China

weifang chinese high school scholarship recipient

Paying It Forward

Meet an Inspiring Young Woman Named Weifang

As a young adult, Weifang is living out the value of “local people serving local people.” She has donated much of her time in recent years to serve others.

“In my spare time, I help the community as a volunteer in the local area, especially through anti-epidemic work…. Social stability is everyone’s responsibility. I am one of them, too!”

What Scholarships Make Possible

When she was younger, Weifang was an academically strong student and received a scholarship from CWEF in 2011 until 2014, when she graduated from high school. “I’m grateful for the financial aid from CWEF and the professional guidance I received.” The scholarship relieved a financial burden to her family. “It reduced my personal psychological pressure, and I could devote myself to studying with more piece of mind.”

During her high school years, Weifang and other scholarship recipients received resiliency lessons and social/emotional encouragement. These lessons and activities provide additional support to scholarship students. Weifang remembers them fondly:

“I felt hope for the future, love and hard work for my life and study, and I grew self-confidence. I also gained a group of friends who I have maintained deep friendships with to this day.”

Weifang performed well in high school, going on to Guangdong Technical Teachers College to major in accounting. Once she graduated in 2018 she went on to be an accountant before ultimately shifting to be a math teacher in 2021.

She notes that the scholarship program and additional support lessons have had a long-term positive impact in her life:

“I was able to grow and maintain a healthy mental state to face problems I encounter in life and work.”

Choosing to Serve Others

Weifang joined a group of volunteers, comprised of other CWEF high school scholarship program graduates, in a domestic non-profit called Shining Star. As a volunteer, Weifang began teaching left-behind children through Shining Star’s GROW program.

Supporting left-behind children with Shining Star
With Shining Star volunteer teammates

“When I became a teacher of the GROW program (leading resiliency activities and lessons), I liked the feeling of teaching and learning. It’s destiny! I am now in the education profession.”

Inspiring Future Leaders

Sometimes life comes full circle in more ways than one. This former scholarship recipient and accountant is now paying it forward as a teacher. Being a part of Shining Star’s community has introduced Weifang to her love of teaching, as she is now a math teacher.

During 2022’s Spring Festival, Weifang asked some children what they thought of the volunteer work she was involved with, and if they wanted to do it as well when they were older.

Weifang has been doing a great job of paying it forward, because they all said “Yes!”

Your generous giving to the CWEF scholarship fund made it possible for Weifang, and young people like her, to focus on her studies, complete high school, learn valuable coping skills, and form deep bonds with a supportive community! Each of these is a key component in her ultimate success. And more than that, your sacrificial giving empowered and equipped Weifang so that she can pour into and inspire other future leaders. Thank you for stepping up to help transform the lives of young students in China!

This article was written by Elena Semler, CWEF volunteer.

Meet more inspiring Chinese scholarship recipients! Read Lijuan’s story of transformation here.

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In Focus

Blurry.

That’s what some of the schoolchildren in rural Yunnan see every day. Blurry teachers. Blurry math equations. Blurry characters. If all a child knows is a blurry world, then she might not know it’s possible to see more clearly. Or that simply having clearer vision could make school so much easier!

Because of you and your generosity, 47 primary school students at two different schools in rural Yunnan, China, underwent vision screening this summer. And 27 of those students received a pair of eyeglasses for free! Those conducting the eye screening discovered several children with eye diseases and referred them to local hospitals for follow up care.    

Along with the screening, students also discussed this question: How do you love and protect your eyes? Volunteer teachers taught students and their parents to spend less time on electronic devices and more time playing outdoors. They also learned exercises for their eyes including habitually alternating between looking at objects that are nearby and objects that are far away. In addition, students learned the importance of wearing eyeglasses regularly if they have vision problems. 

Thank you for giving a brighter clearer world to these youngest of students! Now able to see the world in focus, they have the opportunity to excel in all their pursuits more than ever before!

Your generosity not only supports eye screening and education for these precious students, but your gifts also support all CWEF’s HEAL (Health Education and Literacy) initiatives for children in rural China. Through HEAL your donations empower local people to create solutions for local health problems that particularly matter to them. Thank you for your generosity and support! 

