On behalf of all OCEF volunteers, we would like to take this opportunity to thank our donors for your generous contributions over the past year. On the eve of a brand-new year, we invite everyone to reflect on the achievements we have accomplished together in 2015, and look forward to an even more rewarding 2016 in the missions of OCEF!
By Zhou Linchang, 4th Grade, Gugong Elementary School, Xiamen, Fujian
Editor’s Note: The author of this article is a fourth grader who participated in the OCEF Internet Book Donation Campaign, which provides books to schools in impoverished regions through online purchasing. The book donation platform mentioned in the article has since been changed because Amazon.cn has discontinued its wish list function. To participate in this campaign, please visit http://china.ocef.org/bbs/thread-88038-1-1.html. Thank you!
This past semester, I did something I am extremely proud of–I donated money from charity sales of my artworks to schools in poor regions in the western part of China to help the elementary school kids get books that they can read outside of their classrooms.
My godmother is a volunteer with OCEF. One day I noticed their Internet Book Donation Campaign was collecting books for Changlong Elementary School in Gansu Province. The school is in very remote area and only has 8 teachers and roughly 50 students. From the pictures I could see their classrooms had barely any books on the rundown shelves. I was deeply touched. What a shame! They have no extracurricular books to read while I have five shelves filled with all kinds of books. So I told my mom: “I want to donate books to Changlong School. I want the kids there to gain happiness from reading, just like me.”
Mom really liked the idea, but where would the money come from? Suddenly I got an idea: I could paint and then sell my artworks to buy books. Ever since I received a first prize in a national art competition, my paintings have been really “hot” amongst my mom’s friends. I was sure some of them would buy my artworks and support me in this good deed.
I experimented with painting on a canvas pencil bag, which turned out to be much more challenging than I had expected. Painting on canvas is completely different from painting on paper. On canvas, I have to apply textile paint over and over, otherwise it would fade. Moreover, once the paint is brushed on canvas, no changes can be made, so I need to be careful and bold at the same time. It takes a lot of patience because I have to wait for one side of the bag to dry out before moving on to the other side… Finally I finished one, and that was 6 hours later. Mom said to me: “The hand-painted pencil bag looks very nice, but it takes a lot of efforts. Are you sure you want to do this?” I was hesitant at first as I would probably have no time left to play if I took on this task. However, when the pictures of Changlong School came to my mind, I became convinced that it was totally worth it. After that, my after-school hours became hectic but meaningful. Whenever I finished my homework, I would start painting pencil bags. Sometimes my wrists felt very tired and I could hardly keep my eyes open, but then I would remember the eyes of the kids who longed for knowledge, and I would become motivated again. Over two months later, finally I finished more than 20 pen bags.
My mom posted the news on her social circles and many of her kind-hearted friends ordered my hand-painted pencil bags. Within days, I had more than RMB 1000.
Once we had the money, mom helped me sign in Amazon.cn and search for Changlong School. Then a wish list came up with all the books the school needed. We carefully selected about 30 books and sent them to Longchang. Two weeks later, I received a letter from OCEF to thank us for the support and tell us that Longchang School had received the books, complete with pictures of the students reading them.
I was very excited to see my name showing up for the first time as a donor to a charity program. Helping others really does make me happy.
编者按：今年，OCEF北加分会通过Hike for Kids活动筹集的部分资金用于资助湖南桑植西坪小学的3位支教老师和学生宿舍双层床。在此之前，北京义工李莉及其朋友们于2015年8月走访了西坪小学及其周边家庭。以下为李莉整理的走访笔记。
Editor’s Note: Earlier this year, OCEF Northern California Chapter allocated some of the funds raised through the “Hike for Kids” event to provide stipends to 3 temporary teachers and bunk beds to the students at Xiping Elementary School in Sangzhi, Hunan. Prior to that, Li Li, a volunteer from Beijing, and her friends visited Xiping Elementary School and some of the students’ homes in August. This article is condensed from Li Li’s field notes.
