Speeches on PEACH Event on 12/2/2018
By Emily Mann
Hello everyone, my name is Emily, some of you may know me by my Chinese name, Xiang Xiang and others may know me as Ruth’s daughter. PEACH was founded in 2001. I was 12 years old at the time and I think the first time I met the PEACH students was when I was 13 years old. It was the first summer camp at Yuanyang, there were 4 other teenagers there, plus me, my mom and Anli ayi. I really bonded with the kids because they were 13 years old too, we were all going into 9th grade, chu san. They were so thrilled that Jeng ayi had a daughter their same age, they would all swarm around me excitedly, I felt like a celebrity. I know that some of you who have gone to summer camp have seen the really shy side of their students, but it was different when there was a teenager teacher their age. They were so excited to meet me.
Since that first summer camp, my mom and I would go back to Yuanyang, Lijiang, and Huize, two times a year, one time three times a year for a winter camp. I attended summer camp and the October understanding tour regularly. I think because I was at a young age, my perspective of the kids are quite different from my mom’s. The PEACH kids didn’t talk to me about how poor they were or about their home environment. Of course I would hear about their autobiographies and learn of their family and school struggles, but my experience with them is a happier, more lighthearted feel. My memories of them are hanging out in their dormitory rooms, sharing our favorite music, learning their cultural vocabulary, talking in the back of the auditorium while my mom led a Q and A session, which we would sometimes get in trouble for, because we were too loud. Every lunch I would eat with them, and we would share stories and learn about our differences. They were so curious with what’s it like living in America and what I think of China.
I think these memories show that they can be regular kids, despite their poverty status. They might be shy in the beginning, but once they are comfortable with you, they can show the same curiosity and enthusiasm as any other kid. Another example of this is a story of Sha Fang, a 14 year old girl. My mom visited her home because her older brother Sha Bing was in PEACH. Sha Fang wasn’t in school, she had dropped out a long time ago. Their house was a typical mud house, with mud floors, barely anything, no electricity, and a bamboo mat on the floor which was her bed. Next to the bamboo mat were some fresh picked flowers in a cup. Turns out Sha Fang had picked the flowers when she was out in the fields working. Sha Fang had dropped out of school a long time ago, her family was too poor to pay for two kids tuition, and amongst this depressing state of a house, Sha Fang was still able to appreciate beauty and enjoy simple things like waking up to the sight of flowers.
So underneath their shy exterior, their depressing circumstance, traumatic history, financial, family, and school struggles, these kids still have a light inside. Some kids’ light might be buried deeper than others and take longer to discover, but they’re in there somewhere. It takes love and patience to uncover their light, to see their authentic self. It also takes your donations to help them become the person they dreamed of being, so thank you so much for continuously donating and for being here today.
I just want to quickly highlight some of the successes from the PEACH kids that i grew up with. The first year I went to summer camp, I met Hu Ming Cai and Chen Long in Yuanyang. 16 years later, Hu Ming Cai is in real estate and Chen Long is working in the government. Li Wen Xue came into PEACH when he was in 5th grade. When it was time for high school, he couldn’t meet the grades and failed the high school exam. He wanted to quit school completely, but through my mom’s coaxing, he agreed to go to vocational school and learn a trade. Many years later, he’s now a technician at a heating company. Li Wen Xue’s mom left him when he was young boy, and his dad drank a lot, and was violent, and may have a mental illness. If Li Wen Xue decided to drop out after middle school, I don’t know what kind of life he could have led, maybe something similar to his dad’s. It’s because of my mom’s love, other donors’ encouragements, and the financial donations, that he could be where he’s at. So again I just want to sincerely thank each and every one of you for your contribution, for your compassion, to the PEACH kids. Your yearly donations not only help the kids go to school and find a good job, but also it’s to keep their inner light going, to keep their authentic self-shining with hope.