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PEACH FOUNDATION NEWSLETTER

May 2014, issue No. 37

Translated by Chialun Chang

Dear Friends of PEACH

Winter Camp “Operation Lost Pearls” is the new PEACH program designed to target children who experience hardship from the loss of one or both parents. Many of these orphans have not only been “left behind” academically, but also suffer greatly from abject poverty, emotional trauma and lack of proper medical care. To help these children, PEACH decided to launch a pilot project: a Winter Camp for the orphans. It was held from February 8th to16th earlier this year.

We filled the Winter Camp with a variety of activities such as academic tutoring, Happy Life workshops, Q&A sessions, movies and games. However, the Winter Camp was different from the ongoing PEACH Summer Camps in one crucial aspect: staffing.

To welcome the 338 orphans that were invited to the camp and make them feel at home, we chose TLC (Tender Loving Care) to be the primary focus of our effort. Toward that end, we staffed the camp with 62 PEACH alumni who would serve as both teachers and counselors for the orphans. These young men and women were all enrolled in colleges. We wanted them to encourage the orphans to stay in school for as long as they possibly could. Our objective was that the orphans, most of whom were in the 7th grade, ought to graduate from middle school at the very least. We would like them to go on to high school and college. Or, alternatively, they could enroll in a professional school to acquire a skill and eventually work their way to financial independence. It was our hope that these young teachers would become the role models for the orphans. Their mission was a demanding one: they were to pick up the lost pearls.

The result has exceeded my expectations. The young teachers quickly established a close rapport with the orphans because they shared a very similar past. They went through the same hardship and spoke the same language. More importantly, the teachers were all college students, so each of their personal experience became a real-life success story for the orphans. We showed the orphans that dreams do come true. Each teacher’s own struggle and how he or she made it into college became the inspiration or even the roadmap for the orphans in their charge.

The key to our success was simple: total immersion. For one week the orphans lived and breathed in the tender loving care of their teachers. We assigned two teachers to each class of 12 students. Each class had its own dining table and dormitory. In addition to their teaching duties, the teachers also ate and slept together with their students. In America, a typical summer camp would recruit young men and women to fill two types of positions: TA (Teaching Assistants) who help with the classes during the day, and RA (Resident Assistants) who live with the kids in the dormitory. In our Winter Camp, the 62 PEACH alumni were teachers and live-in counselors rolled into one. They practically stayed with the orphans 24/7. These young men and women quickly formed a strong emotional bond with the students. In fact, many orphans started to view their teachers as surrogate parents, some even started calling them “Little Papa” and “Little Mama.” At the end of the camp, the teachers all vowed to stay in touch with their students. I have no doubt they would continue talking to their students and showing them the ropes whenever such needs arise in the future.

As “Operation Lost Pearls” targets children who experience hardship from the loss of one or both parents, they are admitted to PEACH without consideration of academic requirements.  Consequently, only about one third of the orphans we invited actually had good grades at school. To promote the kids’ interest in school work and to strengthen their language skills, we instituted a “Know Your Classics” Game and asked them to memorize some famous texts in the Chinese canon. These are poems and essays taught in every school in China and many school kids would know them by heart. A child would get a prize for each text he or she memorizes–3 prizes if the text is very long. The kids went wild with the game, the participation was phenomenal. The teachers were responsible for reviewing the result of memorization and giving out prizes, while I would “pop quiz” the kids at random. At the last day of camp we had our usual Chinese Showcase where the children performed various recitations on stage in front of everybody. At the end of the Showcase I had a sudden urge to show off these kids in front of the many invited guests. I told the kids “Would everyone who has memorized Li Bai’s Bring In the Wine, please stand up!” Right away about half of the children stood up. I gave the cue and they began reciting in unison:

Behold, dost thou not see: Out of the sky a mighty Yellow River Whose water doth powerfully flow Bursting forth from its heavenly quiver Runs galloping toward the sea; Time’s Arrow. …

Then I said, “Those of you who know Su Shi’s Recalling the Past at Red Cliff, please stand up.” Again, the children intoned loudly in unison:

Gone east is the Great Yangtze, Whose frothy water surges and sieves And leaves hardly a trace Of heroes from a thousand ages. …

