Fri, Jun 11, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Mentally disabled focus of education campaign

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Children Are Us Foundation performs at a press conference yesterday to show their gratitude to those who have given their support.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

The Children Are Us Foundation (喜憨兒社會福利基金會) is looking to raise funds so that developmentally disadvantaged individuals have the chance to participate in post-secondary education.

The foundation is a nonprofit group that provides the mentally-disabled with long-term care and job training. Known for its efforts to enable clients to be self-supporting, the organization sponsors several restaurants and bakeries in Taipei, Kaohsiung and Hsinchu that provide clients with work opportunities.

At the organization's 10th anniversary celebration yesterday, foundation representatives said they hope the learning center will fulfill the post-secondary educational needs of their clients.

"The current education system only provides for the mentally disabled until they are 18 and graduate from special education vocational high schools. A study we did, however, indicates that 80 percent of parents feel a need for further education for their disabled children," foundation chairwoman Hsiao Shu-chen (蕭淑珍) said.

"Since there is no system in place for these individuals, our foundation is trying to set up an institution where the developmentally disadvantaged can develop living skills and get job training," she said.

"In this day and age when almost all students of average intelligence can get further education if they want it, it's natural for parents of the mentally disabled to want their children to have similar opportunities. Realistically, it would be difficult for such individuals to go to regular universities and obtain degrees, but our foundation hopes to act as a channel through which the disabled too can have the extra time and guidance to decide their life's direction," Hsiao said.

The foundation hopes to establish centers in Taipei County and Kaohsiung City by next January. It is currently in negotiations with the Ministry of Education, Council of Labor Affairs and local authorities to map out plans for the schools and their place in the education system.

"There's never been anything like this done before," Hsiao said.

The foundation said the school will hold classes in two categories: vocational training and community-college style classes in arts and physical fitness.

To raise money for the centers, the foundation is holding a 21-day auction through Yahoo Auctions Taiwan at bid.yahoo.com.tw. The auction includes autographed items from various politicians and entertainers, such as Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and singer Wang Lee-hom (王力宏).

More information on the foundation is available at www.c-are-us.org.tw. To volunteer, call (02) 2325-7383 in Taipei and (07) 726-6096 in Kaohsiung.

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