PEACH FOUNDATION NEWSLETTER
December, 2013, issue No. 36
Dear Friends of PEACH,
This October, fifteen volunteers participated in annual visits to students’ homes to better understand each student from a holistic perspective. From October 25th to 31st, the volunteers surveyed homes in NingLang, Yunnan, and Yanyuan, Sichuan. With homes in the majestic LiangShan mountain range, many children travel five to six hours one way and sometimes take even a whole day to get home from school. So the regular school model of one day off each week does not provide adequate time for these “mountain kids” to get home and back to school. In order to accommodate, schools have adjusted their schedule and provide a four-day break after two weeks of consecutive teaching.
From 10/15/13 to 11/10/13, the office staff and I visited 468 students’ homes. These families were spread out in NingLang and YuLong in LiJiang region; LuShui and FuGong in NuJiang region; HongHe, YuanYang, and LvChun in HongHe region.
The socioeconomic division of the farming families in NuJiang is determined by geography. Transportation is easier for towns by the river. With government subsidies, the farming families in these towns fare much better than families that are farther up the mountainside. Many “mountain families” still live in crude shanties that need to be rebuilt every few years. It is really difficult for these families to take advantage of government subsidies because of the terrain. One PEACH father explained, “Even if the government provided cement, bricks, and other building supplies, we would not be able to afford the enormous delivery costs.” Because the routes are so treacherous, government auditors never travel to these mountain homes and therefore do not witness firsthand the rampant poverty. So, it is little wonder that no one really put the needs and well being of these mountain families to heart.
The steep and perilous mountains of NuJiang bring these families enormous challenges to survive, and block the children from seeking a better life. However, with persistence and some external support, we believe these natural barriers can be overcome. We can help more of these “mountain kids” to leave the mountains to pursue and complete their quest for education. The hope is endless…
During our home visits in NingLang, I encountered several mothers who collapsed on my shoulder crying when they learned the news that their children were accepted by PEACH. They told me, “I am at the end of my rope. I would rather kill myself, but I will not because my children need me.” In the past twelve years, I have heard similar stories countless times from many families, yet I am still deeply impacted by the emotion every time. I cannot imagine the kind of suffering these people endured all these years, for these otherwise very shy farmers to open their hearts to a complete stranger like me, to cry their hearts out, and express their deepest emotions. After they shared their enormous pain, I often comforted them, “The worst is over, it will get better and better everyday. You will have a great life after your kids graduate from college! Let’s hang in there a few more years. PEACH will walk this journey with you.”
Upon hearing this, one tearing mother told me, “I feel that I grow taller today!” Another mother declared, “I will support my children’s educations even if I have to sell my blood.” One father said, “I am going to support my kids, even if I have to pick up garbage for money.” I have so much respect for these parents. What an honor it is to be able to provide a shoulder to cry on and a helping hand to these parents in the toughest times of their lives. On my way home, when I asked myself, “What is the meaning of PEACH?” I recalled the events of the day, and how PEACH brings hope to people who are long past hopeless. PEACH helps these people not only to dare to dream, but also to achieve their dreams.
Our second half of the home visits took places in the HongHe region. The level of poverty breaks my heart. In addition to the lack of many basic needs, the people are extremely poor in their value system as well. Over 90% of HongHe local people do not believe in the benefit of education. They feel it is a waste of money to pay for education. They would rather sell their daughters for some quick money in order to build a better house for themselves.
In one village, we learned that many parents promise their daughters at very young age to the future husband’s family at the price of approximately 30,000 RMB (~US$5000). Many of these future husbands often start to hassle the girls and demand sex from them when the girls are only in middle school. Many girls were forced to drop out from school after unexpected pregnancies. If a girl fights back and refuses the arranged marriage, her parents would have to return double the promised money to get out of the so-called contract. One parent told us, “I had to sell my daughter, because my house was only half-built and I ran out of money.” In their hearts, the future of their daughter is less important in comparison to their house.
In another village, we learned from a teacher that most people from this village left for the large cities to make a living as beggars and prostitutes. These villagers learn quickly how to be street smart and how to take advantages of the situation at hand. This teacher told us the story of one girl who was married out by her parents six times for money. The teacher sighed and explained to us that it is very difficult to protect the girls and keep them in school.
Many parents from this area see no value in education, but especially the more so for girls. Per tradition, the girls are going to be married out to other families eventually. As a result, it makes more sense to these parents to sell the girls for money rather than paying tuition for education. Thinking like this has passed on from generation to generation, and it spreads like plague. The vicious cycle goes on. It is not surprising that so many children in these villages drop out of school.