Then I said, “Those of you who know Meng Tzu’s Gaozi, Part 2, please stand up.” By now ALL the kids were practically yelling. They recited: When heaven is about to confer a great responsibility on any man, it will exercise his mind with suffering, subject his sinews and bones to hard work, expose his body to hunger, put him to poverty, place obstacles in the paths of his deeds, so as to stimulate his mind, harden his nature, and improve wherever he is incompetent…

Needless to say, the spectacles left an indelible impression on Uncle Kao and the honorable guests from Northeastern China. Here were a bunch of shy and very quiet seven graders who could barely finish a complete sentence. Who’d have thought that in seven short days they could recite 5 long texts from memory? I have been trying to memorize one of them, Li Bai’s Bring In the Wine, for 45 years by now. I don’t think I have it quite down yet.

On the last day, I asked the 62 Winter Camp teachers for their feedback. Some felt as if they were teaching their own younger selves. A few told me they finally understood why people like me–somebody from thousands of miles away, and a total stranger no less–would want to come all the way here and help kids like them. Watching these college-age young men and women, I was impressed by how much they had grown. They, too, were in the 7th grade when PEACH took them under her wing. In the beginning they were every bit as diffident and frightened as the lost pearls we had in the camp right now. After years of tender loving care provided by our extended family, the confused and hesitant kids back then had morphed into the mature adults in front of me: their head held high, their manners assured. Now they even fought among themselves for the opportunity to come to this Winter Camp, all because they wanted to lend a hand to someone from their own past.

Lastly, on behalf of our entire staff, I would like to formally thank Mr. Kao from Taiwan and his 4 associates for running the Soldering Workshop for the camp.

Adjustment of Sponsorship The PEACH Foundation is now 13 years old. We are very grateful for all of you who have been with us during these years. We are grateful for your encouragement and your companionship, and most of all for helping us grow from a little sapling to a strong, leafy tree that we are today.

As you are probably aware, RMB has been appreciating at a steady pace for some years. As of the writing of this newsletter the exchange rate is 1:6.2, or $125 for RMB775, or $250 for RMB1550. The appreciation of RMB alone has created a gap between what each PEACH kid needs and what we can provide. For now, PEACH is making up for the difference. The actual amount we provided for the students is as follows (rounded to American dollars by the latest exchange rate): $130 / rmb 800 each year for a child enrolled in the middle school, and $260/ rmb 1600 each year for a child enrolled in the high school.

In addition to the appreciation of China’s currency relative to U. S. dollars, there has also been inflation across the board in the cost of living. Although the tuition for middle schools is waived, the living expenses, plus books and miscellaneous fees, have escalated to about $500 per year for each student. For high scholars the amount has roughly doubled: the tuition and fees add up to about $500, plus the living expenses $650 (a very frugal estimate), totaling to about $1,150 per year for each student. We have done all that we can to apply for any financial assistance from the government on behalf of the kids. On top of everything, we have provided another $260 supplement per year for each kid. Adding everything together, there is still a considerable gap to properly provide for every student we sponsor. To ensure meeting the most basic needs of the kids, we have also offered small loans to some students who are in very dire situations. The PEACH Foundation, however, does not have an unlimited reserve. Faced with such difficult situations, we have decided to raise the sponsorship amounts as follows: for each middle school child it will be $150/ rmb 930 per year (a $25 increase); for each high school child it will be $300/ rmb 1860 per year (a $50 increase). We ask for your understanding as well as your continuing support.

Our next Volunteer Understanding Trip to the NuJiang region is scheduled from 10/25/2014 to 11/1/2014,  There are some slots available, please register as soon as possible.

Nujiang is one of the rivers within the Three Rivers Natural Reserve, a World Heritage Site listed by UNESCO in 2003. The NuJiang gorge is over 316 kilometers long, sandwiched to the west by Gaoligong Mountain range (3374 meters elevation) and the Biluo Mountain range (4379 meters elevation) on the east. The sight is magical with the raging river in the middle, and the steep slopes hundreds of meters up from both sides of the river. Most mountain inhabitants live in wooden sheds and huts built on the sides or the top of the mountain. Villages on the opposite bank of the river are accessed either by narrow hanging bridges, or by sliding on overhead cables that span the river. We invite you to join us for a visit to the NuJiang region for future Volunteer Understanding Trips. We can enjoy the amazing sights while delivering our love to the children there.

