Ye Zhaoming (right) and volunteers from his Home for the Blind offer free massages to residents of Dongguan, Guangdong province, at the city's Dongmen Square. Photos by Huang Yuli / China Daily
By Huang Yuli
Dongguan's first visually disabled social worker has set up a job-training and matchmaking service at his Home for the Blind.
The apartment with an iron door on Changtou Lane in Nancheng district of Dongguan, Guangdong province, looks no different from the other red-tiled homes in this community, except for the sign next to the window saying "Home for the Blind". Ye Zhaoming and his Blue Sky and Care Organization launched the project earlier this year. They rent the apartment, and provide vocational training and matchmaking services to about 10,000 blind and visually impaired people in Dongguan.
On first meeting the 30-year-old, you wouldn't know he is blind. But when he takes your name card or reads a message on his cell phone, he has to put the phone or card very close to his right eye. He has a congenital cataract, and his sight is just 0.1 in the right eye and 0.01 in the left eye.
Ye became Dongguan's first visually impaired social worker in 2010. After serving one year in another district, he initiated his project for the blind after the city started a philanthropic venture fund for the first time, in which the civil bureau raises money from enterprises and foundations. Ye's project was one of the 28 successful bids, out of hundreds of applicants.
"I know it is really hard for the blind to find a job, so the first service we provide here is massage training, since massage is still the main job for the visually impaired in China," Ye says. "We enroll and hire experienced workers from massage centers to teach them. The training and accommodation are all free."
Before he became a social worker, Ye applied for more than 100 jobs in four years after graduating from the social management department of the City College of Dongguan University of Technology in 2007.
Ye said he realized life would be difficult for him at an early age, which is why he tried so hard to get into college.
"I thought that if I have a college degree, at least I can find a job that needs middle school graduates."
But the discrimination he experienced as a job seeker broke his heart. He mentions the time he was given probationary employment as an assistant clerk at a traffic police station.
"On the first day I worked, but on the second day the chief told me I didn't need to come in," he recalls. "I felt terrible."
His failures made him stronger.
"I went to the labor market, put my resume online, went to the labor bureau, the civil affairs bureau, the disabled person's federation and the neighborhood community," he says. "It's such a big world, and I had to believe there was a job for me."
From late 2007-10, Ye worked for the Dongguan Disabled Person's Federation and at Wal-Mart for a year.
Then, the Dongguan Disabled Persons' Federation chairman Liang Yingchang recommended he apply for social worker certification.
Ye quit his supermarket job and found temporary employment as a cleaner at a hotel, which gave him enough spare time to prepare for the test.
His persistence paid off, and he got his certification.
"I rediscovered myself," he says. "I never considered myself disabled. I pushed myself to do whatever my schoolmates did, whether it was coursework or sports."
He says being a social worker is very satisfying.
"I not only help myself but also help others."
Since 15 students enrolled in March for the massage training course, five have graduated and found jobs.
Trainee Lin Xin'en, from Qingzhou in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, says he heard about Ye's project through a relative.
"It's a nice place. One teacher instructs us about theory, and another shows us techniques," he says.
The project currently has five full-time employees, including Ye, plus volunteers.
Zeng Chunlan, a freshman at the City College of Dongguan University of Technology, helps out at Home for the Blind on a voluntary basis twice a week, with her classmates.
"I enjoy talking to the students, and I think, perhaps, because they cannot see the world, it is simple and pure for them," she says.
Ye's project also organizes matchmaking activities for the blind and visually impaired.
"We have a singles' club and organize activities including karaoke, birthday parties, mountain climbing and sightseeing, at least twice a month."
Ye says dating and marriage are difficult for people like him.
He says that in his spare time, he goes skating, plays ping-pong, watches soccer games, listens to the radio and watches movies.
"I have quite a variety of hobbies and hope the girls will like them," he says, with a smile.