Community Roots China
Introducing Community Roots China, a charity organization focusing on getting corporations to give back to the kids.
"Communities" is our regular column about just that. It is everything you need to know about a given social organization, group, charity, club, etc. in a convenient, easy-to-read package.
Corporate giving is still in its infancy in China. The world's largest GDP, as a whole, gave 15.3 billion USD in charitable donations in 2014, less than the 17.77 billion USD that corporations alone gave in the US. Community Roots China (CRC) is an organization working to develop this area by engaging companies to sponsor disadvantaged Chinese children to get high school and university educations.
Read on to learn more about CRC, the problems they are tackling, and what you can do to help.
Marie-Lucie Spoke, a former Canadian foreign service officer, started Community Roots China in 2011. The organization began by running the One Heart Program, which distributed gift bags to poor students and orphans in 18 poor and distant rural provinces. The program was based on the Giving Tree program, which Spoke previously ran for Community Centre Shanghai (a program that still continues today).
But after 5 years of running the One Heart Program, Spoke found that the gift bags were not the ultimate solution to improve the lives of the children. Since then CRC has moved to Education Sponsorship to help rural children get a high school or university education.
Community Roots China is registered as a consulting company (due to the difficulties of registering as an NGO in China) but operates as a non-profit. CRC keeps its overheads at 15% and operates with a Board of Advisors composed of lawyers and business executives. CRC partners with Shanghai Rende Foundation, a registered Chinese charity, which can handle contributions requiring an official donation fapiao.
What They Do
China's 9-Year Compulsory Education law mandates that students receive free education from grade 1 to grade 9 (middle school). However, students wishing to continue their education in high school must pay tuition, which range from 4000-5000rmb a year with room and board included. Often times, the parents' annual incomes might only add up to a bit more than the school's cost and thus the children of poor families are unable to attend.
CRC’s approach is to directly sponsor the children through corporate donations. CRC has built a network of schools and educators throughout China who identify the students most in need. For these students, CRC gets companies to give 4000rmb yearly sponsorships so that the students can attend high school.
Students are held accountable and must provide report cards to CRC and the sponsor every semester to prove that they are passing their classes and attending school. If a passing report card is not provided, the sponsorship ends.
The total cost to sponsor one child for one year is 5000rmb, which includes a 1000rmb administrative fee for CRC to pay its staff and facilitate the program. The fee is paid to CRC, but the 4000rmb sponsorships are transferred directly to the child's personal bank account.
CRC is now partnering with Shanghai Rende Foundation so that companies wishing to write off their donations as an expense for tax reasons can transfer the money to the students through the Rende Foundation.
Currently CRC has over 260 students sponsored. Their goal is to have over 500 students sponsored by June 2017 and 1,000 by December 2017.
But CRC’s mission isn't only to help disadvantaged rural children. "We also wants to trigger a sense of corporate social responsibility within Chinese corporations and involve the Chinese people inside the corporations," says Spoke.
Over the course of 6 years, CRC has worked with 72 companies, but only one of them has been Chinese-owned. Spoke hopes to help the philanthropy sector grow in China through corporate social responsibility. CRC hopes to change that ratio through the education sponsorships and their new partnership with Rende Foundation.
How To Get Involved
There are several ways to get involved with CRC. The best way is to have your company invite CRC to do a presentation. From there you and your company can sign up to sponsor one or many children. Sponsors will receive the name, background, and location info of the child they are sponsoring, and they will receive report cards twice a year directly from the child. On top of that, your company can match the donation that you and other employees make, and can travel with CRC to visit the students in the interior.