A special thanks to Alex Chang who prepared a more detailed introduction to Nujiang region to inspired more people to join the understanding tour.

The three sessions of the English Summer Camp for 2014 will be held in July. Currently all teaching spots are filled. Thank you all.

Of the 900 children PEACH has added to our family in 2014, a little over 400 kids are still looking for sponsorship. As always, your help and continuing support will be deeply appreciated. Also, please spread the word among your friends and relatives on our behalf.

Below, we have attached some PEACH students’ biographies, which are part of our collection “Deep in Our Hearts.” We enclose the latest issue of PEACH Children magazine, Volume 13.  It is not translated to English, yet it is full of pictures which tell lots of stories. Thank you.

Best Regards,

 

Ruth Jeng

President

PEACH Foundation

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I would like to donate          to the Laurice children medical funds (at an average of US$20 per child.)

I would like to send ___________children to attend Summer Camp (at US$50 each for one week.)

I would like to donate          to scarf and mitten funds (at US$5 per child.)

I would like to donate          to thermal-pajama funds (at US$5 per child.)                             

I would like to donate          to mosquito net funds (at US$5 per child.)

I would like to donate          to the library funds (at US$20 per library)

I would like to donate          to the Junhui writing funds (amount as you wish.)

I would like to donate          to the foundation administration funds

I would like to donate       to the mini-loan for middle and high school students’ living expenses (amount as you wish.)

I would like to donate          to the college loan funds (amount as you wish.)

I would like to donate _         (laptop computer/ digital camera/ cell phone)

I would like to increase my sponsorship to ___ high school students and ___ middle school students; the yearly costs are US$300 for a high school student, US$150 for a middle school student.

Please make check payable to PEACH FOUNDATION.

Donors in Taiwan please change the amount to New Taiwan Dollars, payable to PEACH FOUNDATION, Account No.: 50011068 and it is tax deductible.

1098 Marlin Avenue, Foster City, CA 94404, U.S.A.

Email: staff@PeachFoundationUSA.org   website: www.PeachFoundationUSA.org

Phone650-525-1188   fax: 650-525-9688

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12212 LongXX, 7th Grade, Boy

Translated by Chialun Chang

From when I was little I have been a good kid. I respect my parents and always do what I am told. I take care of younger siblings, feed the pigs, and cook for the family. I am glad everyone in our village praises me and considers me a model kid.

In second grade we did not have the money for school books. Mother went to town and sold her beautiful hair. She not only got enough to pay for the books, but also bought two new backpacks for me and my kid brother. I was in tears. I vowed I would study hard, find a good job and repay her someday.

Then I got sick. We could not afford to take me to the doctor’s. Father and Mother went everywhere trying to borrow money, but people all said: “Very sorry, but we happen to be a little short ourselves.” Mother kept on begging until someone agreed to lend her some money. Then she carried me on her back and went to the hospital in town. Even though in China we never say “I love you” like westerners do, I wanted to shout out to everyone: “Mother, I love you! You are the greatest in the world.”

Once, Mother had an accident while gathering firewood in the mountains. She hurt her hand badly and could not handle the heavy workload. I wanted to drop out of school and go find a job in town. I wanted to ease my parents’ burden even if only just a little bit. But Mother changed my mind. Despite her serious injury, Mother still did all the laundry and all the cooking. She insisted on taking care of us so we could stay in school. I couldn’t let her down. I must study hard.

In fifth grade I got very sick. It turned out I had mumps. Mother was frantic. She took me to the doctor’s right away and got me herbs, but for a while I was not getting better. So every morning Mother went out and got more herbs. Every evening she carefully washed my feet and re-applied the herbs on them. Little by little, I started to heal under her meticulous care. But even as I improved Mother was doing poorly. She had lost a lot of weight. Then Grandmother passed away. After that Mother looked worse and worse. On top of taking care of us, she worried about money all the time because we were always short. At that time we did not have anything worth selling in the house. Finally both Father and Mother became sick, too. For a while I was the one who must take care of my kid brother and sister.

