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A Happy Place for the Disabled

All the disabled residents in Beijing will be able to easily find a job or get entertained near their homes as the city promises to further develop a "sweet home" system in the residential communities.

Xue Lili, a 50-year-old who has been bound to a wheelchair for decades after contracting polio. Her monthly income mainly relies on the government's subsidy and a handwork job at the sweet home of Shichahai Community in Xicheng District.

"I have worked here since it was established more than two years ago. I was not skilled at the beginning, but through teacher's instruction and my unremitting effort, I can make it well now."

Xue's work was to tailor fabric patterns, like Peking Opera facial masks, with strands and the waste of nut shells. She usually started work at 8:30 AM and finished before 4:00 PM and her most expensive works can be priced at about 1,000 yuan.

"I can earn about 800 yuan a month from the work. Our income depends on the number of our works which were sold in a community-sponsored craftwork shop. The earning here was enough to afford our lives."

Xue's workshop seats more than 20 people suffering either physical or mental disabilities. The director Wang Jiman hoped the workers can learn a speciality through the jobs here. He revealed some workers have opened their own business and fed themselves well.

The Shichahai Community Sweet Home is among the 150 exemplary sweet homes in Beijing that are offering help to 45,000 disabled people, along with more than 1,400 other outlets at inferior levels.

Besides finding a job, the disabled people can also do exercise, receive rehabilitation training or even browse the internet at the sweet homes.

Having matches with fellow amateur paddlers at the Shichahai sweet home has been a daily routing for the wheelchair-bound Shi Shiquan. The 57-year-old said he has regained the fun that he once enjoyed by playing table tennis in his childhood but later lost.

"I loved the sport for long, but I had to give up playing ping pong for many years because I couldn't find a suitable place near my home. Now, it's perfect."

Beijing's vice mayor Ding Xiangyang has said recently that the sweet homes will be introduced to all the communities in the city with certain population of the disabled.

He said all the sweet homes will be built into special complexes that will also provide medical care and social security services for the disabled people.

According to official statistics, there are nearly one million people with disabilities living in Beijing, accounting for 6 percent of the Beijing's total population.

( September 7, 2008)

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