Joshua Lange

Ounpich is Cheerful, Resilient and Healthy

Fifty-year-old Ounpich is a gregarious person. She laughs throughout conversations and gestures confidently with her hands. Ounpich beams as she talks about her 27-year-old son. He studied management at a university in Phnom Penh and is now working for World Vision, the global Christian non-profit organization. She is extremely proud of him.

Ounpich mainly grows rice and raises chickens for her daily needs. Her cheerful exterior alone might never reveal the issues she encounters as a farmer in Cambodia during extreme seasons. She showed us how far the floodwater reaches by pointing to a spot on the stilts supporting her house — sometimes up to eight feet. When it floods, she cannot work in her fields. Consequently, Ounpich can go without an income for up to two months each year.

The harsh contrast to the flooding season is the drought that comes during the summer. Ounpich says the ground has been especially dry this year, and she must water the plants three times a day in order to keep them healthy. Besides working in the rice fields, she tends a personal garden behind her home, where she grows many more vegetables. She eats some of these herself, gives some to neighbors, and sells the rest, which earns her about 20,000 riels (about $5 USD) per day.

Ounpich has benefitted significantly from the BioSand Water Filter that CWEF provided to her. She uses the filtered clean water for daily drinking, cooking, cleaning, and brushing teeth. Ounpich’s health has improved greatly as she no longer gets ill from drinking unclean water. Using the BioSand Filter also frees up the time she used to spend each day collecting firewood to boil water from a nearby well so that it can be safely consumed. With overall improved health, Ounpich is better prepared to face the challenges of a farmer’s life.

Your generous contributions to this project make it possible for CWEF to renew health and hope for people like Ounpich who are facing the challenges of rural poverty.

In addition to the gift of Biosand Water Filters, CWEF trains families in proper maintenance of their filter, along with education on proper sanitation and hygiene, and its effect on disease prevention and overall health. With proper care and maintenance, each water filter can provide a family with clean water for more than 20 years.

In 2020, we hope to reach even more families in Ounpich’s community with the precious and transformative gift of clean water. A gift of just $25 provides clean water for one child, and $100 provides clean water for an entire family.


Yufeng’s Smile

Behind Yufeng’s smile is a story of rare hardships and also precious optimism. She is the eldest of four children, born to farmers in rural Yunnan province. Yufeng’s mother was injured in a traffic accident and cannot perform much manual labor. Additionally, her parents provide care for Yufeng’s grandparents.

At the age of eight, Yufeng began suffering from a rare and serious bone infection in her leg. Doctors recommended amputation, but her parents refused the advice and spent most of their scarce income on medical treatment to spare her leg. Yufeng’s medical challenges continued when she was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 2011.

Yufeng shares, “Although my foot is disabled, I think my mind is important and I have a thankful heart.” She began High School in 2016, with the support of a CWEF scholarship, at the age of 23.

“My family is poor so I study harder than others. I want to change it. When I’m in trouble, I always face it bravely.”

Her strong spirit was tested again in 2018, when she underwent surgery on her leg to treat varicose veins, which caused her to repeat her second year of high school. Tragically, Yufeng underwent another surgery in 2019 to remove a portion of her lung, following a pulmonary infection.

In spite of everything she has been through, Yufeng has developed a wonderfully positive outlook on life.

“My life is full of sun. I will smile at everything. I think attitude is everything. I will never give up on my dream….in the future I want to become an English teacher.”

Yufeng wants to “change her frustration into wealth” and use the pain and difficulty she has experienced in the first part of her life to enrich her adult years.

Yufeng is grateful for the love and care that she received from CWEF, her teachers, classmates and others, many of whom fundraised online to help pay for her surgeries. She plans to graduate from High School in June 2020, at the age of 27. Without a doubt, her smile will continue to radiate hope and joy as she takes the next steps into pursuing her dream of becoming an English teacher.

