An email entitled ‘Creative CAS Opportunity,’ was sent out to all Year 12 students at Dulwich College Shanghai, but it was more than just an ordinary email: it was the beginning of a journey.
It is quite rare that a government building in China would have a mural painted on its walls. So when Joseph Lu, informed The Junior School Art teacher at Dulwich College Shanghai about a project to create one at a disabled peoples’ centre, the students immediately rose to the challenge. They met for the first time to discuss ideas for the mural, and decided to paint a Chinese junk on the large main wall. This would allow the ethos of the centre to be written along each of the sail partitions.
Along the corridor, they would paint scenes of objects transforming into other things, hoping to relay the message of motivation - that we can transform into anything we imagine ourselves to be. A beautiful tree with birds perched upon it was painted along one side, and a village scene along the other.
China has recently become more open-minded towards disabled people, since the Deputy Prime Minister’s son was injured and left paraplegic. As there were no facilities to meet his needs, it heightened the government’s awareness. The mural was inspired by the centre’s motto: the giving of hope, growth and independence. After the Federation approved the students’ collaborative sketches, they set out to work.
The name of the centre is Yang Guang Jia Yuan (Disabled Persons Federation). It has a very uplifting and encouraging motto, which is designed to lift the spirits and give patrons hope. At the enterance to the building, there are welcoming inspirational Chinese characters across the glass doors. These include: ‘zi zun’: self esteem or self respect; ‘zi xin’: confidence; ‘zi qiang’: to be strong; ‘zi li’: to stand on one’s own feet and ‘wo xiang xin’: I believe in you.
The students eagerly returned to the centre to paint each week. They didn’t realise the progress they had made until the 6 week project was over.
During the project, the students learned some of the difficulties that disabled people have to face. Most people sympathise with the disabled but don’t know how to interact with them. The students at Dulwich College Shanghai returned with the firm belief that disabled people should not be singled out in a society but incorporated into it, just like any other individuals.