An ordinary person¡¯s emotions are constantly changing. After I left the hospital to live at home, I couldn¡¯t do anything and rarely spoke to anyone. My mood gradually deteriorated. My family became anxious and sad. One day, they happened to hear about a substitute vocal organ called the ¡°electronic larynx¡±, which is especially made for the use of cancer patients who have had to remove their windpipe and vocal cords. They were suddenly very happy, and repeatedly told me that they would buy one for me, but I never even expressed an opinion. However, one day, for no particular reason, I got angry. I wrote in large letters: ¡°I¡¯m a mute! That¡¯s it! I can¡¯t talk and nothing is going to change that!¡± I had developed low self-esteem and I easily became angry and frustrated: self-revenge. My wife and children understood my mood and endured my irritable temper. After a while, they suggested that I do some light work. I hesitated for some time and finally decided to once again take up the position of a consultant at an adult¡¯s English language school (I later became the headmaster and have remained so till this day). After working for a period of time and re-establishing contact with the community, my mood became more stable. Although I had to rely on writing to express myself, which could sometimes be very frustrating, I found that I could still work and continue to serve the community.
After my mood had improved, my wife and children seized the opportunity and urged me to buy an ¡°electronic larynx¡±. I finally agreed. My son immediately went to Hong Kong to buy it and brought it back. It is made in Germany. It is a high-tech product: a stainless steel cover and only 200 grams. From the outside it looks like a small torch, using one battery, one can continuously talk for three hours (the battery is rechargeable). When using the electronic larynx, one must place the top of it in one¡¯s neck, push the button, and then you can speak. You can also adjust the volume and tone. After a few days of practice, I was able to intermittently say some simple, short sentences. Even though my voice had a mechanical tone to it a bit like an astronaut, when I used the electronic larynx to talk to my family and asked ¡°I¡¯m-talking, can-you-hear-me?¡± they excitedly said in unison: ¡°We can hear you, dad, we can hear you!¡± They cuddled me and laughed happily¡
I had finally struggled away from despair.
From my experience, if one accepts the reality, builds one¡¯s career, returns to society, integrates into the community, and maintains an optimistic outlook, then a cancer sufferer will have a more relaxing and fulfilled life.
I remember in between the spring and summer of 1992, Guangzhou Haizhu District¡¯s Education Bureau Chief asked me to try and establish a disabled school. I made all kinds of plans, but I thought none of them were any good; after-all, I knew nothing about education for the disabled. While considering all this, I suddenly remembered that I had previously helped two physically disabled children study English. One was called Chen Ying, the other was called Lu Xiaoyin. I was very proud of them. Along with having the comprehension and ability needed to study a foreign language, more importantly, they were also hard working and strived to achieve their best. At first, their basic English level was very limited, but after an astonishing amount of effort, their improvement was very fast. Later, they went to America to pursue a doctorate and master¡¯s degree respectively. ¡°If disabled people are strong and maintain their self-esteem, they can definitely succeed. Studying foreign languages is especially suited to them!¡± I expressed my opinion to the Education Bureau Chief: ¡°I have no relevant experience in regards to opening a school for the disabled. However, I might know a little bit about establishing an English language school.¡± The bureau chief is a very decisive person. He immediately provided me with six classrooms on the second floor of a building and told me to make arrangements for an English language school for disabled youth.
When I was still in the conceptual stage of planning, I happened to come across some information about disability in China: there were 51 million disabled people in China (at the beginning of 1996 there were 60 million disabled people in China). Among them, two thirds were illiterate, meaning that two thirds of disabled people in China were dependent. I was shocked and couldn¡¯t accept that astonishing statistic. This is a statistic and a reality that will grip the heart of all kind-hearted people.