Thriving with Confidence and Health

Jianming, a shy 16-year-old, aspired to become a Health Advocate within his village of Tuanjie. Jianming is from a Miao minority family and lives with his parents, both farmers, and his younger sister who also aspires to be a Health Advocate.  Typical of subsistence farmers, it is necessary for Jianming to work alongside his parents while balancing his educational obligations. Daily life is not easy for his family and others in the village, but they understand the hope of improved health.

The process of becoming a Health Advocate involves interviews and subsequent trainings. In March 2018, Jianming participated in his first advocate selection screening.  On that day, his anxiety got the better of him.  Jianming showed up late to the screening, lacked confidence, and was introverted during the whole process.  Although the teen did not perform to his highest potential, he was nonetheless selected to be a Health Advocate. His level of education and personal potential stood out in spite of his nervousness.  

Health trainings were held in July and November 2018. Advocates are taught fundamentals of good hygiene, importance of hand washing, disease prevention, wound care, and proper food preparation. Although he had many other responsibilities such as school and his chores on the farm, Jianming completed both of the two full-day trainings.  Jianming’s performance was in sharp contrast to his first interview.  He was able to express himself clearly and confidently; his social and communication skills had improved significantly.

Upon completion of the health training, Jianming began leading health trainings for his fellow villagers.  He has developed a strong sense of responsibility and is very effective when instructing others.  CWEF Health Programs Director Jenny Chu shares, “Jianming is looked up to by his peers and has earned respect within his community.  He takes his role very seriously and is passionate about helping others.  Although his family needs his help on the farm, they see the good he is doing and his potential and allow him to continue his work as Health Advocate.  He has become a competent and confident young man who plays an important role in the health promotion in Tuanjie.”

Reflections from REACH teacher training

At the end of May 2019, CWEF worked with two seasoned trainers from Hong Kong Lutheran Social Services (HKLSS) to run a REACH training workshop for 30 teachers at Leju High School in Zhaotong, Yunnan province. These are the teachers who work on a day-to-day basis to educate and equip the young women who are supported by CWEF’s High School Scholarship program at their school.

During this 3-day workshop, the trainers from HKLSS focused on concepts and methods related to experiential education, teamwork, cooperation, and adolescent psychology. The trained teachers will be able to use these new concepts and skills to enhance their support of CWEF’s High School Scholarship recipients.

Thank you for your generous gifts! You are making it possible for these young women to not only continue their education, but also to have their education enhanced through special workshop experiences like this one.

Below are some reflections about the REACH workshop written by Yang H., one of the participating teachers from Leju.

In the summer, Zhaotong’s weather is quite unpredictable. When Xiaohui and Bobo (the HKLSS trainers’ Mandarin Chinese nicknames) arrived in Zhaotong together with CWEF staff Maggie and Jenny, the weather was starting to get cold. The four teachers showed up wearing thin summer clothes and worked so hard to bring us the REACH training workshop about experiential teaching methods, which moved and inspired all of us teachers here in Zhaotong.

Allow me to share more of our experience with you:

Our principal Mr. Zhou began by introducing the trainers:

“Teacher Xiaohui has come from afar and has a new teaching method to share with us.There’s a new philosophy…”

Honestly, at the beginning, we were skeptical. We have been through a lot of training workshops before, and many of these lectures have started the same way.

Then we learned that Xiaohui and Bobo’s salaries are actually very low, but they have both been doing social work for ten years. And then Maggie and Jenny from CWEF said they also have been working in the social sector in Yunnan for more than ten years, too.

The weather was cold but their hearts were warm, and we were moved by their persistence and dedication. 

As the training program began, Xiaohui and Bobo first gave us an introduction to experiential teaching.

“Let’s forget our jobs for a moment and let go of those heavy burdens for a while.”

To be honest, it’s usually very hard for someone to touch your heart when you meet them for the first time. 

But Xiaohui started off with a series of interactive activities with fun, exaggerated behaviors and flamboyant expressions, and everyone was brought in quickly to this new world of experiential teaching methods.

At that moment, we put down the heavy burdens we carry with us all the time and realized:

Life is so beautiful. We can actually relax and enjoy it for a while.

