April Chiasson

She’s Transforming Her Village

Xingqi is a nineteen year old woman from a village in Yunnan belonging to the Miao ethnic minority group. When CWEF’s team first came to Xingqi’s village, they discovered many hazardous health conditions there. For example, farm animals lived inside the same houses with people. Livestock manure lay on the floor inside homes and throughout the village. Many families dumped trash behind their houses, and the trash continued to pile higher and higher. 

Xingqi’s village has 23 households that all belong to the Miao minority ethnic group. There are over nine million Miao people in China today, and traditionally, the Miao are known for their elaborate embroidery and silver jewelry. 

In 2015, CWEF began a clean water project for village residents. After establishing basic facilities for clean water, several villagers volunteered to participate in a program called HEAL (“Health Education, Advocacy, and Literacy”). Through this process, a core group of residents were trained to become health advocates for their own communities. 

Xingqi with the other residents from her village that volunteered to train as community health advocates

In Xingqi’s village, CWEF first implemented a strategy called Training of Trainers (TOT) where previously-trained health advocates from nearby Miao villages trained the Miao in Xingqi’s village. This process reinforces learning for the recently-trained health advocates. Also, when local people train their neighbors, they speak in their native language and share their culture which makes the health training more effective.  

And who showed up to the HEAL training? Xingqi, who was just starting middle school, and her mother. While Xingqi and her mother seemed nervous at first, the CWEF team also immediately recognized that these two women possessed outstanding communication and leadership abilities, and both women quickly mastered the new health knowledge and skills. 

Xingqi participating in HEAL (Health Advocacy and Literacy) training

Through health trainings, Xingqi learned about many topics such as: the safe use of pesticides, the hazards of abusing alcohol, how to treat children’s fever and much much more. As a core health advocate in her village, Xingqi came up with creative methods for promoting health education in her community, including using sketch performances with self-made props!  

Xingqi organizing a health promotion skit

CWEF taught procedures for maintaining environmental hygiene which explained that poultry should be kept in captivity to prevent zoonotic diseases, that livestock and people should live separately, and that garbage should be allocated to one communal place. 

An aerial view of part of Xingqi’s village

Xingqi said that the environmental sanitation and health conditions have changed significantly in her village. Now, one quarter of the community dumps their trash in a designated communal pit. And when you go out, it is rare to see livestock manure. All in all, Xingqi and her village enjoy a much cleaner and healthier living environment!  

Xingqi dressed up in traditional Miao clothing for a special occasion.

Thank you for your generosity and for making it possible for people like Xingqi to have opportunities to grow and thrive through life-changing health education and community advocacy!

This article was written by Jenny, Senior Program Director in Yunnan; translated from Mandarin into English by Qian Qian, Volunteer; and edited by both Joshua Lange, Executive Director, and April Chiasson, Communications Manager. 

 

How She’s Giving Back

Dropping Out of School

Her name is Sreymom; she is Cambodian. She grew up in a village as the oldest of five children. Sadly, when she was just twelve years old her mother died. Then helping her father earn an income for the family became her responsibility too, and after she completed sixth grade, her father asked her to begin full-time factory work.  

Sreymom describes, “In my village, mostly at the age of 12–13 years old, (the young people) will (lie about) their age in order to work in a factory. They don’t want to study but want to work in a factory where they can earn money and become beautiful. However, I don’t want to work there. I want to study even though I don’t know what it will become. I still want to study. ” 

At twelve years old, Sreymom was underweight. When factory managers saw her small size, they refused to hire her. Not a single factory accepted her. However, every other one of Sreymom’s friends, who were of normal height and weight, received job offers and began working full-time in factories just like they had dreamed of. 

After all the factory rejections, Sreymom’s father sat back and considered what to do. If not in a factory, where else could he find work for Sreymom? Soon he found a skills training center in Kompong Chnang province for women who had dropped out of school. The center taught marketable skills like sewing and cooking. 

An Unexpected Opportunity

Sreymom really did not want to go to the training center. She wanted to continue her formal education. But she could not speak up or refuse her father. So in the end, she left home and began the multiple day journey to her new life at the skills training center. On the way, she stopped to lodge a single night with one of her relatives. The relative worked as a cook at a Christian orphanage called the Child Rescue Organization (CRO). This ‘chance’ visit would change Sreymom’s life forever.