I buried these strong feelings in my heart and began to rationally consider and plan how I could establish such a school. I had to set up a high-level English language school for youth with physical disabilities that provided an environment in which they could reach a high-level of English, a high-level of self-cultivation and a good moral base. They had to be able to develop self-esteem, be independent, work hard, and become active and talented members of the community. Only following these steps, could we succeed in creating the image of an effective and perfect community and using this image initiate more understanding, sympathy and love for disabled people. Also, using this image we could encourage other disabled people to be self-respecting, self-confident, self-improving and self-reliant. I decided that not only should the school not impose student fees, but that it should also provide grants and scholarships. We must show them love, but we must also impose strict requirements. Using two and a half to three years they should achieve a very high level of English. Thus, we must use the media to achieve the approval, understanding, support and sponsors from society. This plan secured the approval of the education department.
Thus, in between the spring and summer of 1993, preparations started for the school known as ¡°Guangzhou English Training Center for the Disabled¡± (shorted to ¡°GETCH¡±).
If someone with a fragile life can activate their inner strength, then there will be a strong point to work from and they can then gradually increase their strength. After I left the hospital, the doctor urged me: after you have recovered and start to work, you can only work four hours per day. He also advised that once every one or two months, or at the very most three months, I should return to the hospital for a check-up.
However, I couldn¡¯t do that; I had a lot of work to do and even though I worked 10 hours every day I still couldn¡¯t finish all the work I wanted to do, especially analysing data, planning, and drafting documents. Luckily, the colleagues at my part-time adult college were young and enthusiastic. They volunteered to help me with all sorts of tasks like printing surveys, sending mail, and collecting statistics.
However, there was a lot of work that they couldn¡¯t help me with. According to GETCH¡¯s mission and study requirements I had to personally create lesson plans and teaching curriculum, select the textbooks, teaching materials for all the lessons, hire highly qualified teachers (we have made many schools jealous as in succession we have had 20 teachers, apart from two teachers of foreign nationality, of which more than 10 were university associate professors and two were university lecturers.) We chose a variety of professors from various fields to be GETCH advisors (we now have 30 advisors), and we have also applied to the relevant departments for the approval to open a school, designed a multimedia room and a library, drew up recruitment plans, complied the key points for review, and created a model entrance examination, etc. As an ordinary teacher, I didn¡¯t have the experience of setting up a school, and I felt I wasn¡¯t up to the task. Only by cautiously and conscientiously learning through studying, and studying by doing, was I able to come so far. The most challenging aspect was that we hadn¡¯t made arrangements for the school¡¯s funding. Thus, when the patriotic group ¡°Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers¡±, through the introduction and recommendation of my daughter who worked at Hong Kong¡¯s Xinhua news agency, gave us our first 100,000-Yuan donation we were absolutely delighted.
In February 1992, the City Board of Education and the municipal government approved our plan to build the school. This meant in all aspects we had to accelerate the speed of our work. In order to prepare for all eventualities, we made great efforts to raise awareness about GETCH and achieve the community¡¯s approval and thus, provide GETCH with material support to complete small projects such as the fitting of a disabled toilet and corridors without any barriers, etc. To be honest, we worked extremely hard, but we felt both happy and excited. After a few months, we started to enroll the first set of students. I had already begun to get excited.
When I read all the letters coming from Guangzhou and ten other provinces, all writing in hope that they could come to GETCH to study, it was like looking at a crowd of expectant faces and I was unable to supress my unease:
¡°I don¡¯t want to be someone who doesn¡¯t give anything back to the community, I long to use knowledge to arm myself, please enroll me at your school.¡± (From Nanjing)
¡°Until now I have had no hope in studying. Pessimism and disappointment has broken my heart¡ I hope you can give me guidance.¡± (From Guangzhou)
¡°During a painful and desperate time I found out about GETCH, this news has restored my dreams.¡± (From Shixing, Guangdong)
¡°¡ must life be so hard and painful? When I had almost completely lost hope, I suddenly discovered GETCH and my mood became optimistic again.¡± (From Sichuan)
¡°¡ when I was younger, I had a dream that one day I could enroll in a university. Today, I hope that I can study in your new school.¡± (From Hunan)
These disabled youth had a great desire to study, their hidden suffering was huge, and their dreams were limitless. I felt a sense of guilt and not without apology I said, ¡°Young friends, I must apologize, GETCH is running late!¡±
Lu Shourong (Middle)