Charity fund sows seeds of hope for struggling mothers

09:24, January 07, 2011      

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Since 2006, the Magic Bean Baby Love program has been raising money for disabled, sick and other disadvantaged people running Internet stores.

Launched by Taobao, China's largest online marketplace, the charity project was inspired by the story of Zhou Lihong, a cancer-stricken mother from Jiangsu province who run a store to raise money for her daughter.

When she died, netizens touched by her bravery vowed to maintain her virtual store, Magic Bean Baby House. Soon after, Taobao executives took over and turned it into a charitable fund. Any Taobao trader can use the website's automatic donation function to give a small fraction of the profits from every successful deal.

"Since our website enabled the function in 2006, we have raised more than 13 million yuan ($1.9 million) from almost 100 million successful online deals," said Li Jie, a coordinator with Taobao's corporate social responsibility office. "We're getting tens of thousands of yuan every month." In September 2009, Taobao donated 10 million yuan to the fund, taking the total raised past 23 million yuan.

To honor Zhou, the fund is used to help mothers from disadvantaged families to start Internet businesses. Working in association with the Red Cross Society of China, the China Disabled Persons' Federation and the All-China Women's Federation, Taobao has so far helped more than 200 women nationwide.

"Each mother receives 10,000 yuan in startup funds, a computer, one week of Internet and business training and continuous online support from us," said Li. "It's not about the money, it's about helping these women to open a door to employment."

Han Yali, 45, who has two daughters with infantile progressive spinal muscular atrophy, is one of the beneficiaries. After graduating junior high in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province, she was unable to find a stable job. She opened a grocery store and mended clothes for neighbors to make ends meet. She read about the Magic Bean program in a local newspaper in the winter of 2007 and immediately signed up.

With startup funds and a computer, she opened a shop on Taobao and started selling women's clothes. Her eldest daughter, Zhang Baoxin, 21, now does most of the online management, while Han searches for new suppliers. "We are making more than 1,500 yuan a month - more than my father's monthly salary as a security guard at an electricity company," said Zhang.

By Li Li, China Daily
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