by Jenny Chu (Yunnan Senior Program Director) & Karin Semler (CWEF Board Secretary)
CWEF’s vision is a world of “thriving communities, serving and inspiring hope in others.” This is not a “one and done” type of goal—change takes time and real sustainable change happens in the lives of individuals and the communities they serve and inspire. Sixteen-year-old Jianfang is a living example of the impact of becoming a student Health Advocate through the HEAL program.
In 2016, CWEF facilitated a holistic health project in Xishipo, Jianfang’s home village in Lufeng county, Yunnan province. CWEF partners helped to support the construction of various clean water and health-related infrastructure in the village, including a 30 cubic meter water cistern, pumping stations, solar-heated shower rooms, hand-washing stations, garbage repositories, and drinking water pipelines to each household. A hallmark of the HEAL (Health Education, Advocacy & Literacy) project is providing health education and hygiene training (the “software”) for adults and youth, alongside the new infrastructure (the “hardware”).
Jianfang, who is from the Miao minority group, was then 11 years old when the HEAL project was initiated. Jenny Chu, CWEF’s Senior Programs Director in Yunnan, shares about the 2016 training:
“This was the first time for CWEF to use the local language, instead of Mandarin, for the health training. Using the Miao language not only solved the difficulty of knowledge transfer due to language barriers but it also helped to better encourage feelings of solidarity among the participating villagers.”
The health training took place in two phases. The first focused on personal hygiene, environmental hygiene, and nutrition. The second phase of training included information to prevent common diseases, use of medicines, training for safe pesticide use, women’s health care, accident prevention, and substance abuse awareness. Jianfang was in the third year of middle school when she first learned the new information and became a Health Advocate committed to share her new learning with her peers.
Today, Jianfang is in high school and is learning English (by way of an app), together with her intense schedule of daily school work and regular preparation for the looming university entrance exam. The training she received as a HEAL health advocate five years earlier has played a significant role in her life. She shared that the HEAL training planted the seed of a dream. “When I was in primary school, I didn’t know what kind of person I would become in the future. I didn’t have ideas about a future career.”
During the training Jianfang participated in role play presentations for different health promotion activities. “I chose the theme of ‘prevention and treatment of a cold’ and played the role of a doctor. Through this role play I understood the significance of relieving the pain of others.”
Soon after, Jianfang experienced real-life struggles in her family when her sister needed the care of a doctor.
“It takes a lot of time to wait in line to see a doctor, and the result is not always satisfactory,” Jianfang recalls. “At that time, I deeply felt that if I were a doctor, this kind of trouble could be reduced and my family could possibly avoid going to the hospital when they were sick, saving a lot of trouble.”
She also noted the impact of COVID-19: “The whole world is in panic and isolation. When we see the medical staff who stay on the front lines fighting against the virus without sleep or lunch breaks, we are moved.” Now, Jianfang is all the more determined to become a doctor.
Jianfang is inspired to become an “international rescue doctor,” so that she can go to “more difficult places to help those who are really in need.”
Because of your generous giving, young Health Advocates like Jianfang learn life-changing health practices and mindsets. In her case, health education planted a seed and opened her eyes to see how she could make a difference both as a youth Health Advocate but also one day as a doctor.
The vision of “thriving communities, serving and inspiring hope in others” has a name and face: Jianfang from Xishipo village.