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'Harmony' falters on cash crisis, flu

DRHEAL Desy, a 68-year-old Canadian, had planned to admit two more people this month to his "Home of Harmony and Joy" for handicapped people in the suburbs of the northeast Chinese city of Jilin. But now, he realized it would not come true.

"I never thought things would turn out like this," Desy sighed.

The home, a charity project initiated in 2004 to accommodate and train poor and handicapped people, is having serious financial problems because of swine flu and the economic downturn.

Benefactors have cut their donations. "Those who used to donate 1,000 yuan (US$146) monthly only give 300 now," he said. Desy, along with his Chinese partner Zhang Lianghua, 32, started the home after being given a piece of land in Fengman District, Jilin City, Jilin Province.

The home will house about 140 handicapped people upon completion, but it now only has nine residents.

Construction went smoothly until the end of 2008 when the global financial worsened, Zhang said.

"We still need 1 million yuan to finish the work," said Desy.

Desy and Zhang have spent 10 million yuan so far. The money comes from donations, mostly from ordinary people, and a few rich men in Canada and Hong Kong.

Swine flu, which broke out in Mexico last month, put the home in an even more difficult position.

The 40 pigs that took almost eight months to raise were ready for sale, but the swine flu caused public concern over pork consumption and prices to plummet.

"I wanted the home to be financially independent within two or three years, but it looks as though this would not be possible in even four to five years," Desy said.

Desy wants the home to operate with the idea that "every person, no matter how handicapped, can do a lot of things by themselves."

So, each handicapped person is "accompanied" by an employee who is paid 700 yuan a month.

Desy preferred the word "accompany" because the employees teach the handicapped people how to do housework or they just work together, instead of "doing something for them."

"It's more like a family," Desy said.


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