Twelve years ago, an “accident” occurred while I was on a reporting mission: during an unexpected encounter in a remote village in China, three tattered notebooks and a letter were thrust into my hands, and Destiny took a spill without knowing what had hit her.
A few months later, a two-page spread I wrote for the French newspaper, Libération, brought a reaction of solidarity and generosity from a dozen or so readers, and the adventure we would call “Enfants du Ningxia” began.
After twelve years of actions for which we feel an sense of immense collective pride, the Board of the Association has decided – and it is heart-wrenching - to close Enfants du Ningxia.
Victories over fate
From the start, the Association could boast several strengths: we never thought we were superhuman, never claimed we would save China or the world. Our work was simply the fruit of a marvelous surge of solidarity; we acted without hesitating. And the source of it all was the exemplary determination of one child, Ma Yan, who wanted to go to school.
Thanks to the donations of hundreds of generous donors, thanks to the royalties from sales of The Diary of Ma Yan, thanks also to the work of numerous volunteers, each child we were able to help is like a little “miracle” resulting from that surprising encounter in Zhang Jia Qiu. Every child symbolizes a small victory over the fate that poverty makes practically inevitable.
And there are dozens, even hundreds of these little miracles. The first one is Ma Yan herself who was able to follow her dream of studying – at the Sorbonne no less! – and also of offering a better life to her parents, one of her most profound wishes expressed over and over in her diary.
And there are so many others… Like one of our scholarship students whose life was teetering on the edge of guaranteed illiteracy and who became the first girl ever from her village to graduate from university.
The countless stories gave us the force and the desire to pursue our actions and encouraged donors to renew their support.
The growth of China and the “weariness” of donors
During the last decade, however, China has changed. It has become much richer, is now the second economic power of the world, has seen – and is still experiencing – a massive rural exodus. Part of its population no longer lives in poverty, but the price paid is visible in the profound social and regional inequalities that our friends in Ningxia know only so well.
The work of the Association became more and more difficult.
- Our presence in China was reduced when I came back to France.
- The impact of The Diary of Ma Yan was a long time ago;
- Our resources have diminished progressively because of the economic downturn, the weariness of donors, the increased demands on foundations and other sources of funds;
- The sometimes ambivalent feelings of helping children in a country that has now become rich while poverty is more widespread closer to home discourage potential donors.
The reasons for our making our decision to end such an exceptional adventure are multiple. While we encountered only positive experiences all along the way, we feel it is necessary to turn the page before we find ourselves in dire financial straits. Thankfully, some of our direct sponsors have agreed to see their students through to the end of their study cycle.
Thanks to all!
We extend our thanks to all of the numerous people who were part of this surge of solidarity which was exceptional and efficient, and always discreet.
We thank the volunteers who, for over a decade, were the indispensible cogs in the wheel, who never counted the hours and the energy spent but did the job solely in the interest of human kindness and justice.
And we offer our congratulations to all of the children of Ningxia who we were able to help leave behind a destiny marked by misery and ignorance. May they have not only the luck to lead the lives they have dreamt of living when they asked for our help, but also have the desire to help other children achieve fulfilling lives.
So we are turning the page in the history of Enfants du Ningxia with a feeling of having been useful. Our actions were maybe a drop in the bucket on a global scale but a mountain for each human being in question. The impact of Enfants du Ningxia will continue, we hope, beyond the Association’s lifetime, in the hearts of everyone who participated in its story: donors, volunteers and… the children of Ningxia.
Thank you to all.
As the Program Coordinator, I visited Ningxia from April 18 to April 25, as below please kindly the detail report.
Regular Visiting Report
Visiting Date: April 18 to April 25, 2013
Attendee: April Lai, Bai Juhua (Our local coordinator)
1. Objectives of the Visit
2. Main activities:
- Those 44 beneficiaries include those with direct sponsor, supported by earthpluse, the status is suspend in WXS’s report, other beneficiaries not be visited more than one year
- No. of beneficiaries visited every day
2013/4/19, visited 4 beneficiaries
2013/4/20, visited 12 beneficiaries
2013/4/21, visited 12 beneficiaries
2013/4/22, visited 8 beneficiaries
2013/4/23, visited 8 beneficiaries
- Suggestion after visiting (Among those 44 beneficiaries)
Continue supporting: 29
Suspend the supporting because of uncomplete information: 2
Have already graduated from college: 3
Stop due to better condition or fake information: 9
- This year the France HK school decides to donate school uniforms and schoolbags to 660 students in 3 primary schools
- 3 schools basic information (Please refer to attachment)
4. Next Action Plan
Wish you all Happy New Year. We have several things to update for last season.
Firstly, please allow me to introduce myself. I am April Lai, EdN’s new Program Coordinator, and I will replace our familiar friend Blandine Ricouart effective from January 2013. I am very excited to be part of EdN’s team, and I felt I had a long history with Ningxia. It was my volunteer experience guided me to Ningxia the first time; I stayed a month at Gugou Village, Xiji County in Year 2005, engaging with relevant field work including teaching, farming and research, where I had the chance to better understand the poverty situation of the community in Ningixa. There was a child I used to chat with. He passed the Chinese college entrance examination and was admitted to Beijing to study in Central University for Nationalities; it was very rare because that village only had one college student when we were there. Then he told me that my conversation with him encouraged him a lot. I still remember the excitement when I heard from him, as I didn’t think I contributed any value to the children apart from disturbing their peaceful life despite of the poverty. It was exact that experience motivated me to continue my career at Non-Profit sector in China. During last 2 years, I was working in a social enterprise, aiming to assist rural microfinance institutions so as to help poor rural farmers to get out of poverty, where I traveled to Ningxia frequently, most of time to Yanchi and Tongxin County. It felt like that I am deeply connected to Ningxia because now I have the opportunity to work for EdN to help children in Ningxia.
