Shang­hai Sun­rise spreads love all across the sky

Shanghai Daily - - FRONT PAGE - Chen Huizhi

FRANCES O’Rourke, a New Zealan­der, opened her heart on a TV fundraiser at the week­end.

At home here for 14 years, O’Rourke has worked with Shang­hai Sun­rise, a char­ity pro­gram that has spon­sored high school and univer­sity stu­dents since 1996, since she first ar­rived.

“When I was younger, my fam­ily’s sit­u­a­tion was not so good, and as I got older and I re­ceived help from many peo­ple, I wanted to give some­thing back,” she said on the TV show, a cul­mi­na­tion of the year-end of char­ity cam­paign, the Great­est Love Un­der the Sky.

“Liv­ing in the beau­ti­ful city of Shang­hai, I re­al­ized that, even here there are peo­ple who need help,” she said. “Shang­hai Sun­rise has helped a lot of chil­dren, and I have too, and that’s close to my heart.”

In a sep­a­rate in­ter­view, O’Rourke told Shang­hai Daily more about her en­gage­ment with the cause.

In 2005, she was search­ing for Christ­mas cards and Shang­hai Sun­rise hap­pened to be sell­ing them to raise money for stu­dents.

In the past 12 years, she has con­trib­uted about 200,000 yuan (US$29,600) to stu­dents through spon­sor­ships and do­na­tions.

Those who re­ceive help stay in touch with their bene­fac­tors by writ­ing let­ters and at­tend­ing events. They also get op­por­tu­ni­ties to in­tern at com­pa­nies the do­na­tors work for.

“I value ed­u­ca­tion, and I’ve seen how it can change one’s fu­ture per­spec­tives,” O’Rourke said. “I like the pro­gram and the vol­un­teers who con­trib­ute their time, money and ef­fort.”

Many grad­u­ates re­turn to spon­sor other young peo­ple them­selves.

“Pay­ing back or pay­ing for­ward is a re­ally nice thing about the pro­gram. To­gether, through phi­lan­thropy, we’re chang­ing peo­ple’s lives,” she said.

Zhao Yi, di­rec­tor of the pro­gram, told Shang­hai Daily that over 3 mil­lion yuan has been raised and ben­e­fited over 2,500 stu­dents. In the cur­rent school year, about 240 high school stu­dents and 150 univer­sity stu­dents are on the pro­gram.

Ba­sic spon­sor­ship per school year for a high school stu­dent is 3,000 yuan and for a univer­sity stu­dent 6,000 yuan.

Ex­pats con­trib­ute the most money to the pro­gram and make up of over half of the ac­tive vol­un­teers. Most stu­dents live in sub­ur­ban dis­tricts.

“The stu­dents who re­ceive help are those from fam­i­lies with job­less par­ents or on min­i­mum wage,” Zhao said. The city’s min­i­mum wage was 2,420 yuan a month last year.

The stu­dents and fam­i­lies in need ap­ply for spon­sor­ship through the Shang­hai Char­ity Foun­da­tion’s dis­trict branches, and vol­un­teers come to each ap­pli­cant’s home to check up. Vol­un­teers visit 100 to 150 fam­i­lies ev­ery year.

Zhao said the pro­gram is help­ful not just in the eco­nomic sense.

“Through the so­cial events we or­ga­nize, stu­dents be­come more con­fi­dent,” she said. “Our pur­pose is to give them equal op­por­tu­ni­ties for ed­u­ca­tion and ca­reer de­vel­op­ment.”

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