Xiping Elementary School is located in Xiping Village, Hekou Township, Sangzhi County, which is under the administrative jurisdiction of the City of Zhangjiajie, Hunan Province. The village lies deep in the mountains, more than 80 kilometers from the county seat and at an elevation of 930 meters. The school serves a total population of over 4,000 in 5 neighboring villages, most of them ethnic Tujia people. Founded in 1942, the school has a history of more than 70 years and currently offers 6 classes ranging from kindergarten to the 5th grade, with nearly 90 students in attendance.
As its location was so remote in a very rough, mountainous setting, the school was rather dilapidated before 2015. Its buildings were constructed in the 1970s with materials and labor donated by the local villagers. Over the last 30 years, 4 teachers, including the principal, struggled to keep it open.
In recent years, Principal Li, who is over 50 years old, made a lot of efforts to improve the situation. With assistance from the County Department of Education and charity organizations, the school now has 19 new rooms, including classrooms, dormitories, a computer room with high speed Internet access, a “gymnasium,” a library with almost 2,000 books, and a kitchen. It has also obtained 100 sets of desks and benches and a hard-surface playground with a basketball court and ping-pong tables, among other new equipment and facilities.
Last year, charity workers organized short-term teaching engagement at Xiping Elementary School and introduced such programs as “Everyday Reading” to help teachers and students develop new visions and better work habits in gradual improvement to their learning environment.
Because of the poor soil quality in the area, the villagers rely heavily on outside work or tobacco cultivation to make ends meet. In a good year, typical household income may reach RMB 20,000. Tobacco planting is subsidized by the government as a poverty alleviation measure, but as an “industry” it is heavily regulated and faces many restrictions. As a result, most villagers choose to seek work—and live—elsewhere, leaving only the elderly and the kids at home.
One special need that the people of Xiping has is for refuse processing equipment. At present the villagers simply burn their trash, sometimes right outside the school walls, generating not only smoke and a strong odor but also cancer-causing pollutants.
Most families still live in very old and crudely built wooden structures with fire earths inside for cooking and heating, clearly a safety hazard. Only a few households have been able to move into new brick houses. Many of the children face various misfortunes at home, as demonstrated by the number of households with single parents, absentee parents, or no parents at all. Those living with elderly grandparents sometimes suffer from developmental issues. However, some of them manage to rise above the hardship and excel in school while maintaining a positive outlook in life. At one of the homes we visited, the grandmother manages the household singlehandedly, and she impressed us greatly with her remarkably strong and optimistic character. Firm in her belief that fortune turns on education, she has recently sent a granddaughter to Beijing Nationality University, and is now putting a grandson through elementary school.
In 2015, with the improvement to the its “hardware,” Xiping Elementary School welcomed its first young faculty members: a “substitute” teacher who has just graduated from college and three temporary teachers on short-term engagements. Because of their “irregular” status, their salaries are not covered by the government. Therefore, OCEF is providing them monthly stipends ranging from RMB 800 to RMB 1000. The “substitute” teacher participated in the OCEF summer camp this year. In addition, OCEF funded the school’s library and launched the “Daily Reading” program with great success, thanks largely to the efforts of the young teachers. As Xiping Elementary School moves back to a full 6-grade enrollment, student dormitory will become a necessity, and OCEF has donated 20 bunk beds to make it possible for the students to attend school without traveling for hours each day. Every minute saved from that commute is a minute that can be used for studying and reading.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to call for more help for the kids at Xiping Elementary School. The school still needs a lot more improvement in both “hardware” and “software,” and we invite everybody to follow the progress at Xiping, share your ideas, and help make it an even better place to study!
第22期（2015年12月）/No. 22 (December 2015) 组稿：杨敏 翻译：何雪炀 编校：汤柏 Compiled by Catherine Yang Translated by He Xueyang Edited by Tang Bai