At DAIS, we believe that community service programs provide students with the opportunity to become active members of their larger community, develop critical life skills and knowledge while making a difference in the lives of those in need.
In No Plastic Bag club, Our Home program, or supporting Aunty Wang's retirement home, our students engage in volunteering and become local and global changemakers. This summer, one more charity project - Star Lighters - came to life. The program is focused on helping people with autism spectrum disorder.
Mandy, the founder of Star Lighters, recalls that she first saw autistic kids when she joined her father, involved in education for many years, during his visits to a local special needs school. At that moment, she knew very little about signs of autism and how to react properly when you meet an autistic person. This experience taught her that kids and young adults with autism need more attention from the society, and the idea to start a volunteering program and involve her classmates and friends came into her mind.
Star Lighters cooperate with the famous Dalian Wanli Charity whose founder Zhu Ruiwu has been involved in philanthropic activities for nearly 40 years. His work has been personally supported by the President Hu Jintao (2003-2013) and the current Premier Li Keqiang. Mr. Zhu's extensive experience and kind heart gave our students inspiration and encouragement.
The project was started on July 23 when the first group of volunteers came together to learn more about this mental disorder and the ways we may help.
Working with autistic kids requires special knowledge. All students who participate in Star Lighters events need to undergo an orientation where they learn how to communicate with autistic people, how to set boundary lines, how to deal with behavior problems. At the end of the orientation all volunteers get a badge and a certificate that proves their readiness to help others with special needs.
From July 2022, every Thursday and Friday a group of DAIS students (three or four people at a time) heads off to a school in Dalian that fosters kids with special needs. Our students prepare music and art activities. Children and young adults under their care can enjoy the entertainment and learn some new skills at the same time. Star Lighters would like to thank the principal and staff of the local Special Education school who are always willing to support DAIS volunteers and coordinate these in-person visits.
Joni, one of the project leaders who oversees newcomers' training, did a lot of research on autism. She said that out of 100 kids, there will be one autistic child. Some people with autism have severe symptoms and require constant care, others live an almost normal life. The school that Star Lighters cooperate with can accept kids with all types of disorder and offers boarding to families in need.
Star Lighters volunteers don't exactly teach children how to play music or do a drawing. They are mostly focused on interaction process and benefits it will bring. For example, helping autistic children to color in sometimes means literally holding and guiding their hands and patiently explaining them how to use a pencil or choose a color. Some of these students cannot even speak, but the joyful expression on their faces when they see the result of artistic efforts is obvious and self-evident.
Sam, DAIS Grade 11 student and Star Lighters Communications Manager, says that the main purpose of this project is to influence the public attitude to people with mental issues and to stand up against discrimination. Some people with autism are very smart, some children will assimilate into society and find a job to support themselves when they grow up, some will always live in their own world and fully depend on others' help, but they are all human beings that deserve respect and compassion.
These stars are normal in their own ways, they just need little lights to be seen, that's our mission as Star Lighters!
DAIS Grade 11
Star Lighters Founder
More than fifty DAIS students have already joined Star Lighters. They made this decision because they were looking for an opportunity to change the world and to do some interesting and influential in-person activities.
This project was created through a joint effort of DAIS students:
The project is always willing to attract more volunteers and expand the program. Their leaders are reaching out to other local school that may be willing to participate in the project. They are also planning fundraising activities, such as cooperating with local MUN conferences or selling snacks and sweets for a good cause. Star Lighters would also like to raise awareness of autism and related disorders, so we can expect presentations delivered by their enthusiastic leaders soon.
This activity is perfect for everybody who wants to do something good for the society, and the help we give to the kids is enormous.
DAIS Grade 11
We invite all interested students to join Star Lighters and make this world a better place for all members of the society!