Hope in the Depth of Sichuan
Earlier this year, Accurpress (Suzhou) Machinery Co., a prominent Canadian manufacturing company and leader in Corporate Social Responsibility, generously sponsored 34 students in Sichuan’s Daliangshan area. So at the end of November, representatives from Accurpress, joined by Century 3 Inc. and Soprema (Shanghai) Construction Material Trade Co., travelled with Community Roots China (CRC) to Daliangshan to visit these students face to face, and gain a deeper understanding of their realities.
Daliangshan is a mountainous region identified as a national poverty area, composed of mainly Yi minority group. The majority of adults in the villages are illiterate, and the average household income is around 5,000 RMB per year. There is a saying, “If Daliangshan is lifted out of poverty, then the whole nation of China is lifted out of poverty.”
In these mountains, relatively few students are able to obtain an education. Those who have made it to high school have already had to overcome numerous obstacles, from their family’s opposition to poor learning environments. Now, they face the additional challenge of tuition fees, boarding costs, and other school and living expenses, which can amount to more than 3,000 RMB per year. Even so, the young people are striving for a better future for themselves and their families, and dreams of graduating high school and attending college.
Our group flew from Shanghai to Chengdu, then drove for 6 hours to Xichang and spent the night there. Early next morning, we headed to Daliangshan. It was snowing that day, creating hazardous road conditions with many flipped cars along the way. Fortunately, we were able to finally arrive at ZhaoJue Middle School safely after a harrowing 4 hour drive.
Thanks to government support, ZhaoJue Middle School, like many schools in the countryside, is physically well-built. But many students struggle financially to be able to attend the beautiful school. We had lunch with the sponsored students, and got the chance to meet each one personally and hear a little more about their family background, their hopes, and their aspirations. Their hopes for the future are colourful and varied, including becoming teachers, lawyers, professional sports, designer, translator, dancer, actor, government official, or simply attending a good university. Yet many of them also told us, “Our dreams seem so far away.”
All of these students board at the school or rent rooms in nearby areas because their homes are too far away. We were able to visit 4 students’ homes and greet their families in a whirlwind afternoon. These friendly students opened their homes and their hearts to us, and we were able to learn more deeply about their lives.
Ah Ga (阿呷) is one the girls we visited. She is currently in grade 11. She proudly tells us, “My sister and I are the only girls in my village who goes to school. Many people told my parents that girls should get married or work instead, but my father, though illiterate, believes in the value of education and insisted that we continue with school, despite opposition from relatives and the financial hardship it causes for the family.”
While chatting with Ah Yi (阿依), she shared that during her schooling, she once ran out of money for food. “I borrowed 5 yuan from my friend, ate only buns for breakfast and lunch, and no dinner, for 3 days.” At the time, she was so disheartened and hungry that she wanted to quit school, but her father encouraged her to persevere. “Whatever the boys can do, you can also,” her father told her. Now, she wants to be a lawyer or a translator, because she has good grades in politics and English, and she wants to help people after she graduates.
In the families that we visited, most live in single-room houses without running water or electronic equipment, keeping warm through fire pits. On our way back to Xichang, we saw a group of children walking in a neat line by the side of the highway – this is their everyday routine, walking far along these mountain roads to get to and from school. For the children in these villages, the farthest they have ever been from home is school. They’ve never even been to Xichang, the closest town. If they do not have the opportunity to go to school, they may be limited to the mountains their entire life.
Though we were only able to visit for a short time, the experience of meeting these bright young people will stay with us for a long, long time. It was a pleasure to have met them in person, see their environment, hear their story, and know that the education sponsorship is helping to bring them one step closer to realizing their dreams for a better future.
Our deepest gratitude to our hosts, Principal Ma of ZhaoJue Middle School and our field partner AiYiHang Charity Service Centre, who are doing amazing, impactful work in the region. Thank you also to Accurpress, Century 3, and Soprema for joining us, as well as all of our warm hearted corporate and individual sponsors who are making a difference everyday through their generosity.
There are 66 more students at ZhaoJue Middle School awaiting sponsorship, along with the hundreds of other student across 6 other provinces where CRC’s Education Sponsorship operates: Guizhou, Guangxi, Yunnan, Gansu, Qinghai, and Inner Mongolia.
Your gift of hope will be impactful beyond your imagination. Join us to give these students a brighter future.