While she was visiting, the CRO manager also met Sreymom and found out about where she was headed and why. In that one evening, the director ended up inviting Sreymom to live at CRO instead and pursue her studies there. After some initial surprise and discussion, Sreymom eventually agreed.

But the decision didn’t come without cost. When Sreymom’s father found out about the sudden change in plans, he became upset; and for the whole first year, he couldn’t support it.  He very much wanted Sreymom to give up her formal education so that she could earn money. But finally, the CRO director was able to talk with her father and explain the benefits of Sreymom furthering her education, and Sreymom’s father eventually agreed.

The Love and Care of Strangers

When Sreymom first heard of God at CRO, she was incredulous. She firmly committed herself to not believing in him. However, day by day, God used the people at the center to give Sreymom some of the love and care that she had never experienced before.  

She confesses, “No one forced me to believe in God at all, but their kindness and love from people that I have met…they treated me like family. And that made me open my mind unnoticedly.”

Through CRO, Sreymom eventually successfully completed middle school and also high school. But then, she faced a new problem: she could not afford college.

College Problems

At this time, Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation (CWEF) was introduced to Sreymom and took up her case. CWEF fundraised through generous people like you to provide Sreymom with the necessary funds and an opportunity to fulfill her college dream.

And then, thanks to her own determination as well as a scholarship provided through the kindness of people like you, a well-known university in Phnom Penh admitted Sreymom as an English major!

At university, Sreymom faced many other battles including the fact that mastering the English language was incredibly challenging. At one point, she almost wanted to drop out of college altogether. But…her now personal faith in God kept her strong. Throughout this season of Sreymom’s life, CWEF staff continued to surround her with encouragement and a loving community. 

Sreymom’s Success

And in the end, she made it! Not only through middle school but through college. She achieved the dream that at one point looked impossible. After successfully graduating from college, Sreymom received job offers with good salaries from schools in Phnom Penh. But she turned down every single offer. Her desire wasn’t to make a lot of money. Instead, she desired to give back to the people that gave so much to her. Now she is working full-time at the Child Rescue Organization that she used to live at providing English lessons to more than one hundred Cambodian students for free.  

Today Sreymom says, “There are many kids who need my help to provide them with knowledge, and this is the best way that I could contribute back to my community.”   

Sreymom is grateful to Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation and all those who helped her on her journey! Now she can use her knowledge and story to inspire the next generation of students to not drop out of school but pursue their dreams instead.

It’s extremely exciting to see how everything Sreymom has learned, spiritually and educationally, is already spilling over and building up the next generation! Thank you for helping to break the cycle of poverty for young people like Sreymom through your generous giving and support of Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation.

Sreymom graduating from university surrounded by her classmates
Sreymom with some of her students

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This story was written by Panhary, CWEF Education Program Coordinator in Cambodia, with April Chiasson, CWEF Communications Manager.

No More Night

Hel, a Cambodian man from a rural village, used to run with a disreputable crowd. Back then, he worked mostly in secret under the cover of night. But all that changed in 2014 when he attended a Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation health education and literacy (HEAL) training project with a bunch of his buddies.

When Hel was growing up, the school near his home only offered classes through sixth grade. Because of this, he never had the opportunity to attend high school. But the new information he suddenly learned about health and sanitation through the HEAL project felt exciting to him. He believed the new information was vital for the future welfare of his village, and it completely changed his perspective on life. He soon decided to earn his living in a completely different way and began working for local NGO’s toiling to improve his own community and increase the level of child literacy.

After several years of steady service for his community, Hel is now 38 years old and serves his village as the Sunday pastor. No longer wanting to conceal his activities under cover of night, he now farms cassava during the day to support his wife and three children. It’s amazing to see how one educational opportunity can transform the trajectory of someone’s life for the better!

We’re thankful for Hel, his heart for service, and all that he’s doing to empower his own village community in Cambodia. And we’re thankful for you and your generous gifts to the HEAL program! HEAL project participants develop awareness and receive training to serve as health advocates in their own communities. The HEAL program also provides needed infrastructure, such as water filters and water wells, along with hygiene education for the whole community.

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Help change more lives like Hel’s by donating to CWEF programs here.

This story was written by Kanhchana, Director CWEF Cambodia, with April Chiasson, Communications Manager.

