Gifts of the heart

By Liu Xiangrui(China Daily) Updated: 2016-09-02

Gifts of the heart

Riether is conducting a training session in Tianjin for volunteers on how to use games to help children who have experienced trauma. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Now residing in Tianjin, not far from Beijing, Riether splits her time between directing a volunteer project and teaching children English.

The volunteer project, called "Healing Young Hearts", is operated by the nonprofit Cathay Future Culture and Art Foundation. It is devoted to creating free and practical resources, such as games, activities, inspirational stories and articles to help hospitalized children find emotional healing after heartbreak, illness and trauma.

Its resources have been used by parents, teachers, volunteers and organizations worldwide.

With only a few full-time workers, the organization also collaborates with universities, hospitals, psychologists and educators to train volunteers.

In the past five years, her organization has trained more than 1,000 volunteers, many of them college students. The volunteers are encouraged to go in the hospitals to interact with children to make the experience less stressful.

Sometimes doctors and nurses aren't prepared to deal with children's emotional pain, "even though they can treat their physical symptoms", Riether explains.

The current project, Riether says, is a continuation of her efforts after the catastrophic Sichuan earthquake in 2008, when she visited the quake-hit zone six times to help local children recover from trauma.

Working in the northeastern city of Harbin at the time, she says her first impulse was to rush there to help.