During the workshop, Xiaohui and Bobo first led us to design our own team flag, team name, and slogan. Everyone came up with their own ideas and provided valuable input for the team. Before we knew it, the colleague you were just meeting has become a friend.

Throughout the activities, we feel bad for the team’s failure, and we applaud the team’s success.

When all the teammates stood in a circle and were walking laps together, all of us were united, all hands were afraid to let go. At that moment, all the heartbeats were quietly beating together.

We are united.

Only when a team is united can it go farther and see higher.

On the third morning of the workshop, Xiaohui and Bobo led the group together to design and organize games for each team.

There were disputes over design, conflicts of opinion, and corrections to the plan along the way…

There were team members’ collaboration, persistence, and efforts …

We learned how to design games for use in our teaching and what to consider when designing a game, and how these games can make our work with students more effective and engaging.

In the process of playing, Xiaohui and Bobo turned complex theoretical knowledge into a meaningful learning experience.

It’s a great lesson for us and it will improve our ability to positively impact the students we work with.

When the trainers come to Zhaotong next time, I hope the clouds will part and the sun will shine for them.

– Written by Yang H., Leju High School teacher

Finding Fulfillment

Life is filled with many expectations. We anticipate and dream about life, especially building a future. With each generation, there is a hope to improve one’s family situation, to become better educated, to earn a higher salary, to provide stability and opportunity for family members and to be healthy and happy.

Yongbing had many of these dreams, but his family’s situation was dire. His parents suffered from illnesses and their living conditions were poor. Yongbing lived in a village in Leju county in Yunnan province with both his older sister and younger brother. With three children in school, his parents had many school-related expenses on their subsistence income.

Through a 2013 scholarship from Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation, Yongbing was able to pay for high school tuition and related fees. The scholarship provided him a way to continue his education and took a large financial burden from his family. Yongbing felt that people cared about him and was very encouraged by receiving the scholarship. In turn, he shared that he would like to help other people when he is able.

“In addition to tuition assistance, many CWEF scholarship recipients receive additional support that is not usually provided in high school through the REACH program. Additional workshops using CWEF’s curriculum are led by trained teachers, to help students with life skills such as time management, career planning and resiliency support,” shares Maggie Li, CWEF Education Programs Director in Yunnan province.

A dedicated student, Yongbing dreamed of continuing his education at university.

“I would dream about the ivory tower… wondering what type of university I would attend. I fantasized about my life as a university student. ‘University’ became a holy land to me.”

Yongbing studied hard for the gaokao university entrance exam, but his score fell below his hopes and expectations. Consequently, he could not apply to a highly-competitive school of his dreams. “Based on my options, I didn’t know how to select another university.” He was accepted to Chuxiong Normal College.

“Once I finally became a college student, it was nothing like I had dreamed of. I deeply regretted attending the school and I considered going back to become a high school student again so that I could retake the gaokao exam.” Yongbing’s family could not afford to pay for his tuition, so retaking the exam was not an option.

“I finally realized that I couldn’t change the situation, but I could change my outlook.”

With this realization, Yongbing began to slowly adapt to college life. Yongbing, like many students, was assigned a major, in his case social work. As his studies progressed, he began to embrace the classes. He reflected on the support that he received as a CWEF High School Scholarship program recipient. Yongbing found time to volunteer and is now looking forward to a career where he can provide help and assistance to others. Not only is Yongbing currently enjoying an internship with a local NGO, but he also has hopes for attending law school one day. Halfway into his college career, Yongbing asserted,

“I think that university is like a big stage that belongs to each student. Here you are both a director and the protagonist. As long as you dare to try, the spotlight will focus on you. Play your role, and no matter what happens, believe in yourself.”

“Yongbing is like many of CWEF’s scholarship recipients over the years,” shares CWEF executive director Josh Lange. “He demonstrates the life-changing impact of an education and the resilience to face challenges with success, which is fostered through CWEF’s REACH workshops. We’re thankful to hear stories of young adults like Yongbing, who learn to thrive and through their lives will be able to give back and bring hope to others.”