Then, I would like to share EdN’s achievement in last season.
The students of the French International School from Hong Kong arrived at Ningxia on June 18, 2012 and allocated the school materials to Tuochang and Wangwan primary school. They also met the families, shared lunch with them and participated in the morning exercise with the students of Tuochang School. In addition, they got the chance to learn more about Chinese history and culture by visiting Mao’s fort, ruins of the Haiyun’s earthquake or Liumiao’s Taoist temple.
In the coming season, I am beginning to organize my first trip to Ningxia for EdN with the association in order to meet the scholarship students and their families, to evaluate the current needs of the community in terms of education. I will come back to your very soon.
In the last report, we described our June field
mission which was the occasion for us to visit a lot of potential new
beneficiaries. Back in Beijing, we had to review the cases of all of the
candidates that we visited. We are now very glad to let you know that vérifier nombre candidates out of vérifier nombre were selected to be
sponsored by Enfants du Ningxia. Here
is a short presentation of some of them:
Situation : This young girl lives in a small cave with
her family. As the family does not have any income, and as they do not want to
have any kind of debt (they know that they will not be able to pay back those
debts), they live with very little money. As a consequence, Bai Xiaorong cannot
affort to eat properly when she is at school, where she only eat a bowl of rice
during lunch time.
Situation : Both of Ding Xuemei’s parents cannot work
because they are handicapped. They just receive a little subsidy from the
government for living, but it is not enough to pay their daily life expenses
(basically, food). Ding Xuemei’s brother and sister help the parents by giving
them a little money every month. In order to pay her studies, Ding Xuemei has
several part time jobs.
is very useful, as a lot of women in Ningxia suffer from health issues linked
to gynecology problems.
Situation : When the girls’ father died when they were
little, the mother decided to leave and to abandon her two daughters. Since
this time, they live with their grandparents who are very old and also very poor.
As the family is lacking money, we think that when they will be 16 they will be
married, so they will not be a burden anymore. It would be a waste, as the two
girls are very clever.
Situation : Both of his parents died in his early
childhood. He lives in a very small cave, located in a totally remote area with
his grandparents who are in their 80s. Beside them, he has no family.
Situation : His parents are both handicapped. As a
consequence, they do not have jobs and they live on a subsidy from the
Situation : The family has a lot of debts due to a
resettlement policy (families are forces to leave their birthplace and must pay
in order to live in a new house, which is poorly constructed most of the time).
In order to earn money, the parents of Jin Zhijun work as migrant workers in
Inner Mongolia, far away from home.
Situation : She had a very good score on the university entrance
exam, and will probably be able to get into one of the best schools in China.
As her parents are migrant workers and do not live at home, she has to take
care of her little brother when she is not at school.
Mari Seto is an In-The-Field Traveler with GlobalGiving who is visiting our partners’ projects throughout China. Her “Postcard” from the visit in Ningxia, located Northwest of China:
In June, Enfants du Ningxia makes field trips to Ningxia, to interview applicants who applied for scholarships from their foundation. Out of 60 applicants who applied this year, 20 students will receive financial aid to help pay their tuition and living expenses. Ten scholarships will be awarded to those who pursue college education, and the other ten will be awarded to primary school students.
Charlene and I were fortunate to accompany Blandine and Heloise from Enfants du Ningxia, who were there to interview the applicants, and Bai Juhua, the local project coordinator who organized the interviews. We joined them in interviewing 15 students in small villages of Yuwang and Tongxin, located 3 hours from the capital of the prefecture. The first thing that struck us was how far apart the students' houses were: to go around the village, motorcycles were an absolute necessity, and when motorcycles weren't an option, we walked for miles. Blandine told us that some students walk two to three hours to go to school.
Once we arrived at applicants' houses, we were greeted warmly by the student and the family members. As the 30 minute interview progressed, we heard about many challenges that the families are facing: illness, heavy debt, family members moving away from home to work in factories, etc. At the same time, we were impressed by students' enthusiasm to continue studying. When asked what their aspirations for the future, many students answered teachers and doctors, although overwhelming majority of the boys answered policemen.
One of the students that we met greeted us with a "Hello!" which was a pleasant surprise for us. She applied for the scholarship to go to college to study English literature. Like many other students, her family also faces overwhelming challenges. A family member suffers from mental illness and her mother has a lung infection, so her father has to stay home to take care of the family. Her older sibling works in the city to send money home. I can't help but hope that despite her challenges, her dream of pursuing a career as an English translator will become true one day.
Now members of Enfants du Ningxia will go back to Beijing to make the difficult decision of who will receive financial aid. We wish them luck for the decision making process, and hope to visit again soon!
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