*What other community health initiatives are CWEF and its local partners undertaking in China? Read Xingqi’s story here!

*In order to continue partnering with rural Chinese communities through health screenings and health education, we need your support! The donations we receive in one year are used for the next year’s initiatives, and we are currently fundraising. Will you consider increasing your giving and/or becoming a CWEF monthly donor for the first time today?

*This article was written by April Chiasson, Communications Manager with field data gathered and reported by Jenny Chu, Senior Program Director in Yunnan. This article was translated into Mandarin by Qian Qian Long, Mandarin Translation Volunteer.

Lijuan

Dare to Try

Hello everyone! My name is Lijuan, I am from Guangdong province, China.  When I was young, my father, the only breadwinner in my family, fell ill and was unable to financially support my education. And so first of all, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to my teachers and all the caring people of Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation for helping me in my most difficult time and for choosing me among so many people to receive financial support. 

In addition to that, the summer and winter camps held by CWEF & Shining Star every year made me and the other students feel happy and cared for and exposed us to new things and new friends. I have become a more cheerful and confident person because of this organization.  

Looking back on these ten years of schooling, I am very happy that I was able to receive a higher education with the help of many kind people. Growing up in such a difficult family, I knew that only studying could change my fate; so I studied diligently from elementary school through high school. I have been asked many times by other parents, “Do you have any tricks to study? How come you study so well?” I would usually laugh and think, “I don’t have any tricks. It’s just that I have no one behind me, so I have to work hard.”  

The moment I received my university acceptance letter, I was both happy and frustrated. Happy that my hard work for more than ten years had finally paid off, and I could change my destiny; frustrated that my debt-ridden family could not support my college expenses.  Thanks to the good policies of the Party and the Country, and thanks to the kind-hearted organizations like CWEF, I was able to fulfill my dream of going to college!  

I entered the university knowing that the opportunity to go to university is not easy to come by, and I kept telling myself that I should cherish it twice and that studying should be the first priority. So I studied hard and ranked in the top 20% overall, while also pursuing a minor in administration over the weekends.  

Every year I have worked hard to get scholarships, some of which were supplied by Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation, and these scholarships have largely relieved me of my worries. By using the scholarship funds I received only for my studies and real needs and by not comparing my food and clothes to those of other students, I relieved my family of some financial burden.  

As a college elective, I decided to try a new challenge: tennis. When I began, the coach thought I was short and had no advantage in playing tennis. So I just followed the other players and taught myself. When I had time, I went to tennis lessons, played on the courts every day, and consulted with the coach and other players. After another year, I became the best player, and the coach was impressed with me.

The tennis coach wholeheartedly trained me every day.  Soon I became the assistant tennis coach, and I worked part-time during weekends and holidays. Because of the coach’s help and teaching, I became a better version of myself during this period of my life. And after four years of ongoing practice in college, I had the honor of winning the tennis championship my senior year.    

After graduating from college, I began regularly supporting charity work, and I started a tennis club along with some of the other athletes. I also began studying for the teacher preparation exam. I was unsuccessful in the first round of exams, but I studied and prepared for the exams again. Fortunately, I got into the teaching profession. I am now a teacher with a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Guangdong Institute of Petrochemical Technology. I like my job, and my life is the way I want it. Thank you for all the people who have helped and encouraged me over the years.  

Many times over the years, I was confused and torn by the choices I faced, but as long as you follow your heart, not afraid of failure, not afraid of hardship, and dare to try; I believe you will become what you want to be. 

Thank you for your generous donations to Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation’s scholarship fund for Chinese girls! Because of you, young women like Lijuan have been empowered to change their destinies and reach their professional dreams. And now they are helping others do the same.  

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This letter was originally written by Lijuan in Mandarin; translated to English with the help of Qian Qian, CWEF volunteer; and edited for length and flow by April Chiasson, Communications Manager.

This summer, during our Join The Community campaign, we are looking for more people with a heart for students like Lijuan. Would you consider joining The Community as a monthly donor today?