Let Love Spill Over

Hello everyone! My name is Qiu Qiu.

Thanks to Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation, I was able to finish high school and meet a lot of caring people. These people have shown me that there is no lack of love in this world and that love is always around us!

Among the many caring people I met, the one who impressed me the most was Dolphin, CWEF Program Director for scholarship recipients in Guangdong at that time. Dolphin was like a bright light for my heart, showing me the way. She was like a big sister who always encouraged me and the other students and helped us solve our problems. When I was in college, I learned that Dolphin was a social worker. So I vowed in my heart that I want to become a person like Dolphin and help more people. But although this dream is very beautiful, it is very hard to achieve.

In the end, because of my college entrance examination scores, I chose a university that did not have a social work major and ended up applying for the English major. I wanted to speak English fluently like Dolphin. But things didn’t turn out like I hoped. The year that I applied for the English major entry was very competitive, and I was not accepted.

I was down for a long time knowing that I would become a teacher instead rather than a person like Dolphin. I didn’t know if I had what it took to become a teacher. But Dolphin told me once, “Haiyan will be a loving and energetic teacher. I believe the students will like you very much!” After she said this, I was so happy. Because of Dolphin’s encouragement, deep inside I was sure that I would become a loving, energetic and popular teacher someday. It was Dolphin’s affirmation that gave me direction for my future.

Sadly, these days I rarely participate in charity activities. This is because of the nature of my work and the travelling distance. Although I can’t participate in charity activities like I did with Dolphin in college, I have slowly realized that my love has still never stopped spreading. This is because I am focused on my work as a teacher.

Now my goal is to educate my students well, cultivate their good habits as well as their love for others from childhood.

Now my goal is to educate my students well, cultivate their good habits as well as their love for others from childhood. I can help them to grow up in a loving environment, and then they will have the ability to help more people in need. Let love spill over; let love warm the earth; let love flow forever!

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Thank you for your generous giving to Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation scholarship fund for Chinese girls!  Because of you, young women like Qiu Qiu have received the love and support they need to achieve greater heights! And more than receiving an education, these young women also learn the beauty and power of love and are giving back to their communities.

Read more about the impact of your giving here on our blog!

See more videos and snapshots of the work you make possible by following us on Facebook!

*This letter was originally written by Qiu Qiu in Mandarin. It was translated via software into English and then edited by April Chiasson, CWEF Communications Manager.

a recent photo of a young Cambodian scholarship recipient, Ruth

It Was Just Like a Dream

“There’s no use studying. Your family will never make it out of these rice fields. But if you go study in the city, be careful not to come back pregnant.”

Ruth, a young Cambodian girl, heard these words from her neighbors more than once. They pierced her heart every time. But she is strong. “I am going to prove them wrong,” Ruth said, believing that God would provide a way. 

Ruth was born on an island without enough teachers. To get a better education, her parents sent her far away to live with her grandparents and three of her uncles, who often drank too much. Through tears, Ruth still recalls nights when her intoxicated uncles did things like smash through their household door with an axe.

Grabbing a bite to eat

Ruth’s father works in farming and construction as well as selling fish, snails, and frogs. Still, resources were few. “I didn’t have books to read,” Ruth admitted, “or enough study materials for my schoolwork…” 

But eventually, through your generous donations to Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation, Ruth received a scholarship to attend university in Phnom Penh, and her life completely changed: 

Ruth teaching other students

“Honestly, it was just like a dream…” she said. “I could get away from the cursing voice of my uncle. It is just like freedom and peace. Now I can go to university and live in a beautiful dorm. God is so amazing.” 

Ruth studies and serves God diligently. In the past, she taught free classes for children and served at her church. Today she plans to major in biological engineering and hopes to inspire her community with farming technology to raise livestock and produce healthy canned foods. In the future, she hopes these agricultural initiatives will support higher education for children in her community. 

Thank you for your generous giving! You are an integral part in breaking the cycle of poverty and helping students like Ruth experience a brighter future! 

Learn more about your impact through CWEF!  Read Phanna’s story.

Connect with a community that’s passionate about supporting young scholars like Ruth!  Follow us on Facebook: @cwefhk

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Article written by Panhary Port Puth (Cambodia Education Programs Director) with April Chiasson (CWEF Communications Manager)

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