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Love in boxes

In 2012, the “Grateful Green” project grew out of the motivation of helping people in need in China and furthering a feeling of charity. Henkel employee Lucy Zhang is a co-founder of the project and regularly works on donation campaigns.

Lucy Zhang with “Boxes of Love” which have already been packed and which are to be sent to children in need all over China for the Chinese New Year.

According to a saying, “Charity begins at home” – but ideally it should not end there. Henkel employee Lucy Zhang also shares this view: “With all of our day-to-day stress, we take many things for granted. We complain about minor matters and are rarely satisfied with what we have. We tend to forget the people who have nothing at all and who are excluded from society. They often yearn to have the most basic human needs met: love and caring.” It was this motivation that led to the creation of “Grateful Green” in 2012.

But Lucy Zhang was helping other people even before that. “I have been doing volunteer work since my college days. At that time, I gave English lessons at a school for migrants, and I took part in a bowling program for people with disabilities during my year abroad in the USA. Every Friday evening, we bowled together and had fun. I like to think back to that time.”

Today she reaches several hundred children each year through her engagement – among other things, with the “Grateful Green” initiative’s “Boxes of Love.” Every year during the Christmas season, small boxes are sent to volunteers, who then fill them with winter clothing, books, care products and sweets and decorate them. The contents of a box is supposed to amount to approximately 50 Chinese Renminbi Yuan, which is equal to about 6.70 euros. 

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The boxes are chock full of stuffed animals, toys and sweets.

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The boxes are chock full of stuffed animals, toys and sweets.

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Full of curiosity, the children unpack the colorful boxes.

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The boxes, already filled and placed in bags, are ready to be handed out to the children of Yunyang High School.

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There are almost as many caretakers at “Shining Star” as there are children living there. This is the only way that the children can be given optimal support, in a way that takes their needs into account.

At the time of the traditional Chinese New Year, which falls on a new moon between January 21st and February 21st, the finished boxes are then sent to disadvantaged children all over China. “Virtually none of the children has ever received a present for the New Year. So it is very moving to see how excited the children are about their stuffed animals and sweets,” relates Zhang.

The initiative was first launched in 2012. “Grateful Green” ambassadors Lucy Zhang and her co-worker Lili Shen presented 100 boxes filled with gifts to students at the Yunyang High School in the Chinese province of Hubei. “The 18-hour train ride there was very strenuous, but the surprised and happy faces of the children made it absolutely worthwhile,” remembers Zhang. “The children are very grateful. Although their families are generally very poor, they still seem to be happy and optimistic. That really impressed me.”

The second initiative that is managed and served by “Grateful Green” is called “Shining Star.” It is a residence for blind and visually impaired orphans. The goal of the staff is to train the children so that they can manage alone after their stay at “Shining Star.” They are taught how to deal with day-to-day activities like shopping, which are not a problem for sighted people. To accomplish this, the children’s other senses, like hearing and touch, are developed through courses in motor skills and art. “When the children notice that they can rely on their other senses, they become much more confident,” explains Zhang. “The atmosphere at ‘Shining Star,’ where seven children are currently living, is very family-oriented. The children feel comfortable and secure with us.”

Every year around Christmas, “Grateful Green” organizes a get-together for Henkel employees and the children of the “Shining Star” orphanage. The children and the adults can play together, go for a walk, or just talk to one another. “For both sides, this is a wonderful and inspiring experience,” reports Zhang. “We also visit the Shanghai Zoo with a few Henkel co-workers, followed by a picnic. Listening to the different animal sounds and touching the warm bodies of the animals is a real experience for the children.”

“I am very happy about the success of ‘Grateful Green’,” says Zhang. This year will be the fifth time in a row that gift boxes will be distributed for the New Year. “It is so simple to brighten someone’s day with little gifts or simply with kind words. If you integrate this into your day-to-day activities, it also makes you much happier as well.“