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. 

 

HEALTHY BODIES, HEALTHY MINDS, HEALTHY PLANET

Students at Anla and Heshangzhuang Primary School in rural Yunnan province ended the previous school year and started the new school year strong and healthy. Students at both schools participated in TOT (“Training of Trainers”) activities as part of the ongoing HEAL (“Health Education, Advocacy & Literacy”) program facilitated by the CWEF team and our local partners. These student health advocates will go on to serve others in their families and school communities by sharing the knowledge and healthy habits they have learned through this series of HEAL training activities over the span of 1-2 years.    

Before their schools broke for the holiday, in June 2021 students at Anla and Heshangzhuang learned knowledge and practiced healthy behaviors related to personal hygiene, COVID-19 prevention, healthy diet, eye care, disaster preparedness, and basic first aid training.

These HEAL Training of Trainer sessions were delivered as a collaborative effort — trainers from CWEF along with several partner organizations, including eye care and vision-focused non-profit Education in Sight, Zhengxin Social Work Service Center of Wuding county, and the Yunnan Mountain Eagle Rescue Service Center. Working in concert, our organizations can achieve more, and the training we provide to the students is more effective and has a stronger impact. 

Of equal importance is the varied mode of training that is used during these sessions. Our trainers use games, songs, videos, demonstrations, simulations, and other practical exercises to engage different parts of the students’ bodies, brains, and emotions, so that the knowledge and habits learned will have a better chance of sticking with them, and later, spreading to others in their community.

Jenny Chu of CWEF shares: 

“This way of combining theory with practice makes students learn more intuitively. We are helping them to enhance their awareness first, and then to support their knowledge with action.”

Most recently, in September 2021, students at Heshangzhuang Primary School participated in the third session of their HEAL student health advocate training. After learning to take care of their own health and that of their family and friends, they were introduced to the concept of caring for the health of the planet. The training facilitators framed this sometimes complex topic in more simple terms that connected students back to health concerns they are familiar with:

“The Earth has a fever. How can we help the Earth to be healthy?”

Planting The Seeds of a Dream

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.

by Jenny Chu (Yunnan Senior Program Director) & Karin Semler (CWEF Board Secretary)

Partner with Community Health Advocates Like Jianfang

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.

A Grateful Heart in the Midst of a Tragic Year

written by Elena Semler, CWEF volunteer

Xuemei, a high school senior in Yunnan Province, has dealt with many hardships and feelings of helplessness during the past year due to COVID-19: 

“At the beginning of the school year, I failed to go to school for the first time. I had to stay at home and attend on-line classes… The price of everything was increasing, but the income of my family was decreasing. Living expenses became more expensive, and our debts were getting heavier and heavier.”

Like many around the world this year, Xuemei and her family struggled with increased living expenses and growing debts. It was then, in a time when she needed some hope, that Xuemei found it in the support she received because of your gifts.

“With your support, I didn’t feel so helpless. I felt warmth and saw light ahead of me.”


Xuemei with her classmates

Xuemei is a recipient of a CWEF High School Scholarship, which covers all school-related costs and provides student development support in crucial areas such as setting goals and making plans, managing emotions, teamwork, and more.

Although Xuemei’s family has struggled financially due to the pandemic, their decreasing income did not put an end to her education, thanks to your generosity. Once it was safe for the students to return to school, Xuemei was able to return as well. She is happy to share: “Now we are lucky to be able to go back to school again.”

Because of your generosity, Xuemei has not only been comforted amid a challenging time, but she has also received tangible help that, in her own words: “let me move forward and get closer to my dream.” With her renewed sense of hope for the future, Xuemei remains faithful to her goals and aspirations, “I will study hard and try my best to go to university.”

Xuemei and her family have lived a difficult life in rural Yunnan even before the pandemic. However, it is these difficulties that have given her a perspective that we should all aspire to have. In a letter to her scholarship sponsor, she writes, “Though I have never met you or seen you, I will still have a grateful heart.”

CWEF scholarships educate and equip bright young women like Xuemei to live a life of leadership and service. People like you make it possible for people like Xuemei, even after a global pandemic and a devastating year for her family, to have hope for the future.

