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.

All we knew about the child was that she was a girl, in 11th grade, and that her name was Xiao Hongma, the “little red horse”.

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.

Xiao Hongma is in Gansu

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.

Xiao Hongma is in Gansu
Stone House
Dry Gansu

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!



Robert holds a Master of Laws degree from Uppsala University, Sweden. He has spent the last 20 years living and working in Asia/Australia. During this time, he has worked on corporate and commercial legal issues and transactions as well as resolution of intra-state armed conflicts and peace-building in various jurisdictions.

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Education Sponsorship

Education Sponsorship

63% of rural left-behind children are unable to attend high school, and only 8% reach university. CRC's Education Sponsorship program provides students with a sponsorship of 2,775 RMB/year to attend high school, vocational school or university.The sponsorship helps impoverished students cover their yearly school tuition, boarding fee and basic living expenses such as books, clothes and transportation. Help them achieve their dreams, change their future, and effect a positive change in the future of China!

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Life Stories


Huang Fumei

"I like reading. My primary school teacher used to say that knowledge can change one's destiny. So born to a poor family, I hope that, through my own efforts, I can get admitted to the university and find a good job afterwards, and thus change my destiny and resolve family difficulties.“

I have a big family with my elderly grandparents, my father and mother, two younger sisters and a younger brother. Grandpa is 71 years old and too senile to do manual work. His job now is to take care of the grandchildren and keep the house. Grandma is 70 years old. She often suffers dizziness due to high blood pressure, which she always has to take medicine to control. We would feel relieved as long as she can take care of herself.

One of my younger sisters is a high school freshman this year and she's a quite good student. Both of us are in high school now and high school costs. Tuition, books, and living expenses all need money. My little brother and the other little sister are in the sixth grade of primary school. Tuition and books are free at that level because the government pays for them. However, we all need to pay for our living expenses, learning materials, and stationery.

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