Dear SOAR volunteers and donors,
I hope all is well with you!
With deep appreciation, I want to say “Thank you! It is your unselfish love that made me who I am today!”
First, let me briefly introduce myself. My name is Hong L. I was born in October 1985 in an impoverished peasant’s family in the mountainous area in Guizhou Province. Now I am a teacher at a rural elementary school, and I teach primarily Chinese, English and music. I have two daughters aged eleven and one. My husband is also a teacher at a rural elementary school.
I am very fortunate, as I was awarded the SOAR scholarship. When I was in my last year of middle school, my older sister was in high school and my younger sister was in her first year of middle school. With the high school entrance exam approaching, and considering the difficult financial situation of my family, I decided to enroll in a normal school so that I could get a job earlier to help my parents to support our family. Both my teachers and classmates tried to persuade me to apply for a top ranking high school, because they had always considered me an excellent student. But in the end I still decided to apply for a normal school. A few days before the entrance exam in 2000, my teacher called me to her office. She asked: “Hong, are you sure you want to apply for a normal school? If so, please fill this form for SOAR scholarship. You have always been a good student so we think you are very likely to be admitted. The scholarship is only awarded to students who apply for normal schools. Hopefully you’ll get it so you can focus on your study.” I was so excited to hear the news. For the first time in my life, good luck bestowed on me! I still remember clearly how my hand shook when I was filling the form, probably because I was too excited.
I ranked number 1 in the entrance exam in the region and was admitted by Kaili National Normal School. When I heard the details about the scholarship soon after the school started, I was ecstatic, because the scholarship would cover almost the tuition for the entire year. It would have been a tremendous relief for my family! I felt so lucky at that moment! When I went home during the weekend, I shared the good news with my parents. They were so happy that they couldn’t stop smiling. My mom said with tears in her eyes: “God knows that we need help so He sends help at the most difficult time. We must put you through school, no matter how hard it is. Those nice people cared so much about you and we can’t let them down!” Each year, when I received the scholarship, I would deposit it into a special bank account, and I would give the deposit book to my uncle who worked in the city for safekeeping. This deposit book was a sacred document and no one else could touch it. My uncle would withdraw a certain amount of money from it when I needed to pay for the school registration fee and living expenses. While I was studying at the Normal School, my older sister was studying at Guizhou University, and my younger sister was at Kaili Number One High School, a key high school in Kaili. I studied diligently at school and actively participated in many academic activities, which helped me grow and improve.
With the three of us attending schools at the same time, the tuition and living expense added up to a significant amount. Both my parents were peasants who earned their living by toiling in the field. Since we didn’t have enough farm lands, our food supply was only enough to last us for half a year. My parents had to find other ways to make money in order to buy enough food for the other half of the year. To make it worse, they also had to come up with tuition for us. The education cost put our family in a severe financial situation. We were probably the poorest family in town, and our house was the ugliest – it was hardly even a wooden board house. But my parents took education seriously. Many people laughed at them for spending so much money on the education of three daughters. What was the point of doing that! But my parents never gave up, and worked strenuously for every penny and dime. They said they were determined to put us through school no matter what price they had to pay. Growing up in such an environment, both my sisters and I were inspired to work extremely hard in our study. One year, at the beginning of a semester, my parents finally managed to come up with the registration fees for my sisters. Mom’s face finally brightened up. She said to me: “You are so lucky to receive the SOAR scholarship. Otherwise I don’t really know where else we could get more money for your registration fee!” During the three years at the Normal School, I received over 5,000 RMB for scholarship, which helped me finish my study. The word “SOAR” also rooted itself deeply in my heart, reminding me that I am the daughter of SOAR and a member of the SOAR family!
Soon after I graduated in July 2003, I became a teacher at a rural elementary school. I always tell my colleagues and students that I was assisted by the SOAR scholarship, and that there are many kind people in the world. Ever since I became a teacher, I have been working very hard. I give my love to each and every one of my students, just like the volunteers at SOAR gave their love to me. For over ten years, my students have always excelled in academic prowess and in other areas. I myself have won many awards in various activities and teaching competitions. Over the years, I’ve given up many opportunities to work in the city, as I think teaching in a rural school fits me better.
In the blink of an eye, 15 years have passed since I graduated from the Normal School. After I graduated, I lost contact with SOAR. But today, after 15 years, I finally got back in touch with them. It feels like I have come home. Today, I am flourishing in my teaching position, and both of my sisters are doing well in their jobs. We all have our own happy families, and have bought cars and houses in the city. Our big family is also getting better and better. We’ve built a big house and our parents are enjoying their late years.
Without the help of SOAR, I wouldn’t even be close to where I am today. I will remember the love of SOAR forever. I will also try my best to help others, and to spread the love of SOAR.
Finally, I want to thank all the volunteers and donors at SOAR. I deeply cherish your love and will do whatever I can for SOAR whenever needed.
I wish you all the best in your job, health and life.
Hong L, Daughter of SOAR
November 28, 2018