Rui’s Story

We met Rui in 2015. She was 17 years old and in her first year of high school at one of our partner schools in northern Guangdong. Rui had a similar story to many of the young women in rural China we have supported through CWEF’s High School Scholarship program. …

Lives and Livelihoods are Interconnected

In a village, the livelihoods of many extended families as well as their struggles are intertwined. Poverty alleviation is a process. The phrase “development work” implies that lasting change requires time and intentionality. To understand the needs within a village, CWEF conducts interviews. Discovering the full situation of families facing poverty allows CWEF to more effectively partner in overcoming these challenges.

Consider walking in the shoes of 46-year-old Yicun from Yanmaidi village in Yunnan province.

Like most others in Yanmaidi, Yicun is Lisu – one of China’s many ethnic minority groups. She attended school through grade 9, which is typical for her generation in this area. Yicun and her husband have two adult children, a 22 year-old son who is a construction worker in another province and an 18 year-old daughter who is in nursing school. On their small plot of land, Yicun and her family farm tobacco and chili peppers as their main source of income. The costs for her daughter’s nursing education consume a majority of the annual income. Yicun and her husband are proud of their efforts to save and pay for her schooling. They look forward to the day when she graduates, in three years, with the hope that their quality of life will improve.

Health issues impair the family. Her mother-in-law suffers from gastric ulcers, which cause dizziness and more recently fainting spells. Consequently, she is unable to assist with farm labor. Yicun has suffered for years from a gynecological disease. A visiting county doctor diagnosed her condition and prescribed medication. But the side effects were very severe and prevented her from work in the fields.

The Yanmaidi village has had access to a drinking water system for years, but the structures are increasingly breaking down. The whole village’s water system is connected. Consequently, the neighbor’s problems affect Yicun’s access to reliable clean water. In an attempt to address the issue, the villagers each chipped in a little money and elected a person to become the designated on-call pipe repairman.

Yicun’s husband was chosen, but the work was overwhelmingly unmanageable. The frequent calls, at any hour of the day or night, prevented him from tending to his own farm and livelihood. He recently quit. These days, Yicun needs to go to the water source, a spring, to collect water for her own family and also for other villagers.

You can enable CWEF to partner with villagers like Yicun by helping install or repair drinking water systems and by providing health training to improve their overall health and sanitation. Development is a process, and you can take part by helping families like Yicun’s to thrive.

Training Student Health Advocates

In his late 50’s, Mr. Tie has held a solid position at the Shuangjiang County Center for Disease Control and Prevention in south west Yunnan province. This region is home to many ethnic minority groups in villages that have been lagging behind in development. CWEF has partnered with county offices to install drinking water systems for many of these villages. He has witnessed and helped to facilitate many projects for rural families facing poverty.

The installation of a drinking water system changes the daily life of villagers in many ways. But to achieve improved health, people need to learn how to prevent disease and to receive all the benefits of accessible water. CWEF provides this type of educational support through the Health Education Advocacy & Literacy (HEAL) project.  One of the cornerstones of the HEAL program is training health advocates, who model and teach good hygiene practices including hand washing, teeth brushing, and disease prevention measures.

CWEF health projects director Jenny Chu enlisted the help of Mr. Tie to initiate the HEAL project at Banggai primary school. His background in disease prevention was instrumental in conducting baseline surveys of the children’s health situations and then creating easy-to-understand educational materials for the students and teachers.

Although this was the first time Mr. Tie worked with young children, he felt the training was very successful. Teaching children good hygiene habits can last a life-time. He believes that through the health education program, “educated students can influence children who are the same age and even their parents.” This is a core component of the HEAL program, that children and adults receive training and are advocates for good health practices like hand washing and proper food preparation techniques.

As Mr. Tie approaches retirement, he hopes to continue serving with CWEF as a HEAL project volunteer. His training was well received by the primary school students and teachers.  He hopes to “have more time to focus on health training and pass on the health knowledge to more people in need.” CWEF is thankful for partners like Mr. Tie who are using their talents and knowledge to help create thriving communities.

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