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Jul 1, 2020

Preparing for the Gaokao and Bright Futures Beyond

Each year, graduating high school students from across China face one of the biggest challenges of their young lives: the university entrance exam known as the gaokao. Like many students around the world, education in China went online for much of the spring semester. Many rural students lack reliable internet access at their homes and have struggled to keep up with their exam preparations. To allow these students more time to prepare, the date for the gaokao was delayed one month and will now take place on July 7-8, 2020.

As the test date approaches, the pressure intensifies. Students, along with their parents and teachers, are keenly aware that their gaokao scores will be a primary determinant for the future direction of their education and career. Because of this, students prepare extensively for the two-day exam, toiling away for many months during early mornings, long nights, and weekends.

For the students you support, the sense of pressure is heightened by difficult family situations. Often, a student from a low-income rural family may be the first person in their family to take the entrance exam and have chance to go to university. Many of these students suffer heightened stress and anxiety related to the gaokao, even in a ‘normal’ year. During this unique school year, students have been hit with yet another major stressor as they prepare for the gaokao – the changes and limitations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

To help relieve stress and to help students build mental and emotional resilience in the face of the gaokao and future life challenges, CWEF held a Pre-University Workshop at the end of May 2020 for the graduating students you support in Zhaotong. The purpose of the workshop was four-fold:

  1. To understand the students' mindset and status leading up to the gaokao, and to help them make adjustments to maintain a healthy state of mind.
  2. To help relieve students’ psychological pressure and anxiety.
  3. To share helpful tips for taking the college entrance exam.
  4. To assist students one-on-one to deal with any special difficult situations they are facing.

We invited Zhonglu, a counselor and mental health researcher, to serve as the workshop facilitator. Zhonglu serves with one of CWEF’s local partners, the Zhengxin Social Work Service Center of Yunnan’s Wuding county. During one of the main group sessions, she led the students to share with the group related to the following:

  1. My dream or biggest hope for the future is…
  2. My ‘cautious wish’ is…
  3. My current status is…
  4. Currently, my happiest thing is…
  5. Currently, my saddest thing is…

In reflecting on this session, Zhonglu noted:

“Several participating students clearly showed a strong sense of loneliness and heavy stress. At the same time, many of the students shared about the joy that came from the tight emotional connection and strong sense of community they have with their fellow students on campus. Despite facing a lot of stress and anxiety, I was encouraged that the students are finding their own ways to cope. Some students choose basketball and running, and others choose to take a break to write in a journal or chat with their classmates.”

After the students had time to share and receive feedback from their peers, Zhonglu shared some tips from her own personal experience, and closed with an important message:

“Yes - the gaokao is one of the most important things during this stage of your life, but you must work hard to treat it peacefully. If you give it too much of your attention, you will easily be defeated psychologically. This exam will have a strong impact on your future, but it does not completely determine your future."

Thank you for your gifts that have made it possible for these young women to face this key moment of their lives with courage. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers as they make their final preparations for the gaokao in the coming week, and afterwards as they prepare for the bright futures that lays ahead of them!

Jun 29, 2020

Sustained Health and Hope for Sarer

Sarer works in her rice fields
Sarer works in her rice fields

Sarer was a young wife and mother when she was widowed in 1994 in rural Cambodia. Her husband died of malaria, a common malady for farmers in tropical areas. Sarer lives in a multi-generational home with her elderly mother, along with her daughter and son-in-law. She works hard to provide daily necessities for her family.

“As a widow, without a good education, I don’t have any opportunity to work in higher-paying jobs. I work as a farmer, raising chickens, and I grow some veggies,” shares Sarer. “I remember a few years ago, my mom got sick with typhoid and stomach pains, while my daughter’s health was also weak. It required so much money that I took some loans to solve these problems. I thought that sickness is a part of [normal] life … so I didn’t fight to get anything better.”

Through a CWEF Animal Gift project, Sarer’s livelihood started to improve. She received animal husbandry training and five chickens. Her brood of chickens now numbers around 80! With the money from her chicken business, Sarer purchased a rice mill machine. She sells organic rice and uses the rice bran to feed her animals.

