Foreigner Stays & Helps Families to Deal With Outbreak!

Source: China Daily

One foreign resident of Tianjin hasn't left town since the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic.

Jeanne Riether works at home as a public welfare adviser for the Cathay Future Culture and Art Foundation. In fact, she has worked harder and kept busier than ever in the past three months.

Riether, from the United States, is on a mission to encourage local families and co-workers in China to build stronger bonds through the changes brought to society by COVID-19.

To promote that goal, the author, humanitarian worker and teacher, who was nominated for the 2017 Haihe Friendship Award, has been writing columns, teaching online classes, creating TV shows, writing books and telling stories for children on WeChat accounts.

Through multimedia channels and in all her interviews and columnswhich she contributes to the iTianjin WeChat account for foreigners in the city, and the popular Tianjin online talk show Vivian Speakingshe expresses her concern for families and offers professional advice.

"This has been an extremely stressful time for families, especially those caring for young children," she said. "Families need all the help they can get, so whatever we can do to make it easier for them should be our priority."

One of Riether's projects involved recording English storybooks for students at Cathay Future Global Language Village.

"Parents like their children to keep up their English listening practice, even if they can't come to class. And the picture books help young children learn that reading can be fun and interesting. I've heard positive feedback from both parents and kids."

Riether has lived and worked for nearly 40 years in Asia. For 23 of those years, she has been involved in writing and promoting volunteer work in Harbin, Chongqing, Chengdu and Tianjin.

Twenty thousand copies of her book Healing Young Hearts: A Practical Handbook of Teaching Material for Disaster Recovery were donated to teachers and volunteers working with children after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake.

In recent years, the Healing Young Hearts Project was also launched in Tianjin through the Cathay Future Culture and Art Foundation. The project promotes volunteer activities helping children undergo treatment for cancer and in other challenging circumstances.

During the epidemic period, employees of the foundation have continued working from home under her leadership to create materials to support the emotional wellbeing of children in migrant families.

When completed, the materials will be offered free to volunteers and teachers working with migrant and left-behind children, Riether said.

In an interview with China Daily, Riether was asked how parents can help their children during their extended time away from school and social activities.

"I especially hope parents will take this opportunity to tell their children stories about their own family, and pass on some of their family history," she said.

It's especially valuable for children to hear stories of how their own family faced hardships in the past and managed to overcome their difficulties, she said. It helps children build emotional resilience.

"People don't always recognize the importance of stories. But someday, the young children of today will be grown and have children of their own. They will tell their children about the epidemic of 2020, what a struggle it wasbut also how we all pulled through it together. The stories we tell our children today will make the families of tomorrow stronger."