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.