BUILDING HEALTHY LIVES IN RURAL YUNNAN

The children were amazed to see the purple glow that emerged from on their classmate’s hands under the black-light. The idea of invisible bacteria and contaminants is difficult for anyone to understand. As part of CWEF’s health education curriculum, students participate in a simulation activity in which they see the transfer of ‘bacteria’ from hand to hand contact. The ‘bacteria’ is a transparent powder that is easily spread through contact. The transmission path can be seen when a black-light exposes the invisible fluorescent powder.

In December 2019, CWEF Health Director Jenny Chu led 30 children from two primary schools in Wuding county in rural Yunnan province through a two-day health education “Training of Trainers” session as a part of the HEAL (Health Education Advocacy & Literacy) program. These students will serve as health advocates—providing instruction and modeling to their peers in the areas of good hygiene and health promotion. 

The World Health Organization promotes proper handwashing to prevent illness and reduce the spread of disease. Once rural areas have access to reliable and safe drinking water, additional health and hygiene practices need to be introduced. Through HEAL training, children learn how to thoroughly wash their hands and gain knowledge about bacteria and contaminant transmission. Through reference books, hands-on training, the germ-glow black-light simulation, and a handwashing song, student health advocates learn knowledge and practice good habits. They are also equipped to teach their peers about the importance of handwashing and serve as models for this healthy habit.

In addition to handwashing, the program addresses oral hygiene and proper teeth brushing techniques, healthy diet and nutrition, and importance of keeping a sanitary environment. The training provides children with critical information for healthy living and opportunities for the health advocates to engage with their peers by sharing the information and leading activities. CWEF gathers baseline information regarding the knowledge and personal hygiene practices of the students in order to provide supplemental training and information.

Your Gifts Power Holistic Health Education

Addressing the health and sanitation needs of rural communities requires a multi-faceted approach. CWEF’s HEAL project addresses the challenge in a holistic manner — improving both the physical facilities as well as much-needed health education to empower people to prevent illness. In rural China, 24% of people still live without access to basic sanitation facilities, and 12% live without access to a reliable source of clean drinking water.

Improving infrastructure

The Heshangzuang Primary School shared water pipes from a central cistern with homes in the village. During the dry season, the water supply was insufficient. In the rainy season, the water became opaque and cloudy with sediment. CWEF’s Heath Director Jenny Chu shares, “During the school period, the normal water consumption of teachers and students was directly affected. In the period of water shortage, the water storage capacity was only enough to meet the needs of the canteen, and the daily water consumption of students and teachers for washing and toilet use was greatly affected.”

During the current Phase 1 of the HEAL project at Heshangzuang Primary School, infrastructure needs were addressed this summer. During July and August 2020, CWEF partnered with local nonprofit Zhengxin Social Work Service Center to create a separate system, made up of a of 30-cubic-meter cistern and new pipes, to provide a dedicated source of clean and reliable water for the school. Jenny Chu reports that the problem has been solved for the school and it will “ensure normal health for more than 70 students and teachers, thus laying the foundation for CWEF’s health education project for students, planned to begin in 2021.”

Creating new materials for health education

CWEF works in partnership with local government agencies and supporting partners including, schools and local non-profit organizations. Students from an international school in Shanghai recently volunteered to create new educational materials to address the need to educate about the novel coronavirus. Jenny Chu shares, “From July to August 2020, Roger Tu, a long-time friend of CWEF, recruited students to design activities and picture books related to health projects through the ‘CWEF health books’ project. Through the volunteer efforts of Zoe and Hui, we have completed the design of children’s mental health awareness and new coronavirus prevention picture books.” These activity books help primary school students gain new knowledge and have fun in a creative way.

This combination of improved facilities, awareness, and habits results in a stronger and healthier community over the long-term. CWEF works with rural communities and schools through the HEAL (“Health Education, Advocacy & Literacy”) program, which tackles both the need for proper health-related facilities and the knowledge and behavior change needed for healthy living.


THANK YOU!


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