Founded at the beginning of 2011, Qingtuan Youth Volunteer Service Center has 961 registered youth volunteers in total. Smiling Fruit NO. 1 Outdoor Experience Store, a project planned and executed by the center, won a prize in the 3rd Suzhou Youth Social Entrepreneur Program, and the project is based in Gusu District, Suzhou.
A glance at the project’s name ‘Smiling Fruit’ may arouse the association of a fruit shop. Mou Yun, head of the project, told our reporter that ‘Smiling Fruit’ comes from a wish that the exceptional children who join the project can smile as sweetly as fruit. He said that exceptional children are unable to learn and grow up like normal children due to congenital or acquired defects either mentally or physically, which leave them socially marginalized. Therefore, Qingtuan Youth Volunteer Service Center set up the store to regularly organize activities to improve the children’s abilities as well as carry out sports games and entertainment to help them rebuild self-confidence.
“Many good-hearted people may ask volunteers about the dreams of the exceptional children because they wish to help these children realize their dreams. However, the reality is that few of exceptional children know what they want or what their future is like. What we can do is to make them happier and help them better adapt to social life.” Mou Yun said. He also said many parents of exceptional children express their biggest worry of how their children can live an independent life when the parents pass away. Some parents even go to the extreme in considering to end their children’s life when their own time is up for fear that their children will suffer in the rest of their life. Thanks to volunteers’ efforts, these parents witnessed changes and growth in their children gradually and gain confidence in the future of their children.
For exceptional teenagers who are going to be members of society, ‘Smiling Fruit Store’ specially offered them training classes about job skills, including baking, housekeeping, manicuring, creative handcrafting and so on, hoping that exceptional teenagers can acquire technical expertise. Meanwhile, ‘Smiling Fruit Store’ also endeavors to find various enterprise resources to help exceptional teenagers find a suitable job. Mou Yun said that peer groups are the backup power for exceptional teenagers to develop self-awareness, construct an overall and effective network of social support, and develop their own human capital and social capital. If exceptional teenagers can live as equal individuals in peer groups without discrimination, they can better shape a normal cognition of interpersonal relationship in the process of socialization and better integrate into society.