Art shows her heart

Art shows her heart

Story of how a charity helped in the '60s moves a girl to give of her talent.

Muraco To Hoi-li, aged 10, can't imagine what life must have been like for Cheung Mo-har at the same age. Like many children in Hong Kong, Muraco, a Primary Five student at Alliance Primary School (Kowloon Tong), has everything she needs.

But back in 1966, when Cheung was nine, she had to rely on others to support her schooling. For six years, Cheung had received donations through Plan International's Child Sponsorship Programme. She is one of the 1.5 million children aided by Plan International in 50 developing countries since it was established in 1937. The charity ran a field office in Hong Kong from 1959 to 1973 and set up a fundraising office in 2009.

Now that she knows Cheung's story, Muraco is ready to give back a little piece of herself.

"My foster parents were a group of 60 American Marine soldiers, including Uncle Steve, who used to visit me whenever their battleship came to Hong Kong," recalls Cheung, who is now 57 and has been a nurse for more than 30 years.

"My family was very poor; there wasn't enough money to feed us, not to mention schooling. But luckily, I got a monthly donation of HK$45 to pay for my school fees [HK$10], with the rest paying for food for the family."

The help she received also led her to realise her childhood dream.

"During one visit, Uncle Steve asked me what I wanted to become when I grew up. I told him I wanted to be a nurse. He looked at me and slowly he took out a photograph from his pocket," says Cheung.

"It was a photo of a woman in a white uniform. With tears in his eyes, he said: 'This is my wife; she is a nurse. I hope your dream will come true.' It was a touching moment that I'll never forget," says Cheung.

Muraco came to know the stories of Cheung and other beneficiaries through her parents. And the stories made an impact on her.

"Compared with children in those days and many on the mainland now, we are so lucky. We eat well and live a comfortable life, and we can go to school," Muraco says.

To show her support, she donated 66 of her artworks to the Because I Am a Girl charity art exhibition at the Hong Kong Central Library last month.

A talented young artist, Muraco has been drawing since she was four. She won a national competition on the mainland at age eight. She has also received awards from competitions in Hong Kong, Japan and the Philippines. Her artworks cover all kinds of themes that stir her imagination. She has drawn landscapes, churches, flowers, people and animals. Specifically for the I Am a Girl campaign, she created a painting with two mainland girls and her own puppy, Heroine, in it.

"I'm grateful to my parents, who give me lots of support and helped me develop my talents. But there are many children, especially girls, who won't have a chance to take up a hobby. I can't imagine not being able to draw; I'd be so sad and unhappy," Muraco says.

Her mother is pleased to see what her daughter has learned through the collaboration. Together they have sponsored a little girl from Nepal through the charity.

"I want her to grow up being someone who cares about others. I want her to know even a young person can contribute to the world," says Muraco's mother.

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