British woman contributed 22 years to helping deaf people in Kunming

Ingrid discussed cloth size with a deaf colleague in her company. [Provided to InKunming]

In 2015, Tina Redshaw, consul-general of the British Consulate-General in Chongqing, with some British colleagues, visited Ingrid’s factory in Kunming. [Provided to InKunming]

[InKunming--Interviews & Polls]  From learning Chinese in Kunming to managing a company for deaf people to work in the city, British woman Ingrid spent 22 years. Looking back over 22 years’ experience, Ingrid said: “Kunming, the city, has become my home. I have no regrets having made such a decision to live in Kunming.”

One afternoon in March, 2016, Ingrid communicated in Sign Language with a deaf colleague at her company in a corridor of her factory. Using Sign Language, she asked the colleague to modify cloth size, and then went back to write emails to American customers on computer.

This is a scene that Ingrid never imagined 22 years ago. In the winter of 1993, Ingrid came to Kunming, Yunnan for the first time. On that occasion, she just wished that she could learn some languages of ethnical minorities of Yunnan Province in a term of five weeks.

However, she found the province had some charms for her. Diverse ethnical minorities of the province and simple folkways in the locality attracted her a lot. So Ingrid decided to come back to Kunming next year. After she came to Kunming again, she did not leave the city for a long time again.

In the following 21 years, Ingrid learned Chinese and Chinese Sign Language for the first few years, worked as a project leader in a NGO in the middle term, and then in the end established a company for deaf people to work in.

In Yunnan province, she helped hundreds of deaf people to learn Chinese Sign Language, and to learn skills to support themselves independently. And because of her outstanding contribution to the province, Ingrid was awarded a provincial prize titled “Expert of Colorful Clouds” by Yunnan government in 2001.

To help local deaf people to have better lives, Ingrid not only worked in a NGO to do so in the first-half of her time in the province, but also built a platform for deaf people to work and earn money in the remaining years of her time living in Kunming.

Ingrid, and her Chinese husband Chen Gang are at a handicraft work fair in Kunming. [Provided to InKunming]

The company she established for deaf people is named “Hearts &Hands”. Number of deaf people working in the company has varied over the years from less than 10 to over 50. The factory space of her company has also enlarged several times over the past years. Besides, more and more foreign customers like to buy handicraft products from the company.

Right now, Ingrid, with two of her Chinese factory partners, is planning to design a new website for selling the company’s handicraft products. They also plan to register an online shop via China’s wechat social tool. Meanwhile, professional international handicraft websites also contain “Hands & Hearts” accounts.

In the past 22 years, Ingrid’s job has changed. Things in Kunming changed, too. “Kunming has changed from a small, quiet, and a little isolated city to a modern, convenient, and lightly polluted city now. Communication between me and my relatives in the U.K. has become faster by internet than those days we could only communicate by letters.” Ingrid said.

To Ingrid, over the years, Kunming has become a city she is more familiar with than her previous hometown in the U.K. “I can easily buy bread, cheese, and butter in the city now. I can drive my children to have picnics in the suburbs of Kunming at the weekend and on holidays as Chinese people usually do. My children and husband also live in the city. Kunming is my home.” Ingrid pointed out Kunming’s position in her heart.

Certainly, she has faced some difficulties in establishing the company, and even wished to give up. One of the difficulties was that she did not know policies and regulations for foreigners in Kunming. Another big problem for her was that some foreign customers refused to accept handicraft works and canceled orders from her company due to misunderstandings.

Whatever happened, Ingrid gradually solved problems that stood in her way. Her service to the company and to Yunnan deaf people impressed the British Consulate-General in Chongqing, and Kunming government.

In 2015, Tina Redshaw, consul-general of the British Consulate-General in Chongqing, with some British colleagues visited Ingrid’s factory and company in Kunming. Kunming government also appointed staff members to visit the factory and company.

Both the British Consulate-General in Chongqing and Kunming government expressed their wishes to support Ingrid and her company if Ingrid requires. And the British Consulate-General in Chongqing and Kunming government highly approve Ingrid’s achievements in Kunming.

Overall, 22 years covers almost one quarter of a normal person’s lifetime. Especially for Ingrid, she keeps helping Yunnan local deaf people in a low key way, which moves a lot of people in Kunming, Yunnan, and also in China.

With the help of the British Consulate-General in Chongqing and Kunming government, Ingrid noted that she could work better to enlarge scale of her factory and company.

After going back to her office to write emails to American customers, Ingrid looked very energetic and full-hearted. She thinks that she has confidence to promote her company to a new level as she believes she has been able to do some things in Kunming over the past 22 years.

Click here to view Chinese report.

(Editors: Cathy Chen, Tracy)

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