its Disaster
    Amity staff Yue Yaomeng ar-           group of psychologists were sent to            Relief Fund to the Amity Founda-
rived in Chengdu five hours after the     the area to help traumatized people.           tion for relief projects in Guangxi
earthquake. As the Newsletter went           Constant rain, aftershocks and              and Yunnan. Quilts and rice were
to press, he was monitoring the situa-    landslides made rescue efforts dif-            distributed by Amity to victims in
tion and had already established con-     ficult and kept people on alert.               February. We will continue to rebuild
tact with local partners and regional     An Amity disaster relief office in             collapsed homes, schools, clinics and
NGOs.                                     Chengdu coordinates the distribu-              water systems and will help affected
    Amity immediately started releas-     tion Amity expects to start recon-             communities to restore their means
ing CNY 1 million in emergency            struction work very soon.                      of livelihood.

                                                                                              Farmers United

                                                                                              “Potato Association”
                                                                                              Participants of this year’s Easter
                                                                                              Tour to Inner Mongolia caught a
                                                                                              glimpse of civil society at work in
                                                                                              China’s remote countryside. During
                                                                                              a visit to Wulate Middle Banner, an
                                                                                              impoverished county in the grass-
                                                                                              lands of Inner Mongolia, the group
                                                                                              was introduced to a recently founded
                                                                                              peasant association. The “Potato As-
                                                                                              sociation” was formed by a group of
                                                                                              farmers after Amity had encouraged
                                                                                              them to unite and promote their inter-
                                                                                              ests as agricultural producers against
Student Activities                                                                            greedy profiteers. Farmers now de-
                                                                                              cide together at which price they will
“Winter Sun” -                                                                                sell their potatoes to the vendors,
                                                                                              in this way preventing middlemen
Warm Clothes for Qinghai Children                                                             to pay extremely low prices. Easter
                                                                                              Tour participants were impressed
                                                                                              by the fact that the “Potato Associa-
Warm clothes were distributed to              been sorted and packed at Am-                   tion” follows basic democratic rules
children in Qinghai Province as part          ity headquarters in Nanjing before              rarely seen in China: membership is
of the “Winter Sun” project, which            Spring Festival. After they had ar-             optional and the leadership is elected
is run by the Amity Foundation in             rived in Xining, the capital of Qin-            on the basis of “one member, one
cooperation with Gesanghua, a                 ghai, Gesanghua staffers arranged               vote”. Civil society is evidently mak-
volunteer organization working for            transport to villages in the Nangq-             ing inroads into rural China.
poor children on the Qinghai and              ian region, where local volunteers
Tibet Plateaus.                               took care of their distribution.
    Students from the Nanjing Insti-              Nanjing students have shown
tute of Technology collected 47 big           great compassion and a strong
bags of winter clothes, which were            sense of responsibility. Such activi-
then sent to icy Qinghai, where               ties strengthen people’s awareness
many people are too poor to afford            of how important structures of
warm clothing. The clothes had                civil society in China are.

                        Help China Earthquake Victims!
     I/We want to donate to China earthquake victims HK$/other currency
       Direct payment into one of the following accounts:

     Account name: The Amity Foundation Hong Kong Ltd.                     Account name: The Amity Foundation Hong Kong Ltd.
     Bank: The Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC)             Bank: Citic Ka Wah Bank
     Account #: 127-5-017372                                               Account #: 701-1-22399-100

       Online by “PayPal”:
                                                                            Name/Organization (if applicable):
       and click on “Make a donation”

       Cheque No:
       payable to The Amity Foundation Hong Kong Ltd.

       I/We will send a cheque or bank pay-in receipt together with this
       donation form by mail to The Amity Foundation Hong Kong Ltd.
       or by fax to (852) 23662769

1          Amity Newsletter 85/

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