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Lending A Helping Hand

February, 2008
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04 Sunday Morning (3)Though under great pressure from their rigorous high school study, Grade 11 students from the Beijing BISS International School have just worked on a new project — “Adopt a Village” in Hebei Province, north China.

   It all started with their visit last October to the Hebei village called Shi Ba Jia Cun, where the 26 youngsters volunteered to teach at the only local primary school. To all of them, the memory of the day was unforgettable.

  “Their school has fallen to pieces,” as one BISS student recalled.

  There are about 100 children, which is 25% less than the school normally has because many families are afraid to send their children to school because of its dangerous campus facilities. For example, the primary school has closed one classroom because it was too dangerous and its roof had fallen down. The poor structure of the school made it very hard for the children to learn, especially during the freezing winter time; one cannot imagine how the children can sit in the classroom like eight hours a day with no heating but broken glasses on the window. However, that is the only school the village children can go to.

  Identifying with the situation, the students quickly decided to help build a school for the village children through the “Adopt a Village” project initiated by Free the Children. Free the Children is the world’s largest network of children helping children through education, with more than one million youth involved in its innovative education and development programs in 45 countries. Starting its work in rural China in 2002, Free the Children receives aid requests from China on an ongoing basis from Hebei and Gansu provinces in north China. These provinces are under extreme social pressure; the average annual household income is approximately US$90. Free The Children is committed to building more primary schools in these provinces in order to provide education to underprivileged Chinese children.

  To build a six-classroom school house, which includes teacher quarters, new bathrooms and new classrooms requires a total of US$30,000. Like it is said, “it really does take a village to help a village!”

  When the kids get back to school, they started organizing events to raise money. The last event they held wa04 Sunday Morning (4)s a sponsored run on BISS  campus. For example, if a student runs 10 laps, they can raise 10 RMB for the cause. About 40 children took part in this event.

  The good news is that several other international schools including the International School of Beijing, Western Academy of Beijing, Dulwich College Beijing, Canadian International School of Beijing, Beijing City International School and International School of Tianjin all extended their helping hands to this project. At the upcoming Spring Carnival on May 17, BISS students are hoping to work together with their counterparts from the above schools on a rock concert for fundraising. Other small projects like inter-school soccer tournaments are also under discussion.

  “So far, BISS has raised about RMB8000, and we are hoping to raise the money by October 2009,” said Stan Covington, CAS Coordinator at BISS and also the project coordinator.

  According to Stan, the Free the Children philosophy is that village development requires four things: education, alternative income, health care, water and sanitation. The first thing is education so there has to be a functional school there.

  With this village, they just start the first part of building a new school; while “ADOPT” itself means a long-term relationship. Stan believes the whole thing will not IMG_4432stop when the money is raised and the new school is set up.

  “Our long-term plan also includes sponsoring the children so that they can go to middle school later on,” he said.

   According to the project coordinator, the Grade 11 students will visit the school again during their Service Week in September. Then they will help find the new school location and design the campus.

  You can check on the progress of the project at: http://adoptavillagegin.wikispaces.com/, and please do remember the words written on the wiki space:

  "A man never stands as tall as when he kneels to help a child." – Unknown.

 

By Xing Yangjian

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