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Across China: Free housing program lends helping hand to children with leukemia

(Xinhua)    16:23, January 04, 2019

HEFEI, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- As his boy fell asleep, Song Xijun took his meal box, tiptoed out of the ward and left the hospital for his room across the street.

His son has been treated for leukemia at the hospital for nearly three months. Song said he and his wife felt helpless and isolated at first, but the community he's living in is lending great support.

In the pink building to the back of the children's hospital where his son is treated, a local charity organization offers free accommodations in 20 rooms and has set up spaces for reading and psychological counseling.

The project, called "Halfway House," was launched in 2016 and has provided accommodation for over 200 families like Song's, who can live there for free for up to three months.

Leukemia is one of the most common types of cancer among children. China reports around 15,000 new cases of childhood leukemia each year, and 80 percent of them can be cured.

To relieve the financial burdens on poor families, the country increased the reimbursement rate of childhood leukemia from 49 percent in early 2017 to 81 percent since September 2018, while more social organizations are also joining in to help.

"Charity is not pity but mutual support," said Wang Dacheng, who heads the Halfway House project. "We want the rooms to be a constant platform of mutual support."

The rooms, around 15 square meters each, have cartoon characters painted on beds, desks, chairs, closets and all over the walls.

"It's a place where different forces of society come together to help," said Wang, noting that the funds come from online fundraising and personal donation.

With help, the deserted roof of the building is transformed into a playground with slides, swing and pinwheels. The kitchen is built for special anti-bacterial conditions, and volunteers come regularly to accompany the children.

"It costs at least 500 yuan (about 73 U.S. dollars) per month to rent a room outside but here, apart from the rent, utility bills, kitchenware and seasoning is all covered," said Song. "It saves us quite a sum."

It is also a place where Song and his wife get psychological support.

"I was always troubled by negative thoughts when I was alone," he recalled the first time he knew about his son's disease. "I often smoked and cried by myself when I felt bad."

Moving into the house three months ago, Song's mood turned much better. "It's like a big family here. As we talk with each other, we won't think that much [about the disease]," he said.

Now the building Song lives in is being renovated. New walls are being painted, and the reading room and bathrooms are all being improved.

"After meeting the basic needs, we are also hoping to do more work on the children's nutrition, nursing and psychological support," Wang said.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Liang Jun, Hongyu)

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