Hail­ing love

Dad cre­ates an app for be­reaved par­ents.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Family - By SHAN JUAN

A FATHER who lost his only child al­most a decade ago has de­vel­oped a smart­phone app that links be­reaved par­ents with vol­un­teers of­fer­ing emo­tional sup­port or help with ev­ery­day tasks.

Li Gan started work­ing on Love Hula Hoop last year and said the app should be avail­able as early as Oc­to­ber.

The 49-year-old cus­toms of­fi­cer lost his four-month-old son in 2008 to an acute ill­ness. Since then, he has of­fered sup­port to other be­reaved par­ents, set­ting up an NGO and hot­lines, and or­gan­is­ing home vis­its and get-to­geth­ers. His ef­forts are mainly aimed at help­ing par­ents who have lost their only child.

“Al­though the meet­ings helped ease the pres­sure for par­ents, they still suf­fered due to spend­ing most of their time alone,” said Li, who lives in Shen­zhen, Guang­dong province. “The app will make the care of­fered by vol­un­teers go fur­ther, so that peo­ple get the help they need when they are in real need.”

Most vol­un­teers with the NGO have full-time jobs and are un­avail­able to be on call 24/7 for a chat or sim­ply to change a bro­ken light­bulb, he said.

So, much like a ride-hail­ing app, users will be able to send a re­quest on Love Hula Hoop and the near­est avail­able vol­un­teer will re­spond.

The app, which is be­ing de­signed by a lo­cal tech­nol­ogy com­pany, has cost about 1 mil­lion yuan (RM630,000), fi­nanced with Li’s own money and dona­tions from the pub­lic.

“This is like I’m fos­ter­ing new ‘chil­dren’ to look af­ter us,” he said. “I no longer have my son by my side, but I can still help my­self and oth­ers to have a bet­ter life.”

Lu Xiaoyu, 66, lost her 19-yearold son to leukemia in 2000 and likes the idea of the app.

“It’s im­por­tant. It’s eas­ier to make a re­quest us­ing an app than seek­ing help from some­one in real life,” she said. Be­reaved par­ents like Lu are sus­cep­ti­ble to break­ing down in the face of even the most triv­ial of prob­lems, ac­cord­ing to Li. “They of­ten blame the one-child pol­icy, which was in place for about 40 years, for their suf­fer­ing and some­times har­bor so­cial ha­tred, which in the end only hurts them,” he said.

As a city of im­mi­grants, Shen­zhen has never lacked vol­un­teers will­ing to help oth­ers who may also be far from home, he said. “I have been able to rally more than 1,000 vol­un­teers in just two hours via an In­ter­net site for a char­ity ac­tiv­ity.”

As part of a part­ner­ship with the city gov­ern­ment, vol­un­teer hours spent us­ing the app will be recorded and linked to an in­di­vid­ual so­cial credit sys­tem and other so­cial pro­grammes like ap­pli­ca­tions for a hukou, or res­i­dence per­mit. “That en­cour­ages vol­un­teers and helps sus­tain qual­ity care and sup­port over a long pe­riod of time,” he said.

There are roughly 2,000 house­holds with be­reaved par­ents left child­less in Shen­zhen, Li said. “Many of them, like me, left their home­towns for the city and have no other fam­ily mem­bers here.”

A car­ing and re­spon­sive so­ci­ety helps par­ents feel loved, which helps them de­velop a more pos­i­tive mind­set for later in life, Li said.

Also, as they get older, “ac­tual needs in daily life arise, like chang­ing a bulb and buy­ing gro­ceries”, he said. The app can turn neigh­bors into vol­un­teer helpers when needs arise.

Sup­port for par­ents who have lost their only child in­clude a monthly al­lowance of 1,000 yuan (RM630), ad­di­tional health in­sur­ance, and eas­ier ac­cess to med­i­cal care.

“But equally im­por­tant, handy ac­cess to so­cial sup­port and ser­vice providers has to be se­cured as well,” he said.

Lu Xiaoyu agreed. “Money is im­por­tant but that alone can­not pro­vide a sense of se­cu­rity,” she said. – China Daily/Asia News Net­work

Griev­ing par­ents can call on vol­un­teers for sup­port and em­pa­thy. — 123rf.com

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