Meeting Xiao Hongma
Earlier this year we (my wife and I) decided to sign up with Community Roots China (CRC) to sponsor the education of a child in Gansu.
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a CRC-arranged trip to Gansu. Meeting Xiao Hongma was part of the itinerary and I was excited. I would be able to put a face to the name and actually meet her.
Honestly, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had heard that Gansu is one of the poorest provinces in China and that water is pretty scarce. Would it be dirt roads, ubiquitous (visible) poverty, and the like? [NB: We lived in India for many years.]
We left Shanghai on 17 May in the early morning. Within a few hours we touched down in Lanzhou, the provincial capital. I was immediately impressed. The airport seemed brand new and a high-speed train was available. It looked like many other Chinese airports I have visited. But the surrounding area was arid, very arid.
After a few hours in a car – on good roads! - we reached Guanghe High-School. I was immediately impressed with the physical structure of the high school. It was big and there were dedicated areas for physical activities. It all looked pretty nice.
We were welcomed by one of the school’s principals. He invited us upstairs to a meeting/class room where two petite girls dressed in school uniforms were waiting for us. One of them was introduced to me as Xiao Hongma. She respectfully shook my hand and I respectfully shook hers. (Oh darn how I wish I could speak Chinese!) Almost instantly the room filled-up with other students and the ‘meeting’ commenced. All but one of the 18 attending students are currently sponsored through CRC.
All of the students introduced themselves and shared their life stories. I was very impressed with their bravery; to stand up in front of one of the principals and some foreigners and tell your story takes some guts! Some of their stories made me teary-eyed. I was so happy to hear that all of the kids had dreams about their future – about what they want to do with their lives. Some wanted to be doctors, others teachers. One even wanted to draw comics. Xiao shared with everybody that she wants to be a teacher. You could do worse than being a teacher, right?!?
All of the kids are from a minority ethic group (Hui), come from what I would call broken homes, and are in need of support. Many of them stay with a grandparent or grandparents. I told all of them (through a translator) that having dreams is one of the most beautiful things there is. And, of course, I reiterated that education is key to realizing many of the dreams.
After an hour or two with the students it was time to visit Xiao’s home. The students board at the school during the week and only go home during the weekends.
At Xiao’s home I met with both her grandmother and grandfather. (Double-darn how I wish I could speak Chinese!!!) I tried asking Xiao a few questions in my ‘broken Chinese’ and she gladly responded as best as she could (understand the questions). It was a privilege to see how she and her caretakers live.
Soon it was time to say goodbye to Xiao and her family. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I was grateful for the opportunity afforded.
We visited several schools during our three days in Gansu and, believe me, there are a lot of kids out there who need your assistance to realize their dreams.
Keep up the good work CRC!
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