Later, CWEF introduced health training and made biosand water filters available to Sarer’s village. “I learned more about the bad effects of using unclean water.” She discovered that the cause of many diseases that her family and neighboring villagers experienced were from unclean water, such as abdominal pain, typhoid fever, and diarrhea. Sarer was very interested in using a biosand water filter. “I thought that I need to protect myself and take care my family from now on.”

Sarer’s health improved dramatically once she received a biosand water filter in 2018. She no longer needs to search for firewood needed to boil and purify her drinking water. “I trust the biosand filter!” she shares. “I use the water for cooking, drinking, and showering. I am now healthier than in the past. I have more strength to work and take care of my family.”

CWEF’s vision is a “world of thriving communities, serving and inspiring hope in others.” Through CWEF projects, Sarer and her family are now thriving. In her own words, she reflects:

“My life is better than five to six years ago. Thank you so much for bringing the development projects - both Animal Gift and Biosand Filter projects - to my community.”

...

Sarer prepares rice for chicken feed
Sarer prepares rice for chicken feed
Sarer with her large chicken coop
Sarer with her large chicken coop
Sarer adds chicken eggs to her incubator
Sarer adds chicken eggs to her incubator

Links:

Jun 18, 2020

Protection for Today, Health for Tomorrow

Guimei
Guimei

In May 2020, student health advocates at Zengyi primary school in Yunnan province received training in specific health knowledge and behaviors, which they have committed to pass on to their peers and to model in their daily life.

Guimei, a 10-year-old student at Zengyi, was selected to be a student health advocate because of her personal discipline, confidence, and natural leadership qualities. She and her family are from the Miao ethnic minority group, and because her home is far away Guimei lives at the school during the week. At home, her family does not have access to sanitary toilets or bathing facilities, so Guimei bathes during the week when she boards at school. It was also at school that Guimei learned crucial health and hygiene lessons through CWEF’s HEAL program.

“I learned to wash my hands frequently, wear masks, have good hygiene, and not eat junk food,” shares Guimei. “If you don’t wash your hands, you will get sick easily. If you don't brush your teeth, you will get cavities, which will affect your appearance.”

When Guimei returned home on the weekends, she advocated for healthy habits with her parents and grandparents.

“I shared my knowledge of hand washing with my mom and dad, and grandparents. Apart from Grandma, they all think it’s very good. Grandma thinks it’s troublesome and doesn’t like this way of washing hands.”  

In addition to these topics, Guimei and other student health advocates learned how viruses are transmitted, how to avoid and treat diarrhea, and how to avoid accidental injuries such as scalding. Health advocate and trainer Ms. Cao shares, “The HEAL project is designed for the basic needs of the rural population. The personal hygiene habits of rural community and primary school students, as well as the basic conditions for maintaining these habits, are still lacking. The project starts from improving people's awareness and solving the problems of water, hand washing, bathing, and other essential facilities, which complement each other.” 

These teachings have been foundational to additional education in the current season about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. The HEAL training included instructions for proper mask wearing and prevention of this new infectious disease. Guimei shares,  

“I hope the coronavirus will end soon, so everyone can return to school. Studying at home is lonely. I feel sad when I cannot learn more knowledge.” 

Guimei’s principal, Mr. Hua, reflected, “The health project is very good, especially for improving the students’ basic health habits. There are more and more students who wash their hands with soap and hand sanitizer. During the dry season, there is a shortage of water in the reservoir. I hope that we can also solve the problem of water shortage.”  

Beyond the current health crisis, Ms. Cao affirms the HEAL program’s value over the long-term for people in rural China: “Good personal hygiene habits and behaviors are the basis for maintaining health, and should continue to be the focus. Chronic disease has been a major health problem in China, and the root of chronic disease can be traced back to childhood.”  

With their new knowledge and the formation of healthy habits, students like Guimei have a better chance for a healthy future in which they can thrive. About her own future, Guimei shared:              

“I want to be a model when I grow up. I like singing and dancing very much!”

Ms. Cao trains health advocates
Ms. Cao trains health advocates
A younger student learns about common symptoms
A younger student learns about common symptoms
Ms. Cao exhibits proper mask wearing
Ms. Cao exhibits proper mask wearing
COVID-19 prevention materials for each student
COVID-19 prevention materials for each student
Handwashing practice
Handwashing practice
COVID-19 teaching materials
COVID-19 teaching materials

Links:

 
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