On the morning of June 20, 2014, Teacher Gao Lei and Teacher Lily, both volunteers from OCEF, traveled thousands of miles to Chaimen School to visit our students.
In the Spring of 2013, our school started a partnership with Lei and Lily, who live in the U.S., with the help of OCEF to improve our students’ spoken English. Since then, Lei and Lily have donated much of their time and energy to teach the students spoken English through the OCEF’s Internet Classroom program. Their fluent English and rich body languages drew attention from every student and teacher participating in the class right away. Each class offered excellent content and received rave reviews from everyone in our school. After more than a year of collaboration and communication, the two teachers decided to visit our school and get together with the graduating 9th graders as well as the 7th and 8th graders who are now participating in the Internet Classroom program, thus transforming a virtual connection into a real one.
Through this event, the students met in person the teachers whom they had only seen on the big screen. They all expressed their gratitude, vowing to study even harder to pay back the love and care they have received from the teachers and the society.
The story of the GE (Girl’s Education) project in Chaba came to me a year ago and I was drawn to it instantly since Chaba is right there in my hometown, Bazhong City, Sichuan Province. Finally I came to Chaba on June 20, 2014, and my world was rocked by these lovely junior high students.
Chaba: the Town, the School, and the Students
Chaba, a lushly green town surrounded by mountains and rivers, lies about 200 miles from the provincial capital of Chengdu, and is typical of small towns in northeastern Sichuan. To get to Chaba from Bazhong, it takes a 1.5-hour mini-bus ride on winding road. Chaba Middle School is the only integrated high school in the town, hosting 2030 students in both junior division and senior division.
It is the home school for all the kids from the 15 villages nearby. Most of the kids are from families in which both parents are working in faraway places, so they live with their grandparents or other relatives. Most of them are boarding because the muddy roads become a major headache when it rains.
Conditions in the school dormitories are very rough. Eight students share one boarding room and the wooden beds are damp all year long. The athletic field was finally furnished with a plastic runway two years ago, a big upgrade from the sandy tracks before.
Chaba Girls: Smiles and Tears
GE is a collaborative program between OCEF and China Rural Library, and the Chaba project was launched in June 2013. A grass-root charity organization, China Rural Library was established in September 2007 for the purpose of creating a network of public libraries and developing associated educational and cultural events.
It has not been an easy journey to implement a program catering to the girls and aiming for fair education and gender equality. Most of the kids living in rural households with absentee parents are somewhat neglected. Some are very shy, while others act rebelliously.
For many of them, the future is a rather vague concept.
To address this issue, the Chaba GE project focused on companionship for the girls as they grow up. OCEF volunteer Ma Yue, the program advisor, stays in Chaba with the kids for extended period of time. Core curriculum of the project includes adolescent sex education, living skills and career development
Little Prince, Roses and the Perfect World
The activity room for the GE program is a primitive but warm place. The walls are decorated with drawings and paper-cuttings by the kids, while books selected by the volunteers are fully stacked by the window.
A variety of activities are arranged by the volunteers every week, such as yoga meditation, poetry moments, and stories of postcards. The theme of the afternoon activities during my visit was “the planet of the little prince and our world.” The kids were drawing their imaginative world freely on the white canvas.
The perfect world in their mind has roses, green trees, friends and rainbows.
Even though I do not know what sceneries will be along the journey of their life, I hope there will be breeze and bright moonlight, drizzles and rainbow, and a starry night sky.
On July 11-30, 2014, 25 volunteers participated in the Summer Camp to Support Education program in Huining, Gansu Province. Over 160 students from Chaimen Middle School and Touzhai Elementary School took part in the activities. To make the summer camp both fun and rewarding for the children, the volunteers showcased their diverse skill sets in offering eight courses, including Conversational English, Reading, World Culture, Arts, Music, Sports, Introduction to Computer, and Medicine and Health.
The lively contents helped the kids learn in a very relaxing environment. Volunteers from the USA, Canada, Australia and the UAE leveraged their own life experiences to introduce the diverse cultures from all over the world, and to teach the kids how to express themselves in proper English. The camp activities received rave reviews from the students as well as their parents and teachers.