Then came sixth grade. I studied very hard. I had good grades and my score at the Entrance Exam was high enough that I got accepted by one of the best secondary schools in the County, the First High School at Yuanyang. Among the four classes in the sixth grade of my school I got the highest score. Father and Mother were very pleased. I made it into the school they always wanted me to go. Finally they could stop nagging about it.

However, my high score brought new worries to the family. The living expenses at Yuanyang would be hundreds of RMB every month, not even counting tuition, books and other fees. We simply could not afford such an expensive school. In the end, my Language teacher told me I should reconsider. Kids from poor families like yours, he said, should go to local schools such as Nansha or Ganiang Middle School. They are less expensive so I would not impose a huge burden on my parents. Besides, I would be living at home and help with the housework, take care of the little ones. After careful consideration, I decided to go to Ganiang Middle School.

Whatever school I am in, I will always do my best. I will study hard and go on to a good high school and a good college. Then I will find a good job and make enough money to repay my parents.

 

A Short Introduction to the NuJiang Canyon

By Alex Chang

To experience NuJiang is to experience the wrath of God, a friend once told me. Many years later, when I finally saw the landscape with my own eyes, I realized she wasn't completely joking. NuJiang, or literally "Angry River," is a spectacle on such a vast scale that you feel as if you have entered a realm governed by a different set of physical laws. You feel like an ant crawling around in a giants' world. I know this sounds like an exaggeration, but I believe there is no better place on Earth where words fail and you must say instead, "You simply have to be here."

To begin with, this angry river is grander than the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is 440 km long. The NuJiang Gorge within the Yunnan Province alone is already 600 km, not counting the 400 km or so in the Tibetan region. In terms of height the Grand Canyon is also smaller. At its deepest point, the Grand Canyon has a vertical drop of 1,830 meters from the rim to the bottom. In contrast, the average depth in the NuJiang Canyon is around 2,000 meters, with the deepest point measuring a staggering 3,552 meters, more than twice the height of Half Dome in California's Yosemite National Park. These are numbers the human mind is ill-equipped to comprehend. No man-made structure can come close to the scale of such natural wonders. Most of the NuJiang Canyon can swallow up 5 Empire State Buildings standing on top of each other. Faced with a vista of such a grand scale, your perception ceases functioning properly. How can you wrap your mind around such a vast canvas? One's senses can no longer be trusted, you realize, when a man-high boulder one saw a while ago turns out to be taller than a four-story building. How else could you describe it, this landscape hewn by inhuman hands, without resorting to the supernatural, or the divine?

Theodore Roosevelt famously said that the Grand Canyon is "the one great sight every American should see." If that were the case, the NuJiang Canyon is a must-see for every person on Earth. Thanks to the rich iron deposit in the region, the Grand Canyon has an otherworldly beauty in its unusual colors: rust red, ochre and purple. The NuJiang Canyon's color palette is more earthly in comparison: from a symphony of blue, brown and green at lower elevation, to the purest white of the snow-peaked mountains. Visiting the Grand Canyon you'd get a glimpse of the Earth's geological past. Traveling in the NuJiang Canyon is a meditation on Man's place in Nature. The Grand Canyon is a place you visit from time to time; you don't actually live inside the Canyon. NuJiang Canyon is not just for the tourists; it is inhabited by people who seldom leave.

And what a squalid existence it is. Most people here are dirt poor, their livelihood severely constrained by geography. The pristine beauty of the NuJiang Canyon belies an ugly truth: transportation here ranges from inadequate to nonexistent. Many children hike a considerable distance to school. Often, they have to cross a kind of slide-rope known as *liusuo*, a fancy term for a mere steel cable connecting two mountains at an angle. You attach your body to the cable with a contraption no more elaborate than a couple of ropes and slide your way over to the other side. As we wound our way through the river valley, from time to time we'd hear a loud noise from above. We'd look up and witness another high-wire act: people carrying bicycles, livestock and building materials to the other side. What if someone is injured and needs to be rushed to a hospital? The NuJiang Canyon, I realize, is a true frontier of China, a wilderness where ambulances don't reach and people have to fend for themselves. These are the people who are truly marginalized. These are the people who are boxed in, literally, by the mountains. The best way to help them, I believe, is through helping their children, through education. Such is the mission of the PEACH foundation.

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