The organization for assistance to the disabled supported by the PIME Foundation in China has overcome the harsh test of the pandemic, taking on the responsibility of some other small entities that found themselves in difficulty. And today it is present in 40 cities
Coming out of the pandemic discovering ourselves bigger than before. Among the most beautiful stories that the great trial that we have all experienced in recent years has left us as a legacy, there is one that comes from China, the country where it all began and which is still struggling today in many ways. to get up. A story of solidarity that involves Huiling, the organization founded by the lay Chinese Catholic Teresa Meng Weina to assist disabled people in a country where until recently handicap was still culturally considered a shame. An association that PIME missionaries – in particular Father Fernando Cagnin – have helped to make over the years a point of reference for hundreds of families throughout China, with the concrete support of many benefactors in Italy through the PIME Foundation.
With the Covid emergency, Huiling suddenly found itself in a very difficult situation with local fees and services blocked and fragile people particularly exposed. Yet today we can say that she emerged from this experience not only unscathed, but even with the willingness to take care of even more people. «By focusing on the values rather than the works themselves, we guessed the path – says Father Cagnin, who continues to follow this path from Hong Kong -. Over the years we repeated to ourselves: let’s do the right things, even the small, hidden, apparently insignificant ones. We do not invest in buildings where it is not essential, we give priority to staff training, we record our activities, we publish financial statements in a transparent manner…”.
All these precautions allowed Huiling to withstand the test, which was also very tough in China: as is known, in fact, to curb the contagion, the Beijing government rigidly blocked many activities for a long time, easing the restrictions only at the end of 2022. restrictions. Being able to survive was, therefore, a precious result, also looking at the more general context of those in the country who deal with disabilities. «Many other groups didn’t make it – confirms Father Fernando -. This is why we have given a mandate to our staff to take action to help them. Imagine a group of ten or thirty parents who have opened a small institute and now can no longer continue. What would happen if these realities disappeared? So we said to ourselves: let’s teach them our working method. And if they accept our rules we absorb them.”
Here then is the paradox: during Covid the organization supported by PIME missionaries not only resisted, but even expanded: «We transformed Huiling into a two-level reality – explains Cagnin -. On the one hand the traditional core, a little stronger; on the other, that of the associates we have absorbed. Thus we have become a reality with almost 500 employees which, putting together all the offices present in 40 large centers in China, reaches around 3,000 clients. Offices that are almost all located in capitals, cities with millions of inhabitants, because the laws work better there, but you can also try to grow a network of local donors, indispensable today alongside Italian benefactors for an experience that is growing so much ».
Furthermore, the end of the restrictions imposed by the “Zero Covid” policy in China also made it possible to restart the most beautiful experience of Huiling: the shows that the kids take around all of China. «The recovery was slow and tiring – observes Father Cagnin -. During Covid, many of our operators continued to work as volunteers, trying to save what could be saved; we lost others anyway. For this reason we had to work hard in training new people, bringing together their culture with cutting-edge services and the solidity of our human and Christian values. Also considering the new realities that we have absorbed, the commitment to training our operators will remain the first of the urgencies for the whole of next year too.”
But the theater allows disabled children to truly have their say again: «We don’t need to advertise or anything else – insists Father Fernando -. We just need to get our kids on stage and let them bring their lives to the stage. In one of their shows, for example, they talk about this theme: I would like to get married to this girl, but my parents won’t leave me and society doesn’t have laws capable of protecting me. They also season it with the canons of Chinese tragedy. And, then, at that point they make the theater tremble: word of mouth starts among the people. We ended up having up to 1300 people in the room together, three floors of packed seats. In the audience we also happen to find those from the local government who had previously snubbed us and in the end they take photos of the evening. When you see people react like this, you understand what Huiling represents for China today.”