Foreign Volunteers in Yunnan Province

An ethnic boy suffering from paralysis recently received a specially-made chair featuring a movable board for dining and a high back with boards covered in soft sponge to hold the boy’s head.

The chair was made by Craig William, a Canadian medical expert with Project Grace International (PGI), a volunteer charity organization with headquarters in Kunming, capital of southwest China’s Yunnan Province.

In April this year, Craig William paid a visit to the boy’s home in a mountain village in the Nujiang River Canyon area, Yunnan.

“The boy, from the Lisu Ethnic Group, was sitting on a bamboo basket with his head flipperty-flopperty,” William recalled. The degree of deformity of the boy will become more serious if he is kept bedridden for longer.

As a mild-mannered foreigner, William was welcomed by the local children. Groups of deaf-and-dumb boys and girls, who are receiving training in sign language and woodworking initiated by the PGI, often play with William slapping his beer belly with laughter.

“I love the kids and like to play with them,” William said with a kind smile.

He only frowned when learned that there are more than two million disabled people living in the beautiful land of Yunnan. As an expert in the field of disabled convalesce, William suggested that an abundance of cheap artificial limbs should be manufactured and provided to disabled people in the province.

Craig William’s wife Helen, is also busy training three deaf-and-dumb girls how to make pastry and toast bread.

He Lihong, a disabled saleswoman at the tommy-shop, said that it is difficult for disabled people to find jobs. “The training programs launched will help us master a professional technique to support our basic living.”

The PGI was established in 1998 by Dr. Rob Damon Cheeley, an American medical expert. The organization is aimed at luring foreign volunteers to work in Yunnan and provide free medical help and educational programs for local disabled persons.

Over the past two years, the PJI has carried out a series of professional training programs for hundreds of poverty-stricken disabled people across the province.

William and Helen, who are in charge of the training programs, said that the PGI has attracted over 30 experts, from a dozen countries and regions including the United States, Canada, Britain, German and Singapore, who are willing to engage in long-term volunteer work in Yunnan.

Most of the experts are doctoral degree holders in the fields of medical science, education, agricultural technology, linguistics and sign language.

With funds of 5.89 million yuan (about US$709,600) and considerable efforts by the foreign experts, more than 900 rural medics and teachers have received professional training. At present, they are playing important roles in counties and villages in the province, helping the disabled people with medical treatment and education.

Meanwhile, the PGI has opened a clinic in a special school for disabled students. So far, the clinic has received more than 10,000 disabled people or patients from poverty-stricken families in rural areas.

This year, the PGI has implemented diorthosis operations or equipped artificial limbs for 18 under-privileged disabled people.

According to a local public health official, the foreign volunteers work here for free and have to pay all their own living costs.

Stories about the volunteers are so unforgettable, the official said. For example, Zhang Yun, a Chinese student who had to receive an amputation operation owing to worsening leukemia, was equipped with free artificial limbs thanks to the help of the volunteers with PGI.

“When Zhang’s cancer worsened and he died, the volunteers even helped the poverty-stricken family pay off all medical costs and debts before Zhang’s death,” the official said.

To help rural residents benefit from farm technology, William rented a piece of land in Luquan County as an experimental field for modern high-tech agriculture.

“We don’t care about being paid.” When asked about the work in Yunnan, the volunteers agreed that they are happy just to do such significant things in China.

(People’s Daily 11/16/2000)

In This Series

International Tourism Experts Eye on Yunnan

Significant Progress in Poverty Relief Made

China Makes Progress in Alleviating Urban Poverty



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