Karin Semler

Looking Back and Looking Forward

One of the pillars of CWEF’s development work has been to support the educational journeys of high-achieving girls from rural areas of China whose families are experiencing difficult financial challenges. Thousands of teens have been able to complete their high school education through tuition support and student development programs that support their mental and emotional health, preparing them for life after school and for their future vocations.

In 2015, the United Nations established 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with targets to improve lives for people worldwide. SDG4 is “Quality Education” with the mission to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”  

Many of the young women that have received support from CWEF not only graduate from high school, but also achieve strong results on the highly-competitive gaokao (National College Entrance Examination), making it possible for them to continue on to university. As SDG4 promotes, the quality education these young women receive in their teen years provides them with the opportunity for lifelong learning and career success. Completing this challenging and high-pressure educational journey changes these students’ life directions and will impact their families for generations afterward. 

Recently, two CWEF High School Scholarship program graduates wrote back to us to share about their experiences during their first year at university:

Xi is a graduate of Leju High School in southwestern China. She is now studying “elderly health care and management” at Baoshan College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 

In a recent letter, Xi expressed:

“Time passed quickly, and I graduated from high school in a flash. Over the past three years, my [scholarship] has given me great support not only in life, but also in spirit. I remember when I was about to take the college entrance examination. In fact, I was very nervous….I was so nervous about my grades, and I could not relieve my inner tension. Thank you [CWEF] for coming at just the right time to provide us with psychological counseling support. Through some activities during the workshop that day, I learned methods to relive my psychological pressure, and also relieve my nervous mood. Thank you for your efforts!”

Another recent graduate, Yan, attended high school at Zhaoyang No. 1 High School. She was recently admitted to the University of Traditional Chinese Medicine of Yunnan. 

From university Yan reflects:

“I’m very grateful for CWEF’s support, which enabled me to experience three busy and fulfilling high school years. I am full of hope. High school and college are different—I find it very novel and confusing at the same time. I am learning more knowledge and I am also making new friends from different places, and I participate in many activities. Life is more colorful. I am going to make a better plan for my studies and life. I will set goals, study hard to learn medical knowledge, and I hope to help others in the future.”

Thank you for your generous support that makes it possible for young women like Xi and Yan to stay in school, gain a quality education, and be positioned for a bright future! In these notes from university, they expressed their gratitude for the critical support you provided to further their academic careers, and also, crucially, to help them grow and develop their own personal social-emotional well-being.

Looking back and looking forward, they are motivated by purpose and filled with hope for the future.

Cultivating a Healthier Future for Mrs. Hun’s Family

In fall 2020, CWEF staff and local partners surveyed 50 families in several villages in Tboung Khmum province to assess their health needs. A request for water wells had been received, and research was done to assess the overall health situation, as well as other needs and opportunities in the area.

Mrs. Hun, her husband and 16-year-old son are one of the families being served by CWEF’s HEAL (Health Education, Advocacy & Literacy) project, which is providing Water Wells and BioSand Water Filters in addition to HEAL community health education training, in which local health advocates are identified and trained through a series of in-depth Training of Trainers (TOT) sessions.

Mrs. Hun’s family

Many families, like that of Mrs. Hun, face a myriad of challenges. Her husband of 28 years is disabled, adding difficulty for eking out a living in the countryside. Sadly, their son has also suffered from the after-effects of meningitis, which he contracted at the age of nine. Lack of clean water compounded the health problems for Mrs. Hun and her family.

The HEAL community health training seeks to provide both a growth mindset around community needs and opportunities, and specifically a deeper awareness of healthy habits related to basic health, sanitation, and hygiene. CWEF staff must find creative ways to provide the training to ensure understanding and encourage a change in behavior. In the case of this HEAL health education training, roughly a third of the participants are illiterate. The effectiveness of BioSand Water Filters and new water wells can only be sustained through health education and the integration of new healthy habits.

HEAL TOT (Training of Trainers) at Tboung Khmum

For this work, CWEF’s Cambodia team uses the mindsets and resources from the Global CHE (Community Health Evangelism) Network. In Tboung Khmum, we are partnering with Pastor Chea Sareun, Deaconess Kim Ly, members of the local church, and others from the surrounding villages who want to work toward positive change in their own communities.

CWEF projects provide a platform for encouraging sustainable change, aiming for long-term improvements in people’s lives. Project recipients are treated as partners as they receive awareness and training to enhance their livelihoods. Projects like HEAL provide both needed infrastructure, such as water filters and/or water wells, and deeper health and hygiene education for the whole community.

CWEF’S Kanhchana Thoy, with local church partners

Gifts like yours provide life-changing BioSand Water Filters to families like that of Mrs. Hun. Her husband and son will have an improved quality of life as they are spared from additional water-related illnesses. Daily life for Mrs. Hun is positively changed as her access to clean, reliable water is given through your generous support.

Meili’s Meaningful Service and Promising Future

“I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand,” is a well-known Chinese proverb attributed to Confucius. Active involvement in community health education is a hallmark of the HEAL program, through the training of adult and children health advocates.  

CWEF’s Senior Programs Director, Jenny Chu, shares:

“There is a great advantage to training young health advocates since they easily learn and can change their behavior. Once they have new health knowledge—like the importance of hand washing or brushing their teeth—kids can develop good habits and improve their wellness.”

Nineteen-year-old Meili is a high school senior in Lufeng County, Yunnan Province. She is from the Miao people group, which has its own unique language and culture. Meili was trained as a local health advocate and played a key role in the HEAL training activity in her home village of Beiyinqing during December 2020.

“Most older adults and younger children [in Beiyinqing] do not understand Mandarin Chinese. Meili, who is bi-lingual, explained the health lessons in the Miao language and combined the information with her own personal experience.”

Jenny Chu

Made possible by your generosity, a total of 18 children and 20 adults participated in the December training session, which covered personal hygiene, coronavirus prevention, and safe use of pesticides for the adults. Proper handwashing has always been a cornerstone of the HEAL curriculum, but “now school teachers value this part of the project even more. What happened in 2020 has drawn more attention to the importance of health education and good hygiene habits.”

Because of your generous gifts to the HEAL project, Beiyinqing village will complete construction of four new water cisterns in time for the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) holiday. The new facilities will improve access to drinking water for the villagers, increase water access for domestic and livestock use, and increase irrigation reservoirs, improving farming and animal husbandry for the farmers in Beiyinqing. All of these improvements will improve the personal health and environmental sanitation for the whole community.

Parents in the village value their children’s education and support the training of youth health advocates and the subsequent education of their peers. The water and hygiene projects for the community can help to raise the quality of life and income for the families in the village.

A common path for those who are educated is to later leave Beiyinqing in search of better paying work, to help support their family members back in the village. The adults hope to raise the standard of living at home, so that their talented youth don’t need to leave for work, but can remain an integral part of community life. 

Meili shares this outlook of internal motivation to solve problems and find solutions without waiting for outside help. Her mother has admired Meili’s persistence and enthusiasm for learning. She hopes Meili will be able to go to a good school and have a bright future.

Meili is an exemplar of a peer leader, having already volunteered in other public welfare activities in the summer of 2020. She brought valuable skills, ideas, and language ability to the CWEF health education training for younger students in her village. Students who participated in the health education training will serve as health advocates for their fellow students—teaching them important health knowledge and modeling good habits.

As she looks to her own future, Meili hopes to study theology at a university in Yunnan, so that she can continue to teach and serve her Miao people in their own language and culture.

Thank you for your partnership in making our shared vision become a reality—where villages like Beiyinqing filled with people like Meili can grow into thriving communities, serving and inspiring hope in others.

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