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. 


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Clean Water with Clear Impact for Chanthy

Chanthy, 38, raises her two children with her husband who is a farmer in Samrith village in Kompong Thom province. Their day begins early, with her husband going to fish with a hand-held net around 5 AM. On a good day, he will catch several big fish, which he can sell at the market. Smaller fish are cooked for the family’s meal along with rice and vegetables that they grow for themselves. Chanthy tends to the chickens, ducks, and vegetable farming while their children are at school. 

While their diet was well-balanced, the family often suffered from a variety of illnesses like abdominal pain and headaches. “My husband had typhoid and my children were weak from diarrhea,” shared Chanthy. Since other families in her village suffered similar sicknesses, she considered it normal and didn’t wonder about the root cause of their health problems.

“One day, the village chief come to invite me to join health training from CWEF. I already heard about this organization a few years ago, and that they provide bio-sand filters to families in our area. So, I went to listen to the training. I increased my knowledge of health issues, especially the negative effects of unclean water. After finishing the training, I really wanted to get the bio-sand filter soon because it`s very beneficial for my family.”

In 2019, Chanthy received a bio-sand filter from CWEF. She and her family immediately noticed the improvement to the quality of their water. The water was more transparent and the family’s food tasted better. “Nowadays, I don’t need much time for boiling water for my family, and they can drink whenever they want to.”

The bio-sand filter has positively impacted Chanthy’s family in measurable ways. “Our family is not rich, but at least we don’t get sick often like before. I have been saving some money with my husband to expand our animal raising. Right now, we have 30 ducks and 20 chickens, both big and small together.”

She concludes, “Thank you so much to CWEF for bio-sand filter projects that come to help my community and make us more aware about health and provide us with safe water!”

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Yanmaidi project complete!

by Jenny Chu, Jesus Arroyo & Josh Lange

The cistern is now complete, the pipes are laid, and each family in Yanmaidi has renewed access to reliable, clean drinking water! Because of your generous giving, our friends in rural Yunnan province have received the beautiful New Year’s gift of renewed health, hope and vitality after years of frustrations and limitations.

CWEF staff traveled to Yanmaidi on January 10 to celebrate the completion of the project with the village’s families and local government leaders.

Prior to the completion of the new water system, Yanmaidi’s drinking water had been delivered using a series of old, low-quality plastic pipes that looped around the village. These pipes were degrading and fragile. The pipes would burst during the rainy season due to an overload of water and would freeze during the winter causing similar problems. During droughts, the water system was unable to deliver water effectively, causing many residents to hike 800 meters to a nearby reservoir to collect water, several times per day. The outdated system required constant maintenance and left families with no water when things went wrong. Even when water was available, the quality of the water was not good because of contamination in the system due to constant pipe breakages.

100% of the village households made contributions to bring the project to a successful completion. Each family contributed a small amount of their own money and a considerable amount of their own physical labor to complete the project.

During her recent visit to help celebrate the project’s completion, CWEF’s Jenny Chu also facilitated a health training session focused on drinking water safety, personal hygiene, prevention of common illnesses, safe use of pesticides, and women’s health care.

Jenny Chu meets with women in Yanmaidi to discuss women’s health care

Zhang Zhenghua has resumed his role as the water system manager (in a previous story, we highlighted Zhang’s wife Yicun). Zhenghua and Yicun expressed their delight with the completed project. Zhenghua no longer worries about being woken up at midnight to fix a broken pipe. Pipe repair will no longer be a daily struggle for the Zhang family, which will give them more time to focus on their crops and other work. With his newfound time, Zhenghua hopes to be able to improve his family’s life by raising more livestock of their own.

Here are a few additional notes about the project’s ongoing maintenance, which all residents agreed upon and committed to at a recent village meeting:

  • The water system fee will increase from 5 to 10 yuan per person per year. Zhenghua’s salary will stay the same, and the additional 5 yuan per person will go to a fund to be used for maintenance and repair costs.
  • Every six months, a team of three will work together to clean the main cistern.
  • CWEF plans to conduct a comprehensive follow-up evaluation of the project at Yanmaidi in 2022, two years after the project’s completion.

Yanmaidi’s village leader, Zhang Linzhong, expressed his deep gratitude to everyone who has made this project possible. He shared that in the future they hope to improve on the water system by expanding it to reach more of their fields. He also shared his dream of installing street lights throughout the community, and in the future plans to expand sales of their organic produce to nearby cities where they will sell for a better price.

In closing, Mr. Zhang shared with us that he plans to live in Yanmaidi with his family for the rest of his life, continuing to help the village that raised him as a child to grow and thrive.

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Goodbye Broken Pipes, Hello Renewed Lives

by Jenny Chu, CWEF Yunnan Health Programs Director

When I first visited Yanmaidi village in September of 2018, it didn’t look much different from other villages in this part of Yunnan province. Most of the buildings are made of mud bricks and concrete, along with a few modern-style buildings. However, when I entered my host Mr. Hu’s house, he had a surprise for me. He picked up a wooden board from the ground to reveal a small pit underneath, and he showed me the buried water pipe under his home that had cracked due to wear and tear over time. He had dug up his floor in order to repair it. He told me this was typical throughout Yanmaidi, and that many of the families in the village had the same experience.

Mr. Hu has played a key role in the drinking water project in Yanmaidi. He sought out CWEF’s local partner in Lufeng county through his own contacts, assisted in the pre-project baseline survey, and hosted visitors from a CWEF service learning team for meals at his home in Spring 2019.

Mr. Hu is 37 years old. He was born in Yanmaidi and, together with his parents and grandfather, continues to live and work here as a farmer. The family grows wheat, corn, chili peppers, and yams. They also cultivate chestnut, walnut, and bayberry trees, as well as collecting wild mushrooms in the forest areas surrounding their village. Previously, Mr. Hu had moved away from Yanmaidi to work as a seasonal migrant laborer for two years.

In recent years, life has been getting better in Yanmaidi. A paved road was recently built all the way into the village, and cash crops are increasingly replacing traditional crops, slowly creating higher incomes for village families. In 2018, the average annual income per person was 3,500 yuan (about US$500).

One exception to the positive trends in Yanmaidi has been the village’s drinking water system. The system’s pipes have been wearing out and breaking down for years, and many families’ water frequently stops flowing, mainly due to water pipes constantly rupturing and needing repair. When the water supply gets cut off, Mr. Hu and other families need to walk about one kilometer to go collect water. Going back and forth multiple times every day to carry water consumes valuable time and energy, which they could be using to attend to their farming and other labor work. As you can imagine, the deteriorating water system has created many frustrations and limitations for the families here.

Each family in Yanmaidi is participating in the drinking water project supported by CWEF by contributing a portion of the required funds from their own meager incomes, along with the physical labor needed to dig trenches and lay all of the new pipes and cisterns that will make up the renewed system.

When the project is completed, Mr. Hu and everyone in Yanmaidi will feel a strong sense of satisfaction and ownership in their village’s drinking water system. After years of frustration and limitations, they will be grateful to say goodbye to hours of wasted time carrying water and hello to renewed health, hope and vitality.

Through the end of December, generous friends of CWEF have pledged a 100% match for all gifts up to a total of US$20,000. Give clean water to one family in Yanmaidi, and a second family will also be blessed with the beautiful gift of a reliable, convenient source of clean water!

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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

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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.”

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