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Giving a Helping Hand to Feel Part of The Chinese Community

Ellen Loasby arrived in Shanghai with her family in February 2008, ‘Eight years ago!’ she exclaims with some surprise to herself.  Her daughter Anna is now in Year 11 studying for her iGCSEs and her son Tom is in Year 8.

  • Huaxin Therapy Centre

Ellen first got involved with the Huaxin Therapy Centre through her volunteering role at the German Club looking after charity projects, and becoming one of their sponsors. Ellen describes how, ‘I was approached by one of our members,a physiotherapist who volunteered with the centre to see whether I would contribute funds in support of training they wanted to organise for the Huaxin therapists and a wider network of therapists.’ ‘To gain an understanding of the situation, I went along to one of their monthly visits - and have continued to support them ever since!’

Ellen chose to become involved in the Huaxin Therapy Centre because it was a very local NGO, right in her neighbourhood, with a very committed founder, Sun Hua, herself a mother of a disabled child.  Ellen explains, ‘I was impressed by how well the children responded to the help given by the foreign physiotherapists and by the level of support that parents were giving their disabled children.’

Deciding that she would like to become more involved Ellen started to join the regular monthly visits. ‘I was able to offer my Chinese language skills to the foreign, mainly German, physiotherapists. This meant that they could talk more easily to the children they were treating, their parents or caregivers and the regular therapists of the children and vice versa.’

Looking to the wider community, Ellen has helped the Huaxin Therapy Centre connect to BISS Puxi. The relationship has blossomed and as well as fundraising, the children, families from BISS Puxi and the centre have gained much from this relationship.  

In addition Ellen has given interviews on television, written articles to raise awareness of the work of the centre and she is now coordinating various international volunteer activities on an on-going basis. Ellen describes what she gets from the centre is much more than a feeling of just helping.  ‘It is a way for me to be close to Chinese every-day people and understanding and sharing part of their lives.’  As an expat it is often difficult to connect with the country you are living in and its people.  Volunteering in this way gives you a real sense of being part of life here in Shanghai, helping to make a difference.

By helping through various roles, Ellen’s contribution is above all to give the founder, the parents and their children hope and a feeling of support.  She explains that she is able to show them that ‘There are people, even “strangers” like me who care about them and how they develop. The smiles on their faces are a big reward and to see how the children learn to improve their condition or handle their disability is a continuous reminder that all this effort is worth their patience and our joint effort.’ ‘The therapy does improve the children's lives and those of their immediate families.’

Like many of us in the expat community, Ellen explains how she has a very fortunate and comfortable life and that helping and supporting the therapy centre makes her appreciate it and not take it for granted. ‘As healthy people, we seem to take our health for granted. I am now even more aware and grateful that I can walk and move the way I want to. I also feel that it is important as a society that we help each other, that those who are strong help those who are weaker. And last, but not least it is beautiful and inspiring to see the determination and will with which these kids and their parents are facing their difficulties. ‘They serve to me as a reminder to be strong and make the required effort if things don’t go the way I anticipated or I meet with a very difficult situation.’

If you would like to use your strengths in the community through volunteering, there are lots of opportunities to give a helping hand in school as well as projects in the wider community.

The Greater Hongqiao Community Guide gives you more information.

Useful links

Huaxin Rehabilitation Centre

Giving a helping hand

BISS Puxi