Illustrating compassion

China Daily


Students in Hubei province's capital, Wuhan-the city at the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak-are happy to receive drawings with encouraging words from children around their age whom they've never met.

The drawings depict such scenes as delicious Wuhan dishes, super heroes defeating the virus, doctors saving patients and family reunions. They've comforted Wuhan students and warmed their hearts.

Some of the students have become long-distance friends and contact each other over messaging apps, like digital pen pals.

Over 127,600 students from about 30 schools in Wuhan and the Yangtze River Delta have participated in the activity.

The exchange was co-initiated on Jan 29 by Olympic champion and retired gymnast Yang Wei, who's with his family in Wuhan, the city they've made their home.

A dozen volunteers across the country are working on the ongoing public-service project, which involves communicating with schools and editing short videos about students.

Teachers in Wuhan collect their students' names and email addresses, and teachers in other cities pair them with students who wish to participate.

These kids express their good wishes in short videos that they send with their drawings via email, since Wuhan's postal services currently prioritize medical supplies.

All 2,972 students of Wuhan Guanggu No 6 Primary School have received emails from their peers from two primary schools in Suzhou.

Teachers record the temperatures of students and their families twice a day and pay attention to children who are separated from their parents. Some of their parents are suspected, or have been confirmed, to have the virus. Some are medical workers undertaking epidemic-prevention and-control work on the front lines.

These students' lives are very different from before, Wuhan Guanggu No 6 Primary School headmaster Li Mingju says.

Such activities can help them take heart.

Students across China are learning through remote-education platforms since schools remain closed.

Li calls on parents and students to read books or watch videos about the disease in their spare time. She encourages children to read news about the epidemic, help with housework, learn to cook and exercise.

Li suggests that schools put more effort into advancing public health after the outbreak. She plans to establish a lecture room in the school especially for teaching such topics as infectious-disease prevention.

Two schools for special education also joined the activity.

Suzhou School for the Deaf and the Blind in Jiangsu province has paired up with Wuhan No 2 School for the Deaf. A total of 94 of the Suzhou school's 130 students ages 4 to 20 joined the event within two days.

It offers spiritual support for children in Wuhan, says Jin Xiaolei, a Chinese-language teacher from the school in Suzhou.

Our students also learn to care about others and to pay attention to national affairs. We're looking forward to the spring day when we don't have to wear masks.

Parents are supportive of the activity. They're in charge of shooting short videos of their children. In the videos, the students with visual impairments talk about their thoughts, and the students with speech impairments send their blessings in sign language.

She's moved that two kids with weak vision pressed their eyes against the papers to paint pictures.

It's also important to teach students about epidemic prevention, citizenship and life at this time, she says.

The two schools plan to have more scholastic exchanges between teachers after the outbreak.

The Olympic champion, Yang, says: Children's artworks render wonderlands for adults, helping us to forget about worries in the real world. It also allows us to put ourselves in children's shoes, to understand how they think.

In 2014, Yang Wei and his son, Yang Wenchang, joined the second season of the popular reality show, Where Are We Going, Dad?, which presents celebrity fathers' adventures with their kids.

My 10-year-old son said he was scared when we first realized the outbreak's severity, he recalls.

It's normal. We adults also fear it.

He believes children can sense that the current situation is critical. The challenge for parents is to help kids cope with their emotions. Encouraging pictures and words from peers may console them.

Normal life goes on, even if we can't go out. We're all in a good state, mentally and physically. Our whole family watches news together to know the latest updates on the epidemic, Yang Wei says.

Yang Wenchang also received a picture and video of a child, and he recorded a short video to express his gratitude. He says he's confident that the government will help the whole country end the crisis.

As with other parents, a major part of life in lockdown for Yang Wei and his wife, Yang Yun, is taking care of their boy and 3-year-old twin daughters.

In the morning, Yang Wei learns English on his own and helps his son to take online courses created by schoolteachers. The family exercises together in the afternoon.

We felt at a loss at first. Now, we're pondering our lives and future. How can we put our lives back on the right track after the epidemic?

The couple founded a sports club in Wuhan that offers youth gymnastics training, and he's thinking about the company's future. It's a common problem for China's entrepreneurs.

My wife and I are athletes, he says.

We've honed our adaptability over years of hard training. We've learned that, no matter how hard the situation is, you have to face it. It makes us adjust to the current situation quickly.

Yang Wei says they plan to collect all works and display them regularly in the future to remind people of the epidemic and raise public-health awareness.