In late January, 2018, the Tomato Project team visited the Rongshui Miao Autonomous County High School in Guangxi, headed by Tan Lijun, the project lead.
Rongshui is located in a mountainous region, where the land surface is 90% mountains, 5% water, and 5% farmland, as the old saying goes. Most of the adults choose to take jobs elsewhere, leaving their children to live with the grandparents. The students at this school are just like that.
On this visit our volunteers brought the children two days of face-to-face art education. Four volunteers broke the ice with an introduction. They are Tan Yujun, a graduate of the Beijing Film Academy with a major in performance; Yang Qingqi, a vocal arts graduate student at the PLA Art Institute; and singer-songwriters Tan Lijun and Han Yongjian. After that, each student got a chance to choose a teacher based on their interests and formed winter camp groups with targeted study.
Our theme on the first day of the program was “Liberate Yourself with Arts.” In the morning, we taught fundamentals of reciting and proper mandarin pronunciation, and conducted tongue twister practice. The afternoon classes were devoted to fundamentals of stage performance and rehearsing a song-and-dance routine called The Purpose of Dance.
Theme for the second day was “Actually, We Can, Too.”
The morning sessions were still focused on fundamentals the specific needs and interest of individual students. In the afternoon, the long anticipated students performances were on—quite a few excellent pieces to showcase their talent.
After the performance, the school officials joined the volunteers and the students in a closing celebration, and everyone gathered together for dinner that night.
Over the course of two short days, little did we teach and much did we learn.
Here are some snippets of feedback from the students:
Meng: “These are my two happiest days in high school… Thank you, Teacher Han Yongjian! You taught us a lot about life and help us see through many of the confusions in this stage of life. I hope we’ll cross path again sometime in the future. We’ll be life-long fans of yours. Love you!”
Lan: “Even though we have been together only for two days, it is so hard to say good-bye. Thank you! I have learned so much from you over the two days. I will continue to study hard and hopefully I will be someone like you to help others when I grow up.”
Huang: “I learned much knowledge about music and about how to sing. Teacher Qiqi shared with us her struggles and persistence while pursuing her dream, and taught us that nothing is impossible as long as we dare to dream.”
These words from the kids made us think that we could have done more. Only when we got very close did we really know how much they longed to be loved and to learn about unknown world outside the mountains. Their thirst far exceeded our imagination.
If we do our best to expose the kids to things that they would normally have no opportunity to enjoy, such as stage performance and photography, they will in turn show us a world that we normally would not see.
Even a spark of fire can ignite the light in a child’s heart.
It is our mission as grown-ups not to let down our youth. Even if what we can accomplish is limited, we will never stop as long as there are children in need.
One kid asked: Are you coming back?
We said: Of course!
We invite more of our friends to join us in the Tomato Project. We can bring movies, arts, photography to these “stay-behind” kids through the OCEF web platform. As the old saying goes, it is better to teach someone to fish than to give him a fish. When kids learn, they gain strength. As the motto of Rongshui High School says: “Cultivate Character, Always Improve Yourself.”
We would like to thank OCEF, the College Vegetarian Alliance, and all the teachers, school principals and volunteers for supporting us. At this time, let us conclude with what Maestro Liang Qichao once said: “The responsibility today rests on the shoulders of nobody but our youth: with intelligent youth we have an intelligent nation, with wealthy youth we have a wealthy nation, with strong youth we have a strong nation, with independent youth we have an independent nation, with free youth we have a free nation, and with progressive youth we have a progressive nation.”
Give it all, our youth!
Give it all, all of us!
With the help of our friends from all artistic professions, the Tomato Project seeks to turn art created by rural children into videos, music performances, and exhibitions, thereby raising more funds to help the children see the value of their creativity.
捐物时间：2018年6月5日前。 接受物品：比较新的小件家庭用品，比如小孩玩具、自行车、小型运动器材、小型电器、工艺品、装饰品等家庭用品。 不接受物品：car seat，high chair，衣服，家具和大件物品。 捐物接收站：现已在Chicago Downtown, Vernon Hills, Buffalo Grove, Hoffman Estates, Naperville等地设有。 捐助方式：请扫描邮件末尾微信二维码，OCEF义工会与您联系安排具体事宜。捐赠者将收到OCEF收据。 义卖时间、地点：6月9日上午10点到下午3点在Prairie View Train Station（2701 N. Main Street, Buffalo Grove, IL 60089）的Vernon Township Community Garage Sale，摊位号105-108。
Let Us Sell Your Old Stuff to Support Rural Education
In 2015, the Greater Chicago area chapter of OCEF launched the first charity sale and received overwhelming support from the local community. Since then, the charity sale has become an annual event that many look forward to. In 2017 nearly $2,000 were raised through the charity sale and all of the proceeds were used to improve education in impoverished rural areas. The 4th annual charity sale of 2018 has now arrived, and we look forward to your participation!
Donation Period: Up to June 5, 2018. Items Accepted: Small household items in good condition, such as toys, bicycles, small exercise equipment, small electronics, crafts, and home décor. Items Not Accepted: Car seats, high chairs, clothes, furniture, and bulky items. Where to Donate: Downtown Chicago, Vernon Hills, Buffalo Grove, Hoffman Estates, and Naperville. How to Donate: Scan the QR code below and a volunteer will contact you for specifics. OCEF will provide receipts to donors.
Time and Place of the Charity Sale: 10:00 am to 3:00 pm on June 9, 2018, Vernon Township Community Garage Sale at the Prairie View Train Station (2701 N. Main Street, Buffalo Grove, IL 60089), Space Nos. 105-108.
As in past years, we will also have a bake sale at the same time. We welcome your kids to show off their baking skills and encourage you to donate small pastry, drinks, etc.