Pop stars Gigi Leung (left) and Eric Suen pose at a press conference in Beijing, where they shared their experiences of visiting rural children in Jiangxi Province, April 6, 2009. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com]
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Although Gigi Leung has christened her latest album "Presents", the Hong Kong pop star refused to take any presents on her recent birthday.
Instead of buying her presents, Gigi had a better suggestion for her friends and fans. "I'd like to assume your donations to charity as your present for my birthday," she wrote on her blog days after her 33rd birthday on March 25.
Gigi herself has long been a generous philanthropist. The singer-actress is a co-founder of the HOPE Education Foundation, which offers help to underprivileged children; she has financed the construction of at least seven schools in the mainland. Being an ambassador for the Hong Kong committee for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Gigi has joined the organization's tours to rural areas five times.
On March 31, Gigi embarked on her sixth trip with UNICEF, visiting and fundraising for children living in the mountainous areas of Jiangxi Province.
"Many people have asked me why I did such trips one after another," Gigi said on Monday at a press conference in Beijing, where she and fellow star Eric Suen shared their experiences in Jiangxi.
"My answer is simple - those children need our help."
During their week-long trip, Gigi and Eric visited several physically-challenged children, whose poor living conditions worried both stars.
Lack of clean water and decent medical care are not the only problems the children have to face, according to Gigi. "The children don't know they need to wash their hands before eating. Their parents know little about nutrition.
"One of our goals is to raise the awareness of the importance to educate rural children and their families and help them develop healthy habits."
A photo taken during the trip shows Gigi and Eric taught a group of children to clean their hands with soap.
"The kids are very smart. All they need is a little bit of guidance," Eric says.
"They are all eager to learn new things. They are aspiring for their future," adds Gigi.
As a celebrity, Gigi says what she is doing is more than raising awareness in front of cameras. She recalls a previous trip with UNICEF, during which she visited an 11-year-old girl who needed money for a bone operation. After the visit, Gigi made a donation right away. The girl was soon sent to hospital and recovered in less than a year.
"Her recovery gave me a feeling of accomplishment, and that's why I will continue doing this charitable work," Gigi says.
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