The story appears on

Page B4

May 24, 2011

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

From homeless to Home Sweet Home

A local organization is dedicated to providing Shanghai's forgotten individuals with a fresh start in life. Liam Singleton hears from some of the volunteers and those who have benefitted from the sterling efforts of the charity.

Utter devotion to a cause is a remarkable quality. When the cause is supporting the homeless, disabled, disfigured and forgotten individuals of Shanghai, it is even more exceptional.

Billy Lee, a volunteer at the organization Home Sweet Home (HSH), has that quality. Originally from Singapore, Lee now works tirelessly to help people in Shanghai who used to live on the streets collecting bottles or begging for loose change.

Despite his own misfortunes - Lee was diagnosed with cancer a little over two years ago - he has overcome his struggles and now devotes his time to those less fortunate than himself.

HSH is dedicated to helping disadvantaged people get their lives back on track. It offers a two-year program involving 18 months in a shared home with guaranteed employment in the organization's textile factory, followed by a six-month work placement in a company. Many go on to full-time employment.

Training is also offered. Classes in life skills help people live independent lives; resume writing and computer-literacy classes help them get back into employment and restore a sense of self-reliance.

The organization's aim is to bring people in from the edges of society. "We give them the opportunity to improve their lives," says Gerie de Paret, executive director of HSH. In this aim they are tremendously successful.

This past week Sino-British College (SBC) was the venue for a special graduation as those enrolled on the HSH program celebrated the completion of their training, and a new start in life.

With considerable energy and humor, Lee made his way around the crowds, participating in the games and bringing another level of pleasure to an already joyous occasion.

The event was co-organized by HSH and fourth-year Event Management students from SBC. A number of students from Singapore's Anglo-Chinese School also attended the event as part of a social work placement in Shanghai.

Young and old, Chinese and foreign, this event was testimony to the power of selfless acts. And the graduates revelled in the occasion - the start of a new, more rewarding life.

Song Ya is one such person. In part thanks to the training and support provided by Lee and his colleagues, but in large part down to her own commitment and strength, she now works at Dulwich College as a charity administrator assistant.

"I am genuinely thankful to HSH for my two years of training," she says. "Working lets me feel happiness and satisfied, I feel acknowledged in my life. HSH's mission is love, I believe there will be many excellent, loving and well-prepared people going into the community to work. Please believe that if other people in the community can get the job done, we as well can get the job done."

The graduation event raised almost 10,000 yuan (US$1,537) to continue the work of HSH, which not only provides training and accommodation but also a basic salary for their work in the factory.

No government support is provided, so funds come from generous benefactors and factory sales. The money goes toward supporting those enrolled on the program and the community at large.

Every Saturday, HSH runs a "care day" providing food, showers and basic medication for those who need it. This is also an opportunity to speak to others on the streets that might benefit from HSH's assistance.

"The program has totally transformed lives. We offer training and lifestyle advice. A lot of these people have led very individualistic lives, so we encourage team work and sharing. The word 'love' really motivates them," says Lee.

Dulwich College support the program by providing free English classes and paying for English examinations, as well as offering internships and work opportunities. To date all those who have taken the exams have passed. The combined support by organizations in Shanghai and the tireless work by volunteers has transformed many lives.

Another such case is He Chao, a serious-burn victim who left behind a desperate life on the streets and is currently learning Library Management at Dulwich. He also provides training and inspiration to others at HSH, helping newcomers to rehabilitate and move forwards. The change in people is remarkable - no longer down and out, but revelling in a new sense of pride and connection with the community around them.

Lee has been impressed by the effort put in by the SBC students who helped organise the event, which he sees as the future of philanthropy in this booming country. "I am touched by all these organizations which have helped promote HSH and especially seeing our next generation showing love and care for those less fortunate," he says.

Much of this is down to his tireless work, yet he modestly draws attention away from himself towards those who need it. "We change lives. That's why I continue." Song, He and many others would agree.

(Liam Singleton is a Shanghai-based freelancer.)


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend