10/19/2013, 00.00
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Vittorino Colombo Prize awarded to Meng Weina, for care of disabled Chinese

The prestigious award will be conferred the tomorrow , 20 October, in Albiate . The daughter of a hero of the war against the Japanese , she founded and directs Huiling, a charity for the less fortunate . Converted to Catholicism in 1998 , she chose her Christian name in honor of the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

Rome ( AsiaNews) - Huiling , the large Chinese charitable organization that takes care of the abandoned disabled, has won the prestigious Vittorino Colombo award. Tomorrow the ceremony will take place in Albiate: the prize will be given to Teresa Meng Weina, founder and president of the NGO .

The International Vittorino Colombo Award was established in 1997 to commemorate the figure of the late statesman ( 1925-1996 ) , several times minister in Italy in the last century, a figure among the noblest engaged the Italian political and Catholic scene and appreciated for his international diplomatic abilities, especially with China and in the Council of Europe. The prize is awarded annually to a person who has contributed to the study and dissemination of authentic values ​​of direct political solidarity and cooperation between peoples.

Meng Weina was born in Guangzhou (Canton ) in the Republic of China, Jan. 27, 1954 . Her father was a high ranking official in the Communist Party (wounded in the battles against the Japanese , he was considered a hero and model who served the homeland against the invader ) . From her father, she absorbed the ideal of serving the people, and developed a passion for "politics" : the decision to do something to change society for the better . As a child she admired the Red Guards . Then she worked in a textile factory. Sensitive to social problems, especially those of women , she became their champion. She even received an award as one of the top 10 young women of the province from the communist government of Canton.

Approached by dozens of mothers with children suffering from mental disabilities, she became the spokesman of their ignored rights, not hesitating to organize large public gatherings. Her commitment unknowingly launched what is known worldwide as the feminist movement.

To support those unfortunate families, in 1985 she founded Zhiling, an organization for children with mental disabilities. Caritas Hong Kong pledged to support that initiative for the disabled , sending some social workers to Canton to train Zhiling operators and also offering a substantial financial contribution , enough to buy the buildings of a school and cover routine costs.

This Canton association constituted one of the first (perhaps the first) NGOs in China, although not legally recognized. Soon the need to culturally prepare a person who could administer this great new school was recognized, and a colleague of Weina Meng became director of Zhiling . Problems soon arose as a result, when it was decided not to welcome children not classified as of a "school going age". Thus, when on March 18, 1990 , Meng Weina founded a structure called Huiling to accommodate people not of school age (from age 16 and up) suffering from mental retardation, the board of directors of the Zhiling isolated her and broke away .

In 1995, Fernando Cagnin an Italian missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME ) arrived in Canton who , after working several years in Hong Kong, appreciated Huiling's efforts, offered to assist and had been accepted as a volunteer. He also tried to unite the two structures ( Zhiling and Huiling ) , bringing together their local managers with those of Caritas Hong Kong, but the many practical difficulties prevented the realization of that dream (but all hope has not yet been lost!) .

Meanwhile, the process of conversion of Ms. Meng Weina had also begun, thanks to her encounter with some Catholics from Caritas Hong Kong who had come to Canton to help at Zhiling . She remained , however, a little 'disappointed seeing the difference between what they said and how they behaved in a few things. She also attended Protestant circles (she was hosted by them for six months in Japan ) and was very encouraged to hear the Gospel message . But she was also disappointed by them, because - she said - because while they spoke a lot about the Gospel, they did not bother to practice it all the way. And so she continued to look for and read Christian books , that proposed general knowledge and science, or the thought of philosophers and celebrities not only in China but throughout the world .

A fiercely independent spirit , Meng Weina continued to deepen her Christian faith alone, reading books and praying. Even the example and explanations of some good Catholics from Hong Kong who came to Canton to help the disabled , offered convincing answers to his questions . Without saying anything to anyone, at some point, Meng began attending the catechumenate at the cathedral in Canton, where she was baptized April 7, 1998 , along with a young disabled man. She chose the name of Teresa , because like Mother Teresa of Calcutta she wanted to stand alongside the most vulnerable ; she also wanted to change the mentality of the Chinese people and the then still very ineffective laws.

Her tireless pursuit of the good of the most disadvantaged , especially in the world of mental disability , has been appreciated by the authorities, but it is also very supported by the local media and even by international organizations . The working model and the social impact of Huiling was thus able to expand rapidly , creating centers in several large cities and thus opening shelters for people with disabilities. The commitment of Teresa Meng Weina is also expressed in the development of a large number of refresher courses where charity, human rights, social integration , etc. . are a vision of live that can offer incentives for other constructive battles in the social reality of China.

Today Huiling has legally registered its social services for the disabled in 13 cities in China and works in many others. It has more than a hundred houses, about 300 workers with more than a thousand people with disabilities accepted or operating in various services. It has also developed two specific situations : " The Snail " , which is a network of thousands of disabled people who are known in the internet and organize activities to meet, and the chain of bakeries " Emmaus " (at the beginning stages) to provide jobs and social inclusion to the mentally disabled.


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