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Helping left-behind children build lives

[CLI Code] CLI.N.16755124(EN) 

Li Hao, 32, an architect in Beijing.
I have constantly sought opportunities to use my skills to promote voluntary services.
After graduation, I volunteered to teach children in rural areas during their summer and winter breaks, and later I took part in Green River, an environmental conservation program.
However, it was not until 2015 that I combined my professional skills with voluntary service.
That was a result of meeting Li Kexin, the leader of a charity project called Sunners that provides care for left-behind children - who have at least one parent working in distant cities - in impoverished rural areas. Some of them were born out of wedlock and left in the care of their elderly, poorly educated grandparents.
When Li and I chatted, we realized that I could use my architectural expertise to help the children. That's what we did.
I have a studio in Beijing. During the summer break - usually in July and August - I close it down, and head to rural areas in provinces such as Sichuan and Hubei.
We organize weeklong summer camps for the local kids, who are asked to build creative, miniature buildings and structures using cheap materials such as wooden sticks and colored paper.
It doesn't take long to notice the change in the participants. At first, they are timid and refuse to hold hands with the other children, which shows they are insecure. Most prefer to hold one end of a bottle to make a "link" with their playmates.
However, as time passes they become more confident and display trust by working in teams.
Compared with their urban counterparts, these rural children are isolated from the world beyond the mountains and suffer a severe shortage of information.
I hope the camps will provide memorable experiences they will want to revisit when they are older, and hopefully open a window that may prompt them to aim to improve their lives.
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