Warm Heart Fund gives hope to troubled kids
Published: Oct 27, 2011 09:00 AM
Shi Shaokun (far right), beneficiary of the Warm Heart Fund, meets mentor Luo Xiaomin (far left). Photo: Courtesy of BMW 
Shi Shaokun (far right), beneficiary of the Warm Heart Fund, meets mentor Luo Xiaomin (far left). Photo: Courtesy of BMW

Before meeting Luo Xiaomin two years ago, Shi Shaokun never thought he would break his cycle of troubled, antisocial behavior that had seen him fight with classmates and teeter on school expulsion. Luo, a Beijing BMW owner, was assigned as Shi's mentor as part of the Lighting Up Hope project of BMW's Warm Heart Fund.

"I wasn't very happy when I first met aunty Luo," recalled 16-year-old Shi."I thought [the mentor program] was like other boring activities. I felt something different, even though I was very cold to her sincere."

Luo knew there must be a reason for Shi's behavior. The schoolboy from southwest China's Sichuan Province had  ride a bus for over an hour to attend Gucheng Middle School after his home in Pingwu County was affected by the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. As a newcomer, he rarely interacted with classmates and struggled with his grades.

Luo sent him several letters asking about his life and schooling. He seldom replied to them and, when he did, bluntly insisted he was fine at school.

Luo, a mother with a daughter of her own, decided to pay a visit to Shi by traveling to Sichuan. "I never imagined that he lived in such a remote village and I gradually understood why he behaved the way he did," said Luo.

The main aim for Luo was to help Shi regain his confidence towards schooling. She asked a tutor to help him with schoolwork and created a long-term tutoring plan.

She always sent textbooks to the young student. Gradually, Shi became closer to Luo and wrote to her frequently, opening up about his family and school life.

Months later, the project organized for mentors to visit their sponsor children. Luo gave Shi a hand-made diary including inspirational sentences chosen by her and paintings by her daughter. To Luo's surprise, Shi gave his "adopted aunty" a hand-knitted purple scarf.

"I'd never received a gift like that, it was so meaningful. I'll wear it tonight," said Luo at the third anniversary party of BMW's Warm Heart Fund held in Chongqing last Tuesday.

Vice president of sales, BMW China, Lu Yi, stressed the importance within the company of giving back to the community in a tangible way. 
"Over the past three years, we have shared many touching stories involving good car owners like Luo. We know that it is easy to give money, but providing care and heartwarming assistance is also necessary. We are still exploring ways to help others, including through the BMW Joy Home project, which brings books and computers to remote schools across the country, and  through which we have already helped one young girl discover her talent for singing," Lu said.

In the future, the automaker wants to continue its philanthropic endeavors by donating another 20 million yuan ($3.13 million) to the BMW Warm Heart Fund and promote the BMW Joy Home project across the country.

It also plans to establish a collaboration with the Yao Foundation, initiated by former NBA star, Yao Ming, by building BMW Joy Homes at Yao's 10 Schools of Hope, according to Lu.