The Transforming Power of Love

When International China Concern volunteer Madeline Fok first met Yang Heng Xin—Xin Xin for short—nearly four years ago, the then nine-year-old struggled to communicate because of his cerebral palsy. However, he had just begun to develop some independence on his feet and the young boy now had a dream: he wanted to be able to walk without anyone’s help to his classroom. ICC therapists and staff worked with him, and today, Xin Xin can be seen walking at speed between home and class with a big smile on his face. 

However, Xin Xin still remained unable to speak, communicating mostly through sign language. Because many of his caregivers did not understand his signing, Xin Xin’s expression was limited to what one of his buddies who understood him could translate to others. 

Xin Xin would often cry and get angry, sometimes fighting with and pushing other children. “I could feel that he was frustrated,” Madeline says. As the computer teacher in Hengyang, the Hong-Kong-born Canadian software engineer wondered what she could do to help him communicate.
At first, Madeline tried making cards with different emotions written on them. She hoped that Xin Xin could learn to identify what he was feeling. Because he hadn’t learned some of the characters, however, it was difficult for him to remember what each card meant. 

“It’s even hard for him to write numbers,” Madeline says, noting that Xin Xin can handwrite only a limited number of Chinese characters. 

As they worked together on the computer, Xin Xin told Madeline that he had a new dream: to be able to type. 

So Madeline began to help Xin Xin to type out his inner world. She started by
 asking him to write about who he is—his feelings, his likes and dislikes. When he found himself in a 
conflict, Madeline would help him describe the entire incident, explaining what happened and how he was feeling. He began keeping a diary, then moved on to writing about the outings that he went on with ICC.


As Madeline has been working with Xin Xin, others are beginning to notice a change. His anger episodes have decreased. Other children are saying that he is pushing and fighting less often. And, Madeline says that Xin Xin—a very intelligent boy—has a real aptitude for learning to use a computer, picking up new skills quickly and exploring beyond the basic typing that helps make his communication so much easier. 

Madeline says she realises that for children like Xin Xin, learning to type is key to helping them express their inner world of thoughts and feelings—a world that might otherwise be completely beyond reach. 

“It feels really satisfying,” Madeline says. “This is what God wants me to do here. It’s really, really rewarding.” 
Madeline Fok and Xin Xin.
“In my role, most of the work I do is one-on-one,” she explains. “The children really appreciate what you do and you feel how they love you. You receive back a lot more love than you give out.” 
Madeline and Xin Xin have developed
 a close relationship in their work together. Xin Xin corrects her Cantonese pronunciation and she “helps him to reach inside and outward,” says Alison Kennedy, International Project Liaison in Hengyang. 

“The hugs that pass between a 62-year-old lady and a 13-year-old boy are truly precious,” Alison says. “He loves her so dearly, and she does him. Their relationship is a beautiful reflection of what family can look like. Maybe he has the confidence to communicate and she has instilled in him a belief that he has something worth sharing.” 

And today, 13-year-old Xin Xin has a new dream. He wants to become the driver of Route 129—the bus route that the children take when they go on outings. With the support of caregivers like Madeline, Xin Xin has already accomplished two of his dreams. Who knows—this new dream may not be completely out of reach.

Xin Xin wrote these pieces to describe how he felt on his birthday and when a beloved caregiver, Tang Ba Ba, passed away. Madeline Fok explains: “ ‘Ba Ba’ means Papa. Most kids called him ‘Tang Shu Shu’ which means ‘Uncle Tang,’ but Xin Xin uses a more intimate term, treating him more like a father.”


Dear Tang Ba Ba,

We miss you. Thank you for helping us around in our daily life and in many other activities. I still remember the times you brought us to Changsha Aquarium to see fishes, to see wild flowers (You Cai Hua), and to our local zoo. Tang Ba Ba, thank you for buying goldfish for us and taking us to eat out. You left us, but now you are in Heaven, rest in peace. We want to tell Tang Ba Ba’s family that we share the sorrow and tears with them. Tang Ba Ba, we love you. See you...

16 MARCH 2015


On 5 Feb 2015, the younger teacher Wang drove her motorbike to pick up sister Jie and a large fresh cream fruit cake from the group home to the welfare center.

Because the fruit cake would melt by tomorrow, teacher Wang came at 12:20 pm to tell us that the birthday party would be held at 3:00 pm.

This birthday party was for me, Xiao Mei, Liu Hong Mei A-Yi [auntie] and teacher Lauli. We sang happy birthday. The teachers and aunties brushed cream on our faces. Our faces were all covered with cream. We were all laughing—our little mouths could not be closed; they were like little flowers. Then together we ate the very big birthday cake.