“A day of music, dancing and getting to just be yourself”, this was the vision Xiersen Children Service Center had in mind when they partnered with Nuan Xing and talented musical group “Meet and Tango” to create an outing for children with special needs.

Xiersen, which was founded last year, is ELG’s sister NGO that works to revolutionize the way special education services are provided in China by utilizing a variety of different resources in the community.

On September 24, only a day after a team-building event coordinated with all of Gap’s 400 Shanghai employees and the Pudong Special Education School, they helped to organize one such event.

Meet and Tango was set to perform for the German Consulate and other high-profile guests on Sunday, but wanted to do something even more special the day prior: create an opportunity for kids with special needs and their families to have a nice day out without having to worry about anything, or anyone else. So they reached out to Xiersen who, along with Nuan Xing, brought together the venue and invited their special guests. IMG_9655Over 150 people attended the concert, hosted at Dongming Community Center. Upon arrival, everyone was given blue and yellow sleeves – an initiative created by Xiersen called AWare, which acts as a visual queue not just for individuals to show their support, but also as a way to be connected with others in the community and create social awareness of autism. In China, children with autism are also called “children of the stars,” because, depending on severity, they can at times seem to live in a different world. AWare colors of yellow and blue stripes represent the many stars (the children) in the night sky. Throughout the evening, Meet and Tango’s beautiful classical music had children mesmerized; some sat quietly and listened, while others moved and danced in the auditorium. “It was the first opportunity for many of these families to gather in a theater and enjoy beautiful music, allowing themselves to be swept away without feeling worried or embarrassed about other people judging them or their children,” said General Manager of Xiersen, Nikki Lindgren. “Many families such as this do not get out much because [special needs are viewed as] something shameful. We are trying to support these families, change misconceptions through education and spread a larger societal message of tolerance and respect. ” After such a successful and impactful outing, Lindgren says she envisions similar types of events for Xiersen down the road. “There’s so much an NGO can facilitate in terms of supporting these families and connecting the community in really fantastic ways.”

For the rest of the year however, Xiersen will focus on developing more educational opportunites for parents and teachers, connecting existing centers with the community resources, and engaging Shanghai and the rest of China in its annual special mega-community autism awareness event called AGame, coming again in April 2017. (Read about last year’s event here.) Stay tuned for more information as the month approaches! For more information about Xiersen’s partnership with ELG, please click here .