China Exclusive: "Wall of Kindness" provides warmth in wintry China

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China's most famous wall may have been built to keep people away, but a new kind of wall in the eastern city of Qingdao is bringing people closer together.

Over the weekend, hooks and hangers appeared on the side of a Qingdao building under the words: "If you need it, take it." This "Wall of Kindness," the creation of local charity Chuangyi Workshop, invites passers-by to leave their spare warm clothes and encourages those who are in need to take them.

"It is just like what you do at home. You hang your clothes when you get home and you take them down and put them on when you go out," said Wang Lei, director of Chuangyi Workshop.

Wang was inspired by a similar scheme in Iran, and put it into practice in China as the country experiences its coldest winter in decades.

She and her colleagues receive lots of clothes from donors, especially in winter. The challenge is how to get them into the hands of the needy.

They thought about sending them to people in remote mountainous areas of southwest China but it was not cost-effective and many of Chuangyi Workshop's counterparts were already doing the same. So they decided to help people closer to home.

When the clothes were first hung on the wall, passers-by thought they were for sale. After they learned the reality, some began to come up and try them on.

Wang photographed Mr. Liu, a sanitation worker responsible for the area around the Wall of Kindness, sporting a nearly-new pair of jeans from the edifice.

Since the photos were widely circulated via social media, the hooks have been weighed down with far more donations than they can support. Clothing is piled high on the street underneath.

"This is a simple, immediate way of helping people and it makes my spare clothing useful to others," said Qingdao native Tan Jing, dropping a second lot of clothing at the wall in two days.

Wang has been touched by people's generosity. "Some of the clothing is practically new. I don't even have to wash my hands after sorting it."

Walls of Kindness have also sprung up in several other Chinese cities. They have been reported in Zhumadian of central China's Henan Province, Jinhua of east China's Zhejiang Province and Guigang of south China's Guangxi region.

The walls have been a popular topic on, the Chinese Twitter.

"It makes both sides of the give and accept formula more equal compared to the stereotype that those who accept charity are weak and incapable," said a Weibo user with the screen name "Summer lemon."

"The Wall of Kindness is the most warming place in Qingdao -- let's spread the news and take care of others," said another. Some netizens suggested shelters should be built to protect the clothing from rain and snow.

Jiang Tao, publicity director for the China Philanthropy Research Institute, said the wall system removes the stigma of people having to ask for charity.

Such novel ideas are the hallmark of smaller charities, while bigger, government-backed organizations tend to stick to conventional aid, according to Jiang. "Fresh ideas for philanthropy, especially with the help of the Internet, can make a big difference," she said. Endi

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