The responses from the parents in HongHe region were very cold to us. Sometimes, they would not even look up to acknowledge the news of our sponsorship. Considering their existing value system, we do understand their reactions, because they are likely to think that we are not really there to help them at all. Instead, we are there to prevent them from making money off their daughters.
As a result of our experiences, we have so much respect to the parents in NingLang, but the children of HongHe need us even more. I am aware that our work there will be especially difficult and an uphill battle. We not only have to change the children and their understanding of the importance of education, but we also have to equip the children with the courage to stand up to their parents to continue their studies and make a life for themselves. My dear friends, I need your help to face this very challenging task. We already witnessed significant progress during our 2013 summer camps, and we need your continued support to spread the love these children truly need.
Starting from February 2014, I plan to recruit our PEACH college students to conduct Winter Camps in HongHe, to help improve the children’s academic studies, and most importantly, to help them believe in education and believe in themselves.
A special thanks goes to Mr. Kao from Taiwan. He and four electrical welders from his company will demonstrate to the children the value of learning a skill to support oneself.
2014 Volunteer Understanding Trip is scheduled from 10/26/2014 to 11/1/2014. It is going to take place in NuJiang region, Yunnan province. 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. We can enjoy the amazing sights while delivering our love to the children there.
2014 Summer Camps – Our plans are as follows. Registration starts now. The final due date is 1/31/2014. First come, first served.
Session #1 7/9 – 7/18/2014 Yunnan, HongHe Region, YuanYang High School, Space Available
Session #2 7/19-7/28/2014 Yunnan, NuJiang Region, LuShui High School, Space Available
Session #3 7/29-8/5/2014 Yunnan, LiJiang City, YuLong High School, Space Available
Finally, in 2013, we plan on adding 900 new students into our family. We need and appreciate your continued support. Please consider supporting us in your year-end planning. We have also attached some PEACH students’ biographies, which are a part of our collection entitled “Deep in Our Hearts”. Thank you.
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 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$250 for a high school student, US$125 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.
Phone：650-525-1188 fax: 650-525-9688
13701 Pu XX, 7th Grade, Female
When I was five my mother passed away, ever since then father has gone crazy, he slept everyday and wouldn’t eat anything. I grazed cattle with grandmother everyday, grandmother was all I got and she would do anything for me. Once, grandmother fell from a tree picking loofah, the neighbors took her home saying “if grandmother passes away who is going to take care of you and father, father is crazy and doesn’t know anything. I cried and replied “grandmother will be fine.”
After awhile, grandmother started moving; I threw myself into grandmother’s arms immediately, grandmother laughed and said “don’t cry my dear, grandmother is going to be okay, your mother died, I can’t leave you alone, I will get better.” I was touched by grandmother’s words and tears streamed down my face, due to grandmother’s condition and father’s madness what am I going to do, do I go to school?
Grandmother got better each day, one day father lost his mind, he held a knife and threw grandmother and I out, I cried and ran to my uncle’s house, then uncle snatched the knife from father’s hands and ended the madness.
13702 Sun XX, 7th Grade, Female
I come from Tai Ping Zhai, Yi tribe, mother gave me to grandmother right after I was born. Father and mother got divorced, I heard mother was a crazy person but didn’t believe it; it was after I asked grandmother and realized mother was insane.
When I was twelve, grandfather passed away, because I grew up with my grandparents so I cried badly and asked why god had to take away the closest. People say: mother is the best, but I believe my grandmother and grandfather is closest to me, right now the closest is my grandmother, I can only use good grades to repay her.
13705 Che XX, 7th Grade, Male
I live in Jiu Ma village, Yuan Yang County. Both of my parents passed away, I live with my grandfather.
I’m still very young but already experienced many hardships. Mother went through a great amount of pain giving birth to me, I’m grateful that she brought me to such a beautiful place, she exchanged her own life for mine, mother is the greatest and the most beautiful in the world. I didn’t have mother’s milk growing up, instead I drank rice water, I’m thankful for mother and grandmother, and it’s because of them that I have today. I attended Jiu Ma Elementary School not knowing anything, ever since the teacher complemented me I gained confidence and decided to study hard and get good grades to repay my mother. Even though I had poor basics but I studied real hard.
I didn’t know how father died; it was always grandparents and I growing up. Unfortunately, grandmother is very ill and my whole world is falling apart. I cried and said to the sky “How come I am this lonely, why my life is so difficult, one by one the closest left me, and I’m so scared…”
It’s just grandfather and I now. Mother, father and grandmother all gone to a place called “heaven”. Grandfather is old, if grandfather leaves me, I will be all alone, and what am I going to do?
Luckily, grandfather’s health condition is fine now, and I am growing up to be tough. I will study hard and learn skills to establish my own future!