Li with Her Older Brother in Her Hometown
As one of the beneficiaries of the SOAR Foundation, learning to be thankful is the greatest gift I got from the SOAR Community!
I was an introverted girl with a low self-esteem from rural Sichuan, and I had twice faced a dropout crisis first in high school and then in college. After junior high school, my family intended to let me go out to work to earn money like many other kids in my hometown. Life at home is hard just to survive, education for the village kids seemed too extravagant a luxury to afford. Back then, the theory of Useless Education was very popular in China, especially in rural areas. People thought that every line of business produces its own champion through apprenticeship without a formal education, and it seems superfluous to insist on an education for those who could not afford it. Joining the labor market early can also feed our families as soon as possible. Once I was even doubtful of the value of education. Now I can very strongly affirm, contrary to many people’s perceptions, education has already given me an opportunity to move to a big city, and obtain knowledge in college lecture halls as a law student, my experience proves that education is useful!
In ninth grade, I was lucky enough to be awarded a SOAR scholarship. I did not have to drop out of school and SOAR had become my lucky star, because it provided annual scholarships all through high school. After college entrance exams, I was admitted to my dream school in Chengdu, the first one to go to college in my family! My father and my whole family were very proud of me and supported my decision to enroll. But college costs much more than high school, and my family still have difficulties paying for it. After graduating from high school, I did not receive any information about college scholarship from SOAR. I tried my luck again by writing to my sponsor, Ms. Xu, as listed on my SOAR Named Scholarship, hoping to get in touch with her to apply for a SOAR college scholarship. I thanked her for supporting my high school education since 9th grade, saving me from dropping out then. Now I am facing another drop-out crisis, this time from college! But my letter lost its envelope in the process of transmitting from SOAR’s office in Beijing to San Francisco, until a determined SOAR volunteer in San Francisco tracked me down on WeChat to follow up on my request. Imagine my surprise when getting a chat message on my cell phone six months later! I was too sensitive, and I could not believe that I got a reply to my letter from six months ago, from a stranger. This is how I returned to SOAR, and rejoined the big SOAR family.
Last July, SOAR Foundation Nominators Conference was held in Xi'an, China, I shared my bewilderment with Ms. Xu while volunteering at the event: "Why some people suffer a bitter fate of life while other people enjoy the sweet paradise in life.” All my college roommates are from the big cities, every one of them is an only child. I am from the remote mountains, and my family has to support three children in school. Other families have background and connections, and mine does not. My roommates have financial safety nets, and I do not. People like me with no background can only find success in life through relentless effort. Ms. Xu told me that life is not fair, but each success is built on previous struggles and efforts, and more efforts leads to greater success. In this struggle, education is the great equalizer. SOAR creates a more leveled playing field, providing access to education, opportunities and success in college and beyond.
Now a sophomore in college, I rely on SOAR’s scholarship for tuitions and room and board. For living expenses, even though I never asked for money from my parents, my bank account is never too short of money, because my father always sends my living expense the moment he gets paid his monthly wage, because he wants me to live more comfortably in the city. I work very hard on my studies, ranking high in my class. I desperately work for my own success and a better life for my family. I also hope to help others however I can, just like the SOAR volunteers who helped me, with the same love and spirit. No joy without hard work, no gain without pain, and happiness comes from overcoming misfortunes and challenges.
Before I met with the SOAR team in Xi’an, I have been at a loss about a question, why would SOAR donors help us students in rural China whom they have never met? And for what reason we could accept this generosity? After getting a good introduction of SOAR’s mission and programs in Xi’an, I began to understand that SOAR has a purpose to help us complete our education, and everything is derived from love. Many SOAR team members were retired grandparents in the US, they are extremely sincere, and they make me feel so warmly received as if I was a family member. Indeed, SOAR is a big loving family, and in this family, our work, study and life experiences are exchanged and encouraged. Every member of SAOR community has a responsibility. We are the beneficiaries of SAOR’s love and generosity, and naturally we should pass on the love and give back to the SOAR community.
Each SOAR scholarship recipient has his/her own story of almost dropping out of school. We are lucky to be recognized by SOAR. SOAR does not simply give us financial support to continue our education, but also guidance to our lives and careers! Any doubts, any sufferings, SOAR will face them along with us!
Thank you, SAOR Foundation!
Li (right) at SOAR Conference in Xi'an, July 2016