HuiNing -- Mon, Jul 25, 2005
This is a question that I have been asked in every press interview and I am sure a few of you are wondering. Even more specificly -- what does biking across China have to do with you? We've got two reasons for you:
If you are in America -- this actually has a lot to do with you. First, pat yourself on the back. The strides we have made in America in terms of Autism awareness and support are light years ahead of many other areas of the world. When other countries are struggling just to make people aware that there are people with mental disabilities (really, this is true); we are pusing to implement inclusion programs and to expand support services in business and day to day life.
But don't pat yourself too much -- we still have a lot more to do. We still need to push ahead with support services and awareness, especially in certain areas. But moreover, it is time to put significant resources into autism research in the US. We are still at the beginning stages of understanding autism (a broad classification for a spectrum of what are mostly likely developmental and or genetic neurlogicial disorders), but the first steps have been taken. Researchers and making new discoveries on the genetic front as we speak and the progress is encouraging.
You can help change the lifes of millions of children by helping support autism research in the US.
If you are in China -- its all about awareness. First, I want to say that the steps being made on this front are incredibly encouraging. At every school we have visited I have seen numerous young volunteers and incredibly enthusastic hearts. Change is occuring, slowly but surly.
I probably don't need to tell you about the awareness and perception of mental disabilities in China, but humor me. Having a child with a mental disability bares with it a large social stigma in China, along with incredible financial and emotional burden. Children in China are expected to support there parents when they grow older -- they are your social security in China. But a child with a mental disability changes that equation dramatically.
Additionally parents have incredible social pressures to bring up the best and brightest students -- it is seen as a reflection of themselves to their peers and colleauges. Having a child with a mental disability is sometimes seen as reflecting a character flaw within the parents.
These pressures along with little or no educational (normal schools will not accept mentally disabled children and the segregates special schools are often overcrowded or not of suitable quality) or social support, parents often literally hide their children inside their houses. Before this trip -- Fang Wen Guang had met only one person with a mental disability in China -- he is 21 years old and an education major!!!
So I ask you -- keep the momentum going in China! Get some friends together and volunteer at a school for children with mental disabilities (or special olympics). Urge the government to increase the support services for parents and families of children with mental disabilities. Be creative, get involved!
Another great day. The scenery is really beautiful out here -- it makes biking for 8 hours actually fun, incredible. Met a biker who is going to Lhasa from Lanzhou. Great guy, from Shanxi provence -- the coal mine of China. Great report on Shanxi on the Smile Train's web site (www.smiletrain.com).
The people out here make you really appreciate what you have in the States. Almost everyone we pass is a peasant farmer and the farming techniques are entertaining to say the least. Their are not large pressures for efficency in farming, with a huge labor capital overhang in China. Some argue against the way farming has gone in America (corporate), but if you look at China, you would have to at least think there is some sense to it.
Hopefully pictures soon ;)