Pru­dence should guide de­ci­sions to do­nate on­line

Global Times - Weekend - - OPINION - By Liu Jianxi The au­thor is a reporter with the Global Times. opin­ion@glob­al­

Pic­tures with bright col­ors and ab­stract beauty made a splash on WeChat Mo­ments Tues­day. Dif­fer­ent from or­di­nary works of art, these pic­tures are cre­ations of young artists with men­tal dis­abil­i­ties and spec­trum dis­or­ders, and are part of the char­ity project “En­lighten Life with Art,” aimed at help­ing peo­ple with in­fan­tile autism, brain paral­y­sis, Down’s syn­drome and other men­tal dis­eases. The World of Art Brut Cul­ture, the or­ga­ni­za­tion be­hind the cam­paign, has been ded­i­cated to in­creas­ing the en­gage­ment with dis­ad­van­ta­geous peo­ple through art ed­u­ca­tion.

WeChat users can own a dig­i­tal copy of the pic­ture by do­nat­ing 1 yuan ($0.15) or more. The money raised, in­stead of be­ing fun­neled through the third-party char­ity plat­form, will be ac­cepted di­rectly by the Aiyou Fu­ture Foun­da­tion, a Shen­zhen-based or­ga­ni­za­tion with strong so­cial work cre­den­tials, and is sub­ject to su­per­vi­sion from the public. More than 15 mil­lion yuan has been raised so far.

The event is un­doubt­edly an in­no­va­tion in crowd-fund­ing. It has ef­fec­tively en­cour­aged mi­crodona­tions on a mas­sive scale. With around 1 bil­lion users, WeChat Mo­ments pro­vides its cus­tomers an easy ac­cess to dis­play self­ies or pic­tures ad­ver­tis­ing their per­sonal life­style. For many, boost­ing the pa­tron­age of art and sup­port­ing for char­ity are much more mean­ing­ful than a Louis Vuit­ton re­ceipt. This has con­trib­uted to the wide cir­cu­la­tion of the pic­tures and a quick ful­fill­ment of the fundrais­ing tar­get.

In ad­di­tion, the draw­ings, with a col­li­sion of col­ors and ab­stract themes, have thrust peo­ple with men­tal and in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties into the lime­light. Some men­tal dis­eases, for in­stance autism, are of­ten un­der-rec­og­nized in China, and peo­ple with men­tal dis­or­ders are al­ways alien­ated and dis­crim­i­nated in daily life.

It is not news that autis­tic chil­dren are iso­lated and even­tu­ally pres­sured to quit af­ter be­ing ad­mit­ted to study with their healthy peers. With the wide cir­cu­la­tion of the paintings on­line, their tal­ents are grad­u­ally be­ing rec­og­nized, and a grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple are show­ing con­cern to their wel­fare.

Un­de­ni­ably, to­day’s char­ity cam­paigns are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly creative. For in­stance, the Ice Bucket Chal­lenge, which fea­tures dumping a bucket of iced wa­ter over a per­son’s head in an at­tempt to raise public aware­ness of amy­otrophic lat­eral sclerosis (ALS), was a great suc­cess. With low bar­ri­ers to en­try and so­cial me­dia as plat­form, the chal­lenge has at­tracted a large num­ber of celebri­ties, in­clud­ing Mi­crosoft founder Bill Gates, Ap­ple CEO Tim Cook and Face­book co-founder Mark Zucker­berg, to join. The ALS As­so­ci­a­tion re­port­edly re­ceived over $100 mil­lion do­na­tions in just one month af­ter the chal­lenge went vi­ral.

The cre­ativ­ity in the char­ity cam­paign is an en­cour­ag­ing trend, but it should be noted that “eye­ball” fundrais­ing is al­ways ac­com­pa­nied by risks. The hash­tag “Luo Er’s Daugh­ter Fundrais­ing Event” be­came a top trend on Sina Weibo last year. Luo, a fa­ther who raised money for his sick child via WeChat, was later dis­closed to have sub­stan­tial as­sets. The fa­ther col­lected more than 2.6 mil­lion yuan in just a few days af­ter his mov­ing ar­ti­cle about his anx­i­ety over the med­i­cal costs for treat­ing his daugh­ter went vi­ral on WeChat Mo­ments, but was even­tu­ally pres­sured to re­turn the money back to donors amid ac­cu­sa­tions of fraud. The U-turn of the cam­paign high­lights the ne­ces­sity of pru­dence in do­nat­ing. More ef­forts should be put to en­sure the pro­fes­sion­al­ism in all kinds of fundrais­ing events, es­pe­cially those pop­u­lar on­line.

Mean­while, creative cam­paigns like “En­lighten Life with Art” may mislead the public that all autis­tic chil­dren have a gift for draw­ing, or guide public at­ten­tion only to those who can draw. But the re­al­ity is that the ma­jor­ity of men­tally ill peo­ple lack such skills. All dis­ad­van­ta­geous peo­ple de­serve at­ten­tion, re­gard­less of whether they can draw or not. China’s char­ity cause has re­al­ized a leap for­ward in re­cent years, but ef­forts are still needed to en­sure the fair­ness of the char­ity cam­paigns.

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