September 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 5 
Cover Story

Opening doors

Support of Golden Key project in China aids vision-impaired children

Opening doorsLike many blind children in China's far-western Shaanxi Province, Li Hao was left to fend for himself in a school that had no teacher training or other resources to respond to his needs. Ashamed of his impairment, Hao sat silently at the back of his classroom as all the activities went on without him.

When Xu Bailun learned of Hao's plight in the summer of 2003 and visited him at school, Hao started trembling and broke out in a cold sweat. Hao's grandfather told Xu that the boy often cried when he came home from school, and his grandfather felt helpless to do anything but cry with him. Hao's older brother Fan, who is visually impaired, also was having trouble in school.

Fortunately, Xu, executive director of the Golden Key Research Center of Education for the Visually Impaired, was there to help. The former architect founded the center in the mid-1980s in Beijing after having lost his own sight in the 1970s at the age of 41. The goal of the center's Golden Key Project is to raise independent funding from China and abroad to increase school enrollment for visually impaired children aged 7 to 15.

Projects in Guangxi and Inner Mongolia have included the training of administrators, teachers and support staff, establishment of local resource centers, and supervision of the teachers' and children's progress. So far, Golden Key projects have enabled more than 3,000 visually impaired children to enroll in school. Many have gone on to learn vocational skills at centers supported by Golden Key.

In October 2003, Boeing China gave to the Golden Key Shaanxi Project. Xu said that the donation "will help Golden Key Center to set up the integrated education models in Shaanxi to enable blind children to attend the local village schools along with their sighted peers." In 2004, the new project will train up to 162 personnel, including teachers, oculists and administrators, establish a new resource center, and facilitate inclusion for visually impaired children scattered over a 6,000-square-kilometer
underprivileged area, Xu added.

"The Boeing Company has a long tradition of supporting charities throughout the world. It is part of our corporate heritage to give back to the people and communities that have given so much to Boeing," said Boeing China President David Wang at a ceremony for the donation. "As a member of China's community and a partner of China's aviation industry, Boeing is proud to work with the Golden Key Center and Shaanxi Province. Boeing's donation is a gift to the children in China, because they carry forward the hope and future of this great country."

When Xu made a return visit to Hao and Fan's school soon after the project began, he found a tremendous change in the boys, now 10 and 13 years old, and in their surroundings. Their grandfather told Xu that the attention his grandsons received from their trained teachers encouraged the boys to interact with their classmates and study hard. (Later, surgery improved Hao's eyesight.)

Xu found the boys to have replaced their feelings of humiliation with hope: "They have their own expectations for the future. Li Hao wants to be a doctor to cure people with eye diseases. Li Fan wants to be a social worker for the Golden Key Project."

-Celeste Zhao and Maribeth Bruno



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