Editor's Note: This article was first published on April Dialog. Dr Tony Whitten is Regional Director, Asia Pacific, Fauna & Flora International (FFI). FFI is RER’s technical partner, managing key elements of the...
The temperate autumn days of Rizhao may be slowly giving way to the crisper climes of an approaching winter, but warm smiles and bright laughter filled the air as a group of Asia Symbol staff from its Shandong-based pulp and paperboard plant walked side-by-side 14 excited and energetic children along the Rizhao river.
The scene could have easily depicted an employees’ day out with their children. Except that the children are “left-behind” children, whose parents have migrated to the cities for employment.
“Hand-in-Hand, You-and-Me” is a corporate social responsibility initiative by employees of Asia Symbol (Shandong) Pulp and Paper Co., Ltd to spread love and care to “left-behind” children from the community.
The experience was all the more special for the children because coming from more rural areas, they rarely had the opportunity to visit the city. As a double-bonus, the weekend also coincided with the end of the children’s mid-term examinations.
A highlight of the weekend was a special DIY lunch, where the children donned aprons, hats and gloves to prepare their own burger meal.
Equally well-received was a visit to the Rizhao Jianghe Library, which was named to recognise a RMB 30 million (USD 4.5 million) gift RGE Chairman Sukanto Tanoto made to construct the library to serve the community’s needs. During a tour of the library in May 2016, Mr Tanoto felt that the children’s section could be better stocked to meet the patrons’ demands. He later made a donation of 200,000 books on June 1, commemorating International Children’s Day. The children and Asia Symbol volunteers spent an afternoon reading and interacting in the library.
At the end of the weekend when it was time to say goodbye, many children were holding on to the hands of the volunteers, refusing to let go. Not a single eye was dry.