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A home from home offers hope for elderly and orphans

A new home for the elderly and orphans will be opened soon in the city of Mianzhu in Sichuan Province. It will provide a new home for 200 elderly people and orphans who lost their previous home in the earthquake last year.

Construction will begin in July and will be completed by the end of the year. The new home has been designed by the Architecture and Urban Planning School of Tongji University, and Standard Chartered Bank (China) has donated 10 million yuan (US$1.46 million) to cover the cost.

The home will take up 15,000 square meters and have 100 rooms, a large dining room, four large bathrooms and several courtyards. It will be shaped like a giant key.

"We hope that the home will play the role of key in opening up the hearts of the victims, letting them know that there are people who care about them all over the country," says John Tan, managing director, head of Global Markets Department of Standard Chartered (China).

Providing a friendly environment for the elderly and children is the priority in design as well as efficiency in construction, environmental friendliness and achieving the maximum value for donation, according to Ruan Linjun, general manager of Shanghai Huadu Engineering Consultant Co, in charge of the construction.

Since most of the residents of the home will be elderly and children, the new home will be a one-story construction instead of the two-story building which was damaged in the earthquake. There will be no stairs in the house which might cause problems for the old and young.

Each room will have two beds and a bathroom. There are baths in some of the rooms for the resident who can bathe themselves and there will be four large bathrooms where nurses can help the elderly.

"Psychologists suggest that sunshine and communication can help people get over sadness more quickly; we are trying to create an environment that encourages them to communicate and bath in sunshine," says Chen Hui, an architect with the Shanghai Huadu Engineering Consultant Co.

Large windows brighten the indoor areas during the day, and 100-square-meter courtyards with beautiful greenery at every four-room unit will encourage the residents to communicate with their neighbors. Corridors connecting different units will also makes communications between residents easy. There is also a large courtyard in the center of the construction, providing space for 200 people to enjoy outdoor activities.

Because it is a one-story construction with earthquake-proof structure, only a few earthquake-proof building materials have been used. But, the light material widely used throughout the building can help decrease the burden of the construction in an earthquake, and even if it collapses, it should not seriously injure residents. The building will survive an earthquake of 8-magnitude according to Chen.

The 10-million-yuan donation will all be used on the home, says Tan. If the construction costs less than that when finished, the leftover money will be used to build a library or gym.

"We hope that it will be a long-term project connecting our staff and the residents," says Tan.

Though the local Bureau of Civil Affairs will keep running the new home, staff from the Chengdu Branch of Standard Chartered Bank will visit often to ensure a long-term connection.


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