School is life

Day 3 of our journey with Save the Children began at a special education school in the Wuhou District in Chengdu, China.

Jessica with a girl from the special education school
Jessica with a girl from the school

The special education school we visited currently has 63 students with varying forms of abilities, and ranging from ages 6 to 17 years old. The main priority of this school is to slowly transition into a resource centre. The resource centre will not only provide quality education for children with severe disabilities who currently cannot receive any kind of education, but it will also provide rehabilitation services for all children with special needs, information services for families with children with disability as well as offering training for teachers and school managers on inclusive education. The resource centre will finally also provide learning assessment for children with special needs to be evaluated and assessed based on their abilities, so they can be placed into mainstream schools and rehab accordingly. At the moment in China there are no services available under this aspect.

Pauline with children from the special education school
Pauline with children from the school – by Juli Riegler

The school has several vocational classes that students were able to attend. These classes are also referred to as life-skills classes. The first life-skills class we observed and participated in was a cooking class. Students were learning how to make traditional Chinese dumplings. The lesson began with what ingredients were used to boil the dumplings. Although I was not very good at making the dumplings, one student in particular insisted I learn the proper way to make them. He was extremely patient, showing me what to do next. It brought joy to my heart knowing that these students were benefiting from these life-skills classes.

Jessica making dumplings with the children
Jessica making dumplings with the young people

After the cooking class, we were able to observe a musical therapy class. The teacher comes from Hong Kong, and she studied in the United States for five years. You can immediately tell she is truly passionate about what she does. She is determined to help children with different levels of abilities through the use of music. As we walked into the classroom, she was playing on the piano to the tune of “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” The children all sat in a close circle with the teacher’s aid helping them focus on the music and clap when it was time. By the end of the musical therapy class, the students were more attentive to the teacher and they were focused on her singing and playing the tambourine.

Observing a music therapy class
Observing a music therapy class – by Jessica  Hale

By the end of the day, there were so many emotions to take in and process. Walking into one of the classrooms and seeing an IKEA children’s table and stools helped put everything into perspective. For me, it made me realize that everything we do with IKEA’s Soft Toy for Education campaign truly benefits children all over the world. Save the Children is changing the lives of children with different forms of abilities in more ways than we can ever imagine. From this experience, I will take away many pictures and memories of smiling children who have changed my life in more ways than they will ever know.

Steven with one of the boys from the special education school
Steven with one of the boys from the special education school – by Juli Riegler
    Jessica Hale