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The Disabled and Handicapped

November 8, 2010

Amity’s 25th anniversary is almost here! In just a few short days the 80 millionth Bible will come off the press. It’s an exciting time to be serving in China.

As I mentioned yesterday, today we will be looking at the disabled and handicapped in China and Amity’s projects designed with Christ’s loving spirit.

Disabled people in China seem to be treated about as well as the lame and blind were in Jesus’ time. There are few opportunities for them outside of begging and there is little infrastructure built with the handicapped in mind. In my past four years in China I have only seen a few people in wheelchairs, or with disabilities. Most of them spend their lives confined to their own homes relying on their family for support, or if the burden is too great, they are forced to beg on the streets.

China is still in most parts a developing country, and as we have seen from our recent elections it’s hard to find a policy that even a few hundred million people can agree on, let alone over a billion. So, China has taken the very pragmatic approach and focused on services for the “average” person. While it benefits most of the people, it leaves very little room for those that are considered “other.”

For example up until about 5 years ago deaf education in China was focused on teaching deaf children to mimic talking. It is only through Amity’s bi-lingual sign language program that deaf children are being given equal footing with “average” people. Prior to this program, the public perception was that if a person couldn’t communicate orally, they must not be equal mentally. Amity’s program changes the Chinese view of making “others” “average”, and even encourages the “other” to have their own place in society with a proud, deaf culture.

Mental handicaps are a somewhat taboo topic in China, and there are no opportunities for mentally challenged adults in society. The Amity Bakery though is trying to re-shape the culture and show the values inherited in ALL people. Under the supervision of a retired baker from Hong Kong, five mentally challenged adults work side by side with volunteers in all aspects of running the bakery. The dream is to grow the Amity bakery, and open more positions to the mentally challenged. The hope is that someday other businesses will see mentally handicapped adults as people capable of performing many different tasks and valuable to society.

The third major Amity project, and the longest running of their programs for disabled people, is occupational training for the blind, along with blindness prevention. There are many diseases that were common in the country-side that left healthy adults blind. Blindness kept these people from working on their farms, and impoverished their families. Amity’s efforts did not stop at treatment for the disease, but also attempted to alleviate the devastating results. Micro-credit projects for the purchase of livestock have provided income for blindness effected families. Projects also aimed at teaching blind people some basic occupational skills, such as making rope. Amity was able to help these people restore their dignity.

Tom Morse

Tom Morse serves with the Amity Foundation of China as an English teacher.

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