Charity begins at home

Updated: 2011-03-24 07:54

By Liu Xiangrui (China Daily)

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Four 40-something career women in Shanghai have teamed up to become charity "professionals" and establish their own charity foundation.

"The idea struck me about two years ago," says Xia Nan, one of the initiators of Fumei Special Fund, whose first charitable experience was with Project Hope, a national charity campaign initiated in 1989 to help children in rural areas.

"I wanted to teach my son by my own example and I was encouraged to think that 300 yuan ($45) would make a difference to the fate of a child in rural areas, though my family had a limited income then," recalls Xia, who is an editor with a publishing house.

Charity begins at home 

Four career women (from left to right) Shi Min, Mao Jing, Xia Nan and Sun Yi, in Shanghai, team up to establish their own charity foundation. Provided to China Daily

She says making charity an important part of education and inviting parents and students to participate in charity events at the US missionary school her son attended, inspired her to act.

Xia realized comparatively well-off people like her could and should do more for charity. She found a partner in friend Shi Min, a civil servant who had previously participated in charity drives.

Each of them committed 1 million yuan to start a foundation, before learning the threshold for a private foundation was 4 million yuan ($609,000). To collect the money, Shi reached out to two of her former classmates at college and received a positive response.

Former classmate Sun Yi was already volunteering to work at old-people's homes; and Mao Jing, the wife of another classmate, had set up an elderly care fund in Hainan province.

"It went smoothly because we realized the four of us could do more when we worked together," Xia says.

However, they did have a problem finding an organization to register their foundation, which is required by the authorities in order to curb tax evasion, money laundering and illegal fund raising.

"Four ordinary families wanting to set up a charity foundation probably sounded absurd," Xia recalls. "We were kind of frustrated because we thought, how come doing a good deed is so difficult?"

One year later, with the help of Professor Wang Shenghong, former president of Fudan University, they registered as a special fund under the Shanghai Overseas Chinese Foundation, with an initial fund of 1 million yuan.

"The advantage of a smaller scale operation is that we can set a clearer direction to achieve higher efficiency," Xia says.

"How to use the money well is just as important as raising the money," Xia adds.

Funding poor and outstanding students at Fudan University for their overseas education, sponsoring talented children in international competitions, and training teachers to help poor children in rural areas, are the main goals of their fund.

Their first charity event, held in November 2010, was to solicit contributions for a primary school destroyed during the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan.

It turned out to be a success and about 290,000 yuan ($3,580) was raised at the event.

"Almost all those present were affected by the atmosphere and contributed. Some children even donated their New Year lucky money," Xia says.

They provided 800 sets of desks and chairs, canteen facilities and a broadcasting system for the school, in addition to the living expenses for an orphaned girl, Wan Min, who lived with her grandmother on a monthly allowance of 50 yuan.

Another event was held to help autistic and deprived children in Sichuan, at which 12 women volunteered to be "loving mothers" and provide emotional support and financial assistance of 280 yuan every month.

Family participation in the charity is particularly valued, Xia says, because it enhances family values and promotes giving among children, who are the country's future.

"Volunteers, mostly mothers, bring their children and encourage them to participate in our activities," Xia says. "It's very satisfying to see our organization become the base of loving